My Dream

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My dream is to build the Murphy Gold Marketing Alliance - the best online marketing system for locally-owned small businesses in Murphy, NC.

So, what happened to Castle Freedom? I realized in early 2009 that building the castle and all I had dreamed about was a fantasy that sounded good, but was not something I really intended to work on every day until it became real.

That was a shock to me, because I'd been thinking about it a lot, but not taking action every day to bring it to life.

I realized that my real dream in 2007 and 2008 was to care for my mother as well as I could and to keep her out of the nursing home as long as possible. In July 2008, she was admitted to the hospital and then had to move to a nursing home - something that neither she nor I wanted. She reached a point where I could no longer care for her as she needed and we were fortunate that the nursing home did such a good job caring for her the last few months of her life, before she died in late 2008.

It took me much longer to adjust to her death than I thought it would, but I started seriously thinking about what I wanted to do with the next phase of my life.

I realized that I enjoyed promoting Murphy, NC and some of the businesses and business owners in our charming little town in the mountains. In fact, I realized, since I knew a lot about online marketing, I could offer my services at a very good price and could help people who knew how to run their brick and mortar business, but didn't have the time and experience to effectively market them online.

I decided to call this new venture the Murphy Gold Marketing Alliance and the two main parts of it would be Murphy Connections, a social networking site for people interested in Murphy, and Murphy Gold, the paid promotional site only for locally-owned small businesses.

It took a lot longer than I expected to devise a business plan and pricing structure and start building the sites.

I was slowed down in the late spring of 2009, when I became very ill and lost all my strength. Just walking through the house became a struggle and I had to use a cane just to walk a few steps. My family was worried, but supportive through this. One day, I felt a little stronger, and my strength slowly returned over a few weeks. I'm still not back to where I was last year, but I'm much better than I was earlier this year.

So, this illness slowed me down even more, but I kept working on it, even on the days I could only pull out a sheet of paper and write about it for myself.

Murphy Connections goes live

As soon as I could, I started building Murphy Connections, using the Ning.com platform. I describe the site to people as a "Facebook just for people interested in Murphy, NC."

I've been pleased with the growth of the site and now we have over 100 members and continue to grow. If you're in Murphy or are interested in visiting or moving there, come and join us.

My dream is that we'll get even more people active on the site sharing their interests, talking about their hobbies, and making new friends while getting reacquainted with old friends.

Murphy Gold goes live

In July, 2009, Murphy Gold was launched. This is the main promotional site of the marketing system I am working to build.

When I created it, I did not realize that the school colors for Murphy High School are black and gold. I thought they were black and yellow. I also didn't know that there had been a movie called Murphy's Gold.

So, why did I call it Murphy Gold?

We live in an area where the population is relatively old and we're a bit behind the curve when it comes to online promotion and marketing. Still, after testing this concept for a couple of years on some other sites, I could see that more people were searching online for products and services in Murphy, but there had to be a catchy way to help them cross the offline to online divide.

In order to get people to come to visit the site, I was inspired by seeing a wooden nickel. That was it. In the coming months, we'll distribute several thousand wooden nickels that invite people to visit MurphyGold.com. I thought it was cute, and hoped others would think so, too, if we started calling those wooden nickels "Murphy Gold."

We'll see how that develops. Even though it's part of my dream, others may not find it to be all that exciting or memorable.

So, that's one way I intend to attract residents and visitors to visit the site.

Once they arrive at the site, I'm doing my best to get them to subscribe to the Murphy Gold News, a free newsletter that is delivered by email to anyone who subscribes. The goal is to publish at least twice per month to inform the readers of special offers, new sales, and other information related to how they can get more for their money by reading the newsletter and patronizing the businesses who participate on Murphy Gold.

The number of subscribers is growing, but slower than I expected. I guess everything takes longer and costs more than we originally expect, doesn't it? My dream is to have thousands of subscribers to our newsletter and to provide real value to them in every issue.

Now, I'm working to create good pages for each business that joins us and I'm working to build more interactivity into the site. We should see a major increase in visitor interaction during December as I add more pages that let visitors tell their stories about what they like about Murphy and their experiences with the merchants on the site.

