Category Archives: Advertising

The Best Free Stock Photography Sites

What do blog articles, websites, and social media posts all have in common?

They all require images (well, the engaging ones at least).

Any web designer or digital marketer will tell you that finding relevant, high quality images to use can be challenging. Not only are many stock images cheesy and outdated, but they also can be quite pricey. Luckily there’s an increasing amount of free stock photography websites popping up, and some of them are pretty awesome. Here’s a list of some free stock photo sites worth checking out:

Unsplash is my personal favorite. It features a huge collection of free high-resolution images, and none are tacky. Many of the photos on this website are landscapes and scenes, with 10 new photos added every 10 days. You can find what you’re looking for on Unsplash by checking out the different photo collections (top left), or by using the search bar at the top right.

Gratisography features free high-resolution images taken by Ryan McGuire of Bells Design. New photos are added each week, and all are free of copyright restrictions. There are many quirky images of people and animals on here that I don’t think I’ll ever be able to use, but the site also has some nice outdoor shots.

Splitshire is a collection of free stock photos taken by Daniel Nanescu, and is updated almost daily. This site features more photos of people and objects than nature.

New Old Stock consists of vintage photos from the public archives, and are free of known copyright restrictions. Most of the photos on New Old Stock have a description below of where the photo was taken, or what is happening in it.

PicJumbo offers free photos for commercial & personal works. New photos are added daily from a variety of categories including abstract, weddings, nature, food, technology and also seasonal categories like Christmas.

Life of Pix, created by Leeroy advertising agency in Montreal, offers free high-resolution photos with no copyright restrictions. New photos are added to the site weekly.

Negative Space posts 20 new free, high-resolution photos every Monday. You can search photos and sort them by category, colors and copy space position.

Superfamous Studios, the LA-based studio of Dutch interaction designer Folkert Gorter, allows you to use its photos as long as you provide credit. The site features many aerial and landscape shots.

IM Free is a curated collection of free web design resources, all for commercial use. Some collections include templates, business, people, sports, nature, transportation, cityscape and more.

Finally we’ve got Little Visuals, a site with some great photos (mostly landscapes). Sadly the owner of the site passed away in November 2013, and nothing has been added since. All photos that have been posted were released under the creative commons license public domain dedication.

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6 Pinterest Marketing Mistakes I Keep Seeing

“I use Pinterest all the time for fun, so I’ll be great at managing it for my business, right?”

One of the most challenging types of clients to work with are those who think that because they regularly use social media to share photos of their dogs and get home décor ideas, they know what’s best for their business page. I mean sure, you’ve been re-pinning images of your dream kitchen and creating boards filled with healthy dinner recipes, but does that mean you know how to make your Pinterest profile SEO-friendly, or how to link to your website so you can track everything properly? I’ve learned from experience that the answer is often no.

I’ve spent years managing Pinterest accounts for brands in an array of industries, and have seen what an amazing platform it can be to showcase services or products, connect with consumers, and increase website traffic. However, I’ve come across many brands that are making mistakes that hurt their marketing instead of helping. Here are some of the most common Pinterest marketing mistakes I see:

Promoting only your brand

Remember, they call it social media for a reason.

I’ve seen Pinterest amateurs get so over-eager to create their business account and promote their products that they overlook the importance of sharing content from others as well. When building your following on Pinterest, it’s important to share content from other likeminded brands, make some friends, and then post about your brand. Look at this strategy as a marathon: it’s better to pace yourself and do well in the long run, than to sprint and burn out quickly.

I recommend an 80/20 ratio: 80% of your pins should be about sharing relevant, unbranded content, and about 20% should feature your brand and its products.

Giving boards bad names

Some users will follow all of your Pinterest boards, and some will only choose to follow certain ones. How you name your boards has a lot to do with how users select which ones to follow. Avoid these naming mistakes:

Vague, irrelevant names- i.e. Guest Posts, Random, IDK, Misc., <3, etc.

Overly long names- Just like really long email subject lines that get cut off, if a person can’t read the whole the board name without clicking into it, they may just move on.

Unsearchable names- Board names with hearts, symbols, or a space between every letter are not ideal. While these board names do not hurt your SEO, they definitely don’t help. If Google sees the name “Wedding Dresses,” it will understand what the board is about. However, it will not understand “<3 W e d d i n g D r e s s e s <3.”

