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Waterlink Web

2020 Reflection

Something we all share …

In 2020 all of us, everyone in the world, went through a similar experience. Some of us are suffering more because of the pandemic, but all of us have seen lifestyle changes: we miss going out to eat in cheerful restaurants, we miss visits with friends, we miss quick hugs to say hello or goodbye, we miss live music, we miss worship, we miss our favorite businesses that have closed, we miss the smile of a passing stranger on the street.

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Waterlink Web

Unboxing a Christmas Surprise, 2018

This week I received a surprise gift addressed to Waterlink Web. Generally, I only order software for Waterlink Web, and it arrives via the internet. So, curious about what was in this package, I recorded an unboxing video of this Christmas surprise.

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Waterlink Web

Service is in the DNA of Waterlink Web’s Business Strategy

The Waterlink Web story and my story are intertwined. Service to the community is part of my DNA. It is no surprise that service to Waterlink Web clients is in the DNA of our business strategy.

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Waterlink Web

2018 — the End of Net Neutrality? What Happens Next?

Mary Ann Aschenbrenner, President of Waterlink Web
Mary Ann Aschenbrenner is a WordPress website designer working in Portland, Oregon.

The concept of net neutrality is a hallmark of the American internet experience. It encourages internet providers to treat all content equally and enables the robust growth of social media channels, video streaming, and the accompanying rise and fall of tech startups. Startups compete on an equal footing because the internet providers don’t suppress content from one company or favor content from another.

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Waterlink Web

In Memoriam: Lucie Bea

When my youngest daughter, then in 6th grade, confided she was afraid to go walking or running alone, I began to look for a dog. We found one, one that joined our family for 13 years. I named her Lucie because she her fur was red and because each time I came home I could say, “Lucie, I’m home,” in my best Ricky Ricardo voice. I loved doing that.

Lucie Bea and Kindra at the Oregon Coast
Lucie and Kindra at the Oregon Coast.

She was Kindra’s dog mostly, one who could lead an athletic junior high girl on a run or make sure I kept a quick pace on a walk. She loved everyone, greeted strangers like a family member, and never showed aggression while walking in our neighborhood.

Her exuberance at seeing us return home from work or school came out in wiggles, her butt moving left to right as she came to greet us in a wild sidestep, that let everyone know it was a joy to see them again … or even for the first time.

Lucie and Alexis at the Southern Oregon Coast
Lucie and our oldest daughter, Alexis, camping at the Oregon coast.

She was the most affectionate dog I’ve ever owned. Sit on the couch and Lucie would curl up next to you. Sneak off for an afternoon nap? Lucie would find you and join in. She was especially affectionate of my daughters’ boyfriends. It didn’t matter how awkward or tall, bring a boy home and Lucie wanted him to be her boyfriend too. She would ask to sit in their laps, all 64 pounds of her, and lick their faces.

One day we were alone in the house and I watched as she stood looking out an upstairs bedroom window intently observing the outdoors. I followed her gaze to see a squirrel. ‘She looks so observant and intelligent,’ I thought. Then I saw a stream of drool bubbling our of her mouth and knew the truth. “Yum, squirrel,” was what was really on her mind.

Needless to say, we kept screens on all the windows. Sometimes they got scratches and holes, which we repaired, but they did keep her from leaping out after a member of the local fauna.

Lucie Bea on a red couch with comforter and pillows
Lucie was soft and loved soft places to rest.

Lucie was blessed with the gift of softness. Her ears, her tummy, her fur … all soft. Kindra loved hugging her, we all did. My husband scratched her ears and nibbled on them too. It was easy to have her sleep in our bed. She would curl up at our feet, keeping them warm. It wasn’t until later in the night when she would migrate up to sleep between us, pushing one or the other of us out with her feet.

One of her joys was dog parks. She enjoyed the chasing and games. I was amazed at her agility the first time I saw her run alongside another dog, jump up on his back and off again landing on her feet and still running, as the front legs of her companion gave way from the weight that had been on his back and he tumbled into a summersault. After witnessing this a time or two, however, I realized this would need to stop. She could have hurt an older or weaker dog and, further, their owners did not approve. A few timeouts and she stopped the acrobatics but continued to enjoy dog parks.

Lucie Bea and Mary Ann Aschenbrenner
Lucie and I enjoying spring.

For the first years of Lucie’s life I was working outside of the home, maintaining and marketing carpooling websites for a local government agency. When our family would all be gone for a long day Lucie sometimes got to go to doggie daycare. At the end of the day when I picked her up I was always advised how Lucie never slowed down, how full of energy she was, and how she would be tired and go right to sleep when we got home. She never did. Sometimes I would buy her a chew toy and she would carry it home in her mouth, her butt sashaying as she walked pulling on the lead.

The years passed and my children grew, left home and went to college. One Christmas season when I was preparing for their return, Lucie came to find me busily cleaning house. She was sick. Her back arched up unable to eat. I took her to Dove Lewis. X-rays revealed bone spurs growing down her back from each vertebra. All the years of wiggling in joy when we returned home or greeting friends had taken their toll.

Lucie opening gifts at Christmas
Lucie enjoyed opening gifts, even if the gift was poop pick-up bags.

She got a lot of attention that Christmas. We lifted her onto the beds and helped her back down. The attention and muscle relaxants helped, and Lucie recovered.