Things I already know how to do

One of the things that makes this so much more reasonable than building Castle Freedom is that I've spent years learning how to build effective websites that can be found in the search engines and I've studied online marketing for over a decade. All of the pieces of this particular puzzle are already in place and all we need is more business owners to decide to participate and time for me to get everything working smoothly.

It's nice to be working on something that already exists and can be shown to work as I describe. My dream is to find a way to describe the benefits of the Murphy Gold marketing system so that any business owner can see the value in being part of it.

I don't want to say anything negative about other people's websites, because all of us do the best we can with the resources we have and the knowledge and experience we've developed. However, most small businesses don't know how to target their sites for keywords that people are actually searching for and they don't know how to build a response-oriented website that focuses on getting the visitors to take an action. I may not be the best at this, but I know the direction I'm heading and how I'll be promoting the businesses who join us.

I know my websites will never win any design prizes and that's okay with me. My goal is to get found when people search for a problem they want to solve or something they want to buy in Murphy, NC. I want the businesses I work with to show up on page one of the Google search results not for just their name, but for the products and services they offer.

So, my dream is to build fast-loading, keyword-optimized pages for the businesses, not something that might win a design award but take forever to load. People who already have broadband forget that a lot of people in our rural area still connect to the Internet over slow dial-up accounts. A page that loads in a few seconds on broadband may take minutes to load on dial-up. I want the pages I build to load quickly for everyone and give the reader a reason to visit a business and buy from the owner.

Why not just buy an ad somewhere?

That's what many people ask me.

Why should I work with John Dilbeck, when I can buy an ad from a company that has been around for decades?

I try to explain to them that participating in Murphy Gold is a year-long promotion, not just a one-time ad. As long as the owner helps by telling me when things change with their businesses or when they offer new products and services or hold special promotions, I'll write about them in the newsletter and add more pages to the site.

It's not a lot of work, and certainly easier and less-expensive than maintaining their own websites, but it does require more from the business owners than just writing a check.

Still, there are times when it is appropriate to buy an advertisement. It's not an either/or proposition. I just want the business owners to realize that, for the price of one or two ads in other places, I'll promote their business for a full year.

Is this my dream for the rest of my life?

I don't know. It could be.

I'm enjoying visiting businesses in Murphy that I've never entered before and meeting the owners and managers. In just a few months, I'm on a first-name basis with people I never met before and I'm enjoying that. Even if they choose not to participate in Murphy Gold, I'm enjoying talking to them about their businesses, what they do, and what they think the future holds in store for them.

In the back of my mind, I keep seeing Castle Freedom on top of one of the near-by mountains and think that it may actually be built one day, but I'm not dwelling on it too much. These days, I spend most of my time and effort working on ways to help the businesses that join Murphy Gold to get more customers, either brand new customers or returning customers who were reminded that they liked doing business with the owners.

My dream is for all the business owners who participate in our Murphy Gold Marketing Alliance to get several times as much new business than it costs. I don't want them to break even, I want it to be clear to them that joining Murphy Gold is an investment in their business, not just another advertising expense.

All things considered, I believe that people like to do business with friends and people they know and trust. That's one reason I spend a lot of time talking about the business owner by name and show photos of them on their pages.

Murphy is a friendly little town and we have some great people living here. I'm trying to do my part to help others meet them and buy what they sell. By supporting our local business owners, we support the local community, and help to make our economy a bit stronger in the process.

I'm competing with
established businesses

Online marketing is new to many business owners and they don't really know what do do or how to get started. I'm trying to make it as easy as possible for them, and very affordable.

Still, there are newspapers and radio stations that have been around for decades and business owners are used to buying an ad from them. So, I'm the new guy in town, so to speak, even though I've lived here for about 25 years.

It's going to take a lot of work and some persuading to get someone to try promoting their business on Murphy Gold, but I'm willing to do the work and talk to anyone who is interested. I think that is a good formula for success.

That's my dream. What's yours?

My dream is to build a business marketing system. Your dream may be similar or very different. You're invited to come and tell us your dream and to let us know what we can do to help you make it a reality. Come share with us.

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