Not filling out your entire Pinterest business profile

First, make sure your Pinterest account is a Business Account (not a personal account), and complete all areas of the profile.  Make sure you add a branded logo, write a detailed description in the (200 search-engine-optimizable character) “About” section, and add your website URL. Make sure you also take the steps to verify your website.

Not linking to the proper product pages

Product pins that don’t link back to a product page are missing out on an incredible marketing opportunity. If a Pinterest user is interested enough to click through to your website, make sure they are being taken to the correct product page. You can also take this a step further by creating custom URLs, so you can see exactly which pins are sending traffic to your site.

Not writing strong pin descriptions

Adding pins without a good description means that your pins are not going to show up in a Pinterest search, reducing your odds of getting clicks, likes and repins. It is also thought by search marketers that robust Pinterest descriptions may help with SEO.

If your pin features a product, write a description about exactly what the product is. Make sure to include the brand and name of the product.

Pinning small, dull, or poor quality images

On Pinterest you’re constantly competing with the other pins that fill the screen, so it’s important that your images stand out and make users want to click on them. Here are several best practices when it comes to images:

  • Choose images that are large, vibrant and attractive
  • Avoid images that are small or low quality (be careful with images taken on phones- they don’t always look so great enlarged)
  • When using an image you didn’t create yourself, make sure you obey copyright laws and give proper credit

Agreeing & Disagreeing With Mark Cuban

Are social media sites are changing the way we search for information, and causing less searches to take place on Google?

Mark Cuban recently wrote an interesting blog post which discussed how the progression of social media sites has caused him to do far less searches on Google.  His reason is that sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Tumblr are constantly updated with recent information at a more rapid rate than most websites.  Therefore, making Google late on everything.

Mark states in his post that he places a significant value on recency, and accuses Google of doing a very poor job of indexing and presenting real-time, near-time or even recent information. He goes as far as suggesting that this lack of recency will impact our ability to trust Google and other search engines down the road.

“If Google isn’t indexing what is said on all of these social sites, aren’t they missing most of the information that is being communicated in the world?”

Yes and no, Mark.  Yes, billions of people posting at a rapid rate is a pretty powerful thing for Google’s indexing to go up against. However, if Google pulled the plug on itself tomorrow, we would be absolutely lost.  It would take years for a social media site to build what Google already has.

While I love to disagree with Mark because he’s a Mavericks fan (go Heat), he is correct that social media has changed the way we search for information of all types.  For example, Mark turns to Instagram when he wants to know if anything interesting happened at an event, and I have done the same.  It’s true that Instagram is a faster way to get more information about events as they occur, just by searching a hashtag.  I can search the hashtag #heatgame or #letsgoheat on any given game night and see who is there, what they’re wearing, and what is happening in the arena through their eyes.  What’s cool about the information on Instagram is that you learn little things that a news report may not include.

Instagram is also great for getting information about events that I may care about, but are not newsworthy enough to end up on Google (i.e. marketing industry parties, local charity events, a friend’s wedding that I couldn’t attend). Or on days when I miss Japan, I can take a three-minute vacation by searching the hashtag #harajuku and see what happened on the streets of Tokyo that day.  I’m pretty sure Google is not capable of providing that type of experience.

Mark also claims to get his news from Twitter, and he is not alone. Twitter has a reputation for spreading news quickly among its millions of users, and according to recent research, nearly one in 10 American adults uses it for that purpose.  By following the right people and knowing how to search on Twitter, the social platform is a great way to consume a lot of news in a short amount of time.  It’s easy to be updated on the top news stories just by scrolling through your feed for five minutes.

I have no doubt that social media has changed the way we consume information, and the way we search for it.  But I disagree with Mark in the way he beats Google down for not presenting “real-time, near-time or even recent information” in a timely enough manner.

I personally view Google as a well-aged wine collection.  The search giant has worked really hard over the last decade to combat spam and create sophisticated algorithms that provide pretty quality results.  While I may not find instant information about less-significant events like on Instagram, Google is perfectly efficient at serving up major breaking news quickly.  Google also remains my go-to for finding answers to most questions I have throughout the day (I mean, how else would I know how to cook rice, determine if that spot on my arm is cancerous, or find out how to get from Amsterdam to Paris the fastest).

Oh, and in the case of sports scores, any true fan has Google Now, which knows your favorite teams and tells you the scores without even asking.

