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September 22, 2012

Shop Talk: Central NY Mobile Marketing

The Daily Star

---- — Shop Talk

is a weekly column featuring locally owned and operated businesses. This week, we talk to Susan and Jeff O’Handley of Hartwick, owners of Central NY Mobile Marketing.

How long have you lived in the area?

We moved to Hartwick in early 2003, right after the big Christmas snowstorm of 2002.

Tell me about your business.

CNY Mobile Marketing supports non-traditional marketing media efforts for businesses targeted to users of mobile devices, as well as through personal computers and the Internet. We offer mobile optimization of websites, website development and redesign services, social network support, text and e-mail messaging programs, QR (quick response) code campaigns, and more. These non-traditional marketing methods are becoming more prevalent.

How did you get started in this line of work? 

My experience as executive director for the Cooperstown Chamber — three years — helped provide insight into the needs of the business community and allowed me to build expertise in the use of a variety of marketing channels. 

I’ve always had a passion for technology and a fascination and interest in the opportunities that technology can bring. The catch is you really have to know how to use it effectively in order to make it work. Through having worked closely with businesses, I learned there’s a need for a business that can not only set up components and infrastructure for a client but also to provide methods to make using computers easier and more manageable. 

My training goes to what I’ve done on a practical level, what I’ve done for myself and others for the past 15 years. I learn by doing. 

Where do you see this business in five years?

Our first goal is to establish a time line and project schedule. We have experienced really good growth in the first six months of operating time (CNY Mobile Marketing was launched in January). There are great indicators that we’ll continue to grow a client base and move towards maximizing our time. We would like to add sales consultant staff and perhaps additional development personnel. We’ve already had inquiries and provided support for clients in other areas of New York and around the U.S. My focus region to be maintained is central New York. I think it’s always kind of preferred to do business locally. But I am happy to do business remotely as well. One of the advantages of being a small business is the ability to make changes and enhancements that work well over time, based on what customers need. 

What have you learned from your work? 

I’ve learned that every aspect is part of the larger process, and each piece is an opportunity to strengthen business relationships. Every contract brings learning opportunities to enhance my skills and keep me learning more. 

Pursuing something that is an interest and passion is rewarding on a number of levels. I particularly enjoy opening avenues for clients to learn and understand the opportunity that technology brings to them. We are empowering business owners to effectively use the technological tools that are available to them. Some of the businesses that CNY Mobile Marketing has worked with have been a family farm, an optical business, lawn and landscaping, tourism retail, restaurants and nonprofits. 

What is the most challenging part of what you do? 

For me, the most challenging part is getting the word out that we’re here and that our services are available. Another challenge for me is, that what comes easily and seems logical to me is not necessarily the same for others. There is a range of technological literacy out there, and each customer needs to be addressed on their level. That is also very rewarding — when you can take someone who is not comfortable (with technology) and allow them to gain the experience so that they can use technology effectively.  

What is the most enjoyable part of what you do? 

For me, it is really the problem solving, when I’m faced with a challenge that pushes my level of expertise. Also, I enjoy the creative aspect of designing a website or mobile site that looks beautiful, is functional and meets the needs of the client. 

How do you define success for your business? 

Success is about customer satisfaction. I want every customer to walk away thrilled with the product and the service, and to tell their friends, and to come back when they need more. 

What are some of the advantages as well as drawbacks to doing business in this area? 

As for the advantages, I definitely have to say that this is a very unique part of New York. It has universities, hospitals, world-class attractions, and brainpower. There’s a huge need for this online and mobile component. Websites that are 15 years old need to be updated. Not a lot of mobile phone sites are easily viewed. When you view a site on a mobile phone, maybe five to 10 percent maximum (of the content) is really displayed specifically for mobile (devices). Not a lot of businesses have connected their website so they can easily be viewed and navigated on mobile devices. That means a potential loss of customers. There’s definitely a market. 

As for disadvantages, because there is a significant tourism component (to area business activity), there is a very seasonal mindset. At the end of the summer, business owners are tired and don’t want to think about how their website looks. But people start looking at this time at their travel plans for next year. 

What sets you apart from your competitors? 

There are not a lot of other businesses focusing on mobile technology and nontraditional marketing. I’m much more mobile-focused. My website work includes a training component for the business owner or (IT) administrator so they can easily manage their content. They don’t have to wait for me to make an update for them. I think training is certainly part of that difference. 

What advice would you give to someone entering this line of work? 

I go with the Nike catchphrase of, “Just do it.” If it’s something that you’re interested in, and you think you could love it, just go ahead and try, strive and learn.

Central NY Mobile Marketing Susan and Jeff O'Handley