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Is Working For a Startup Company Right For You?

Office birthday parties, free bagel Fridays, a corn hole game set up in the middle of the office and holiday company cruises to the Bahamas- “Is this how all internet marketing companies work?” I wondered to myself when I joined a startup team fresh out of college.

The answer is no, this is not how most companies operate, but this environment is fairly typical if you happen to work at a tech startup where your CEO is 29 years old and more than half of your co-workers are under the age of 33.

My company is growing rapidly and we are constantly looking for good people to join our staff.  I get emails and Facebook messages all the time from random people (most that I haven’t talked to since middle school) who want a job.  They ask if BMI is as fun as it seems and I tell them all the same thing.

Working at a startup has its perks, and while it can be a lot of fun at times, there is also a lot of hard work that’s put in.  We definitely work hard to play hard around here.  In the last two years I’ve seen people thrive in this environment and do really well for themselves, and I’ve seen others, some who have years of marketing experience, completely crack under the pressure.

If you’re wondering whether you’ll fit in at a startup company, here are a few things to consider.

Are you a good at multi-tasking under lots of pressure?

Believe me when I say it’s highly unlikely that you’ll wear just one hat at a startup company. I think this is the main reason why many people don’t work out.  They get hired for a certain position and are shocked when they’re expected to do things beyond their job description.  My official job title is a search marketing project manager, but I’ve also served as the office decorator, copywriter, public relations contact, executive assistant, receptionist, blogger, events coordinator, t-shirt designer and the executive producer of my boss’ radio show (there’s probably more that I can’t rattle off the top of my head).

“That’s not my job,” is a response that would not go over well with my bosses.  Startups usually only have between 10 to 100 employees. That being said, everyone must carry their own weight in their respective positions and then some.  I’m not alone- we all wear multiple hats and don’t really get paid more for doing more.  But on the plus-side, I’ve learned many valuable lessons and skills that I could always put on the resume, and I believe hard work is recognized and rewarded.  I’ve been told by co-workers that busting their asses paid off, so I’ll keep doing my thing and doing whatever I can to make it all worth it.

Do you easily adapt to change?

Plans tend to change rapidly in startup companies. The BMI Elite that I work at today is completely different than the BMI Elite I worked at on this day one year ago.  In one year we’ve had two offices, I’ve held three different job titles, had my desk moved about 5 times and seen about 50 people come and go.  We’ve added new services and taken some away.

If routines bore you and you like the excitement that comes with change, you may really enjoy working for a startup. If you prefer predictability, working at a startup will likely just increase your stress to new levels.

Are you okay with working crazy hours?

If you like showing up to work at 9 a.m. and leaving right at 5 p.m. every day, a startup is not the place for you.  Regular hours- what’s that?

In order to accomplish everything that we need to do, many of us often come in early, work through lunch or happy hour, and sometimes show up to the office on weekends.  I think this crazy schedule has a lot to do with why most of our employees are young, unmarried and have no kids.

Do you believe in the company?

This is major, as it’s really hard to put up with the multi-tasking, long hours and pressure of working at a startup if you don’t believe in the company and its product(s).

Before joining a startup, I recommend doing your research to get a clear idea of its products, values, goals and long-term vision.  What do they do to stand out among their competition?  Startups surface and die every day, so use your best judgment when trying to guess if your position could be long-term.

When working at a startup company, you never really know what’s going to happen.  The industry is ever-changing and even the most solid companies are at risk.  However, some startups thrive and the rewards become worth the risks- think huge financial returns, invaluable experience, getting to work with incredibly smart people and of course the excitement that comes with it all.

If you’re up for the challenge, working for a startup can be a life-changing experience.  Just make sure you’re prepared and are able to handle it first.

Will Google Profit From Reading Our Minds?

Google has been banking for years by charging advertisers based on users’ actions- we’ve all heard of pay-per-click, and the recently patented “pay-per-gaze” technology, which, through an eye-tracking device, would charge advertisers any time a Glass user physically looked at their ad.

It’s probably going to take a few years for Glass to build up enough of a user base to make pay-per-gaze really profitable.  In the meantime it’s been said that Google is already working on the next level of this technology, in the form of charging advertisers not based on users’ actions, but… wait for it… their reactions/emotions.

“Pay-per-reaction” is the closest that Google has gotten so far to reading users’ minds.  It sounds so futuristic, but it could be right around the corner, as it is currently in beta.  With this technology, advertisers would no longer be charged based on users’ actions (clicks or gazes), but rather their thoughts.

How does this “pay-per-reaction” work, you ask?  In addition to gazes, Google can measure the level of a user’s pupil dilation and thus gauge his/her emotional response.  Let’s say you look at an ad through the Glass- the advertiser would be charged.  But if the ad interested you and your pupils dilate- the advertiser would be charged even more.

While I’m still figuring out what exactly the purpose of making advertisers pay more for reactions is, I do believe that this new technology could give advertisers a much better understanding of consumer reaction to marketing.   This insight will likely make them want to work harder on the emotional pull of their ads, but they would also be paying more for these ads if they’re successful.  Will these ads with more emotional pull lead to an increase in sales or conversions is the big question.

One thing I do know is that if “pay-per-reaction” happens, Google will make tons of money off of advertisers whose ads feature pretty shoes, juicy cheeseburgers and cute baby animals.

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What Do Internet Marketing & Beautiful Women Have In Common?

Happy Friday, everyone!  Here’s a few cheesy jokes that those in the internet marketing industry can appreciate.  I hope they make you LOL a little ;)

You see a beautiful woman at a party. You walk up to her and say, “I am very rich. Marry me.” That’s DIRECT MARKETING.

You are at a party with a bunch of friends and see a beautiful woman. One of your friends goes up to her and pointing at you says, “He is very rich. Marry him.” That’s ADVERTISING.

You see a beautiful woman at a party. You go up to her and get her telephone number. The next day you called her and say, “Hi, I am very rich. Marry me.” That’s TELEMARKETING.

You are at a party and see a beautiful woman. You get up and straighten your tie, walk up to her and pour her a drink. You open the door for her, pick up her bag after she drops it, offer her a ride, and then say, “By the way, I’m very rich. Will you marry me?”  That’s PUBLIC RELATIONS.

You are at a party and a beautiful woman walks up to you and says, “You are very rich.” That’s BRAND RECOGNITION.

You see a beautiful woman at a party. You walk up to her and say, “I am very rich. Marry me.” She gives you a nice hard slap across your face. That’s CUSTOMER FEEDBACK.

You take a shower, shave and put on some clean clothes. You go to a party. Everyone in the room smells bad. A beautiful woman walks up to you and gives you her number. That’s INBOUND MARKETING.

The lines above were written by Carole Mahoney.  I thought they were funny (well, as funny as marketing can get) and decided to make up a few of my own about internet marketing:

You see a beautiful woman at party.  You make friends with everyone else in the room and they all tell her “He is very rich.  Marry him.”  That’s LINK BUILDING.

You see a beautiful woman at a party.  You pay someone to go up to her, point to you and say “He is very rich.  Marry him.”  That’s AFFILIATE MARKETING.

You are at a party and see a beautiful woman.  You get her name, find her on Facebook, message her and say “Hi, I am very rich. Marry me.” That’s SOCIAL MEDIA MARKETING.

You see a beautiful woman at a party. You go up to her and get her email address. The next day you email her and say, “I am very rich. Marry me.” That’s EMAIL MARKETING.

The beautiful woman is at the party to find a man.  The man knows this, and stands close enough so that she will notice him first.  That’s SEARCH ENGINE OPTIMIZATION!

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Instagram Gets Videos!

Today is a rough day for Vine, as Instagram has finally caught up.  Instagram, owned by Facebook, announced today to its 130 million users that it has introduced a video functionality.

Vine, which is owned by Twitter, was great for a few months, but like many other short-video services, its video time is limited.  Instagram’s videos are limited as well, but at 15 seconds long they’re more than twice the time of Vine’s.  Unless Vine extends their video time to longer than 15 seconds and comes up with some cool new features, I don’t see a way that they could keep up.  But I do have faith in them.

According to Instagram co-founder Kevin Systrom, the 15-second limit was chosen after testing different times.   He called it the right balance “between not too short that it constrains your creativity” and not so long that you have to wait a while for a file to upload.

Instagram’s video-sharing feature was widely expected and has excited many users.  Described Systrom as “everything you love about Instagram — and it moves,” video is designed around three core principles:

  • Simplicity — It needs to be easy to use and edit
  • Beauty — “We need to do to video what we did to photos.”
  • Community — Instagram continues to look and work the same way when it comes to sharing and viewing content.

Here’s what else we know about Instagram Video so far:

  • The videos can be between three and 15 seconds long and include any number of individual video clips
  • It came to iOS and Android at the same time and supports 13 custom filters, created by an artist specifically for Instagram video
  • Users can edit the frames of their videos and remove segments of the footage
  • A mode named “Cinema” acts as a way to stabilize footage
  • Users can choose a cover photo for their videos, which will appear in the stream as a regular photo
  • For now, videos can only be shot from within the Instagram app.  There is not yet a way to upload existing video from your phone’s camera roll

To get the video function, update your existing Instagram app.

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What Bartending Taught Me About Business

When I began bartending at 18 years old, I looked at it as a way to make some fast, easy cash while putting myself through college.  I always knew that it was a temporary job; I would never be a career bartender, and in the beginning I didn’t take it too seriously.  I was just grateful to have a job where I could walk in, do my thing for a few hours, leave with a wad of cash and not have to take any work or stress home with me.

I quickly realized that I could make my wad of earnings much larger by doing a few things differently.  Damien, a former manager, once explained this to me and it made a lot of sense:

“You’re basically running your own business behind the bar.  We provide you with the ‘office’ and ‘tools,’ but how you run your business is up to you.  If you provide a great product (good drinks) that you know how to sell and upsell, and you give great customer service, I guarantee that you will make more money.  It’s all up to you.”

I became a hustler behind the bar, and saw my money grow almost immediately.  I loved the fact that I could give myself a raise on any given shift just by working smarter.  I got better and better at what I did, and by the time I graduated from college, the money was so good that it was almost painful to walk away and start at the bottom of the internet marketing rat race.

To create cocktails and call yourself a bartender is not hard- a monkey could be taught to pour beer and shake up a martini.  What separates an average bartender and a great bartender is not the competence to make drinks- it’s the ability to sell, satisfy the customer and keep them coming back.  I’ll explain each in detail as I share a few lessons I learned that I have used to succeed both behind the bar and in the real world:

Know your product and sell the hell out of it

I’m going to break this one up into two parts, because each is equally important.  It’s very hard to sell something you know nothing about, and even if you’re an expert on a product, it’s worthless unless you figure out a way to sell it.

It’s very simple: if you’re not selling something that people want, you’re not making money.

Cocktails in a bar sell themselves- that’s why the customers showed up in the first place.  However, the customer may not necessarily know what they want, and it’s up to you to inform and sell them.  This is your opportunity to upsell.  As long as you can convince your customer that Grey Goose is better than Crystal Palace (yuck) your sales will go up, and most likely so will your tips.

When you walk into a bar, it’s very easy to spot the great bartenders- they’re the ones who greet you immediately, make conversation and try to sell you their products with enthusiasm.

Bad bartenders on the other hand tend to have the same bad habits I’ve seen struggling business people have.  They’re either more worried about the drama in their personal lives, too lazy to put in the work, not interested in what they’re selling, or they fail to upsell.

When you’re trying to succeed and make money, it’s important to remember that selling comes first.  Everything else comes second.

You must make people feel comfortable

Have you ever wondered why bartenders are also considered therapists?  One of the main reasons that people go to the bar and pour their hearts out to an almost-stranger is because bartenders just listen without judging.  Think about it- how many people in your life hear you out and ask questions without judgment?

As a bartender, I never told people what to do or judged their motives or actions the way I might do to my friends. By doing this, I earned the trust of my regulars.  They were comfortable coming in and updating me on their lives (while spending money), knowing that I wouldn’t think any more or less of them.

Trust is huge in almost every facet of life, especially business.  When people feel comfortable coming to you, it is much easier to accomplish things.

When you’re a team player, the results are usually better

Although you might consider yourself to be running your own little business, I guarantee that it’ll run a lot smoother if you accept some help from time to time.  When you’re busy, it’s really helpful to have that extra person who supports you, whether it’s a bar-back refilling your ice, or a co-worker to share the workload with.

You can’t be everywhere, and you’re not going to be good at everything, so it’s important to surround yourself with a great team to keep you balanced.  Make sure you treat those people well.

Know that you can handle a lot more than you think you can

I remember feeling excited, but absolutely terrified, before working my first Winter Music Conference.  I heard stories from those who had been through it before of 18-hour shifts for five days straight, dealing with the most wild and drugged-up partiers ever.

In the days leading up to WMC, I rested, meditated and did my best to mentally and physically prepare myself for what laid ahead.  By day 5 I felt like I had run a marathon and calculated more prices in my head than a math team- I was fried. But it was so motivating to look over and see the cash piling up in the tip jar.

The moral of this story- you can keep going much longer than you think you can when you need to.  I’m not telling you to hustle for 18 hours every single day, but when the money is there, GET IT, because it might not always be.

Don’t let anyone disrespect you

Even though I was there to earn money, whenever a customer crossed a line and disrespected me, they were quickly shown the door.  It didn’t matter if they were spending money- no negativity was allowed.

I know this goes a little against everything I have already said in this article, but I’m a firm believer in removing anyone who causes a great amount of problems and stress.  This applies to both at work and in life.  These people end up sucking your time and energy, creating a bad vibe, and will often badmouth you to other customers or ask for a refund after you’ve bent over backwards for them.  It takes your attention away from the better paying customers, and in my opinion, it’s just better to remove these bad apples.

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YouTube Now Gets 1 Billion Unique Viewers a Month

When asked to think of a video sharing site, chances are the first one that comes to mind is YouTube.  For almost a decade we’ve gone there to watch, share and be amazed by videos created by all walks of life.  There’s no doubt that YouTube is the biggest video sharing site around, but just how big is it?

On the YouTube Blog, the YouTube team just announced a new milestone: the site is now getting more than 1 billion unique visitors every month.  To give us an idea of what a billion tuning into YouTube looks like, the YouTube team gave some comparisons:

  • Nearly one out of every two people on the Internet visits YouTube.
  • YouTube’s monthly viewership is the equivalent of roughly 10 Super Bowl audiences.
  • If YouTube were a country, it would be the third largest in the world after China and India.
  • PSY and Madonna would have to repeat their Madison Square Garden performance in front of a packed house 200,000 more times in order to reach an audience the same size.

With this said, I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite YouTube videos of all time- ones that have made me laugh or feel happy over the years.

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How I Planned a 250-Person Party

Since I started at my job last year, I’ve worn many hats around the office.  My official title, the one printed on my business cards, says that I’m a search marketing specialist, but at times I also do the work of a copywriter, project manager, publicist and event planner.  Planning events for the company has been one of my favorite things to do, and I just recently pulled off my biggest one yet.

On March 1, BMI Elite celebrated its third birthday with a big party and open house of our new Boca Raton office.  I was in charge of making everything happen, from getting invitations created to hiring everyone that we would need to make the party a success.

The first thing I did was make a huge list of everything I needed to plan for. There’s the obvious: i.e. food, drinks, and cake.  But then there’s plates, cups, silverware and serving utensils for the food, drinks and cake.  And then tables to put this stuff on, as well as linens and napkins for the tables.  I tried to think of every little possible thing and write it all down.  Once I made a list of everything that we would need, I called around to local caterers, bar services, party rental companies, florists and more to get estimates so I could compare prices.  I am going to break the rest of this article up into sections based on how many different companies I hired, and I will share my experience with them and everything I learned about party planning.

Food & Drinks

I figured that this was going to be the biggest thing to plan for so I got to it first.  I called around to every local caterer and bar company in the area before my boss told me about Empire Pizza, which had come highly recommended to him by a family member.  I called them up, spoke with Sandy Levy and immediately felt comfortable with her.  Unlike some of the people I spoke with from the other catering companies, Sandy seemed genuine and calm.  She knew her stuff and how to sell it, but she wasn’t pushy or aggressive in any way.  She also informed me that Empire Pizza could handle the open bar as well, which was a huge plus.

Empire Pizza has a restaurant near Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale, so I made a reservation for me and my boss to go for a tasting and to meet with Sandy in person.  The food was delicious and her prices were unbeatable.  But best of all, I trusted Sandy to do a great job with our party.  She was so full of ideas and paid so much attention to small details that make a big difference.  I was sold.

As part of the deal that we made with Sandy, we had to provide our own alcohol and soda mixers.  Empire Pizza provided the juice mixers, garnishes, and little bar tools.  For our part, we went to Costco and loaded up on liquor, wine, beer and champagne.  In all, I’d estimate that we spent about $2500 there.

The night of the party couldn’t have gone smoother when it came to the food and drinks.  Sandy and her team of five servers/bartenders did an incredible job and our guests left full, drunk and happy.  If I ever need to hire a caterer again, I’m definitely calling Sandy.

Furniture & Glassware

Figuring out what I needed to order from the party rental company was probably the hardest thing to plan for.  The list changed so many times, but Better Party Rentals was patient and efficient.

After I hired Empire Pizza and figured out what they do not provide, I was to make a list for Better Party Rentals.  In all, we ended up renting high top tables, tables for the bar, linens for all tables, three types of glassware, a red carpet, and coolers.  They delivered the goods the day before the party and picked it up the day after.

Flowers

We didn’t go too crazy with flowers, but we wanted something pretty to put on some of the tables.  Originally we were going to get little arrangements for each of the 12 high tops, but after we increased the high top amount to 20 tables I flowersscratched that idea.  It would be too expensive, and I didn’t want it to look like flower overkill.  We ended up getting six medium-sized flower arrangements to put on the coffee tables throughout the office and one big arrangement for the lobby.

The florist I hired was Field of Flowers of Boca Raton.  They do beautiful work for affordable prices- the smaller arrangements, called the Classic Collection A, were just $36.95 each.  They delivered the flowers on time the morning of the event and I received a lot of compliments about them.

The (major) problem with Field of Flowers is that that almost NEVER answer their phone.  I’ve probably called them about 40 times, and they’ve answered about three.  This is SO frustrating, and I have actually moved on and used other florists because of this on other occasions.  Field of Flowers, if you are reading this, ANSWER YOUR DAMN PHONE!  I guarantee that you are losing a ton of flowers2business (not just mine) as a result of not picking up the phone.

Cake & Balloons

Publix got some extra business as a result of Jeanette, their event planner’s upselling efforts.  After I ordered a cake, she sent an email reminding me that Publix could also provide balloons, cold soda, deli platters, etc. She got to me right as I was contemplating whether to attempt transporting blown-up latex balloons in my car or buying a helium tank and doing it myself in the office.

For about $150 Publix blew up 100 latex balloons in the colors of my choice and delivered them right to the office.  It was perfect.

Backdrop/Step & Repeat

Every big party has one disaster, right?  For me, this is where it happened.

Since we were getting the red carpet, we decided that we needed a backdrop where everyone could be photographed as they entered the party.  I hired CB Signs because they offered me the best deal on an 8’ x 9’ step and repeat, also known as the white banner with the company’s logos all across it.

So I ordered this banner through CB Signs and was told that it would be ready a few days before the party.  Little did I know that they outsourced it from a company in Minneapolis, and that this company would mail the wrong banner to CB Signs just hours before my party.  When Christine called to tell me this, the correct banner was lost in UPS and nowhere to be found.

Christine apologized a million times and swore that they had never had this problem before, and promised to do everything she could to find our backdrop.  The night before the party, our backdrop was located five hours away in Jacksonville.  I told her to call me the minute she received it.

The next morning, I called CB Signs about 15 times before finally just getting in my car and driving to their office.  When I got there, the “Out to lunch” sign was on the door.  Christine returned about 15 minutes later and smiled when I introduced myself.

“You’re going to love this story,” she told me.  I’m glad she said that immediately because I was about to kill her.

Apparently she had spent the whole morning having a new banner hand made for me locally.  Right as that was finished, UPS showed up with the original one. Although she didn’t call me and tell me that any of this was happening, I appreciate her efforts and dedication to getting the job done. I also walked away with two banners that day which was nice.

Me and some of my girls on the red carpet

DJ

The DJ was the one thing I didn’t need to worry about because he was the brother of one of our employees and a good friend of my boss.  One less thing to worry about J

Magician

My boss insisted on hiring a magician to entertain our guests.  I hired a local named Gary Goodman, who I was told was one of the best in the area.  I was running around like a crazy person for most of the party, so I did not get a chance to catch his act, but I heard good things from those who did.

Gary Goodman working his magic

Photographer

The photos were taken by Sam Laskey, a freelance photographer who was a friend of my co-worker.

Jeremy and I having a good time at the party

Jeremy and I having a good time at the party

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Casey Kurlander, Search marketing Specialist, BMI Elite