After Kindra graduated from college, traveled, and found employment, Lucie became more my dog. I had changed careers and was working from home now building websites for small business and nonprofits. My office was upstairs and each day as I worked Lucie would join me, lying on the futon couch or alongside the desk at my feet. Often she slept and often she snored. Sometimes a client on the phone would ask, “What is that sawing noise?”  Then we would share a quiet chuckle.

A year ago on the way home from a walk, Lucie began to limp. The vet diagnosed it as a torn ACL. She had laser treatments, medicine to block nerve pain, a steroid to reduce swelling, and another tablet that acted as a hormone replacement. It all worked. Despite “old dog lungs” (that was the vet’s term), arthritis in her hips and back, and, of course, the bone spurs she continued, not as wiggly as she had once been, not as agile, but sill a happy dog.

In September Kindra married in a remote park on a lake in Southern Oregon. Lucie and the groom’s family dog served as ring bearers. Despite the distance dozens of relatives and friends made the trip. The toasts, dinner, and party lasted past dark. When we were getting ready to leave I found Lucie curled in a ball asleep close to the banquet tables.

John Aschenbrenner with Lucie Bea playing in the St. Johns snow
John and Lucie playing in the January snow in St. Johns.

In January, the night of the big snow, she took a walk with my husband and I carefully leaping to catch the loose snowballs John threw out for her. It was a beautiful snow covered night in St. Johns and, while Lucie walked slowly, she seemed to enjoy the beautiful night as much as we did.

Time is a cruel master. Despite our best preparations and precautions, it taxes us all.

The last time she made it up the stairs I had to hold her and help her lie softly just to keep her from collapsing in exhaustion. The last two weeks of her life Lucie needed help to stand. When she was up and outside each step seemed to be painful. She never wined or cried out, but the last few days when she went out I saw tears from her eyes down the furrows of her muzzle. The medication had helped, but it was no longer enough.

In the late winter, we called a vet to our home. Lucie was lying on her bed in our living room. I had spent time in the afternoon talking with her, caressing her soft ears, and enjoying my last moments with her. The end was peaceful. Today she is out in the garden with a new hydrangea growing from the deep grave my husband dug.

Mad River Beach, California.

Since her death, each time I return home and unlock the front door I think, “Lucie, I’m home.” I no longer say the words aloud. I miss her and her sweet generous and joyful spirit.

Lucie Bea, January 21, 2004 to March 17, 2017. Rest in peace, beautiful dog.

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Value of a Tagline: one thing we learn about marketing from Donald Trump

Learning how to write a tagline and leverage its marketing value will help a new business owner start in a successful direction.

When I sit down with a new client to begin designing her or his website, one of the first questions I ask is, “What is your tagline?”

A good tagline sums up a company’s mission and promise and sets it apart from competitors. The tagline is such an important tool in marketing that there are agencies whose one specialty is crafting them.

Most us are not wordsmiths. Whether we are a solo entrepreneurs, artists, or run a small company, we already have enough responsibilities. Writing our company tagline can get overlooked.

This is a big miss. You can learn how to write a tagline. A well-written tagline used consistently will help even a small business rise over their competitors.

Tagline Marketing Lesson 101 From Trump University

Rum, make America great again. Donald Trump knows how to write a tagline
Will Rum make America great again?

This season’s Presidential contest reminds me, particularly on the Republican side, of the value of a tagline.

“Make America Great Again” is, frankly, a great tagline. After all, who doesn’t want to be great? The Trump tagline accomplishes all three of the important qualities of a good tagline: mission, promise, and brand. In four words the Presidential candidate lays out the mission of his campaign, makes a promise to voters, and brands himself as great.

This post is not an endorsement of any candidate. My intention is to encourage small businesses to think about their tagline and provide some guidance in how to write one.

–Mary Ann Aschenbrenner

Logo and Tagline Should Work Together

Nike swoosh with tagline, Just Do It. This is an example of how to write a tagline
The Nike swoosh and tagline are inseparable.

Think of it this way. A logo is the visible representation of a brand. The tagline is the audible representation of a brand. Like the logo, the tagline rarely changes. It is part of the company brand identity.

Large companies will spend millions marketing their logo and tagline. Consider Nike: the swoosh is inseparable from, “Just Do It.” In this case, the tagline implies activity and that Nike is a company of activity. The promise is that their products will make customers fit and active. Nike has done such a masterful job marketing their logo with their tagline that we can’t see one without remembering the other.

This season’s Republican presidential candidate gained status and recognition with free publicity from the media. His early marketing work in the Republican primaries, his volatile and entertaining pronouncements, garnered him millions in free media exposure. All along, at every public opportunity, he repeated his tagline.

As a small entrepreneur we often underestimate our ability to market our ourselves and our businesses. We may not have Nike’s budget or a billionaire’s ego, but we do have a network, a circle of business associates and customers. Each of our customers should know our tagline. Friends should also know our company tagline. They should know our tagline because we repeat it in conversation, on our websites, and on our business cards.

Even on a small scale, even for a small business or artist entrepreneur, a tagline will improve your marketing and help you stay in your customer’s minds.

Waterlink Web Example

Waterlink Web: connecting your customers with you. We can teach you how to write a tagline
The logo and tagline for this website design agency.

My company is an example of a small business using a logo and tagline combination for marketing. Our tagline is, “connecting your customers with you.”

I wrote this tagline because we include onsite search engine optimization in each website we build. Our websites come up in search results for the products and services that our clients build or sell. But, saying all that can leave clients who are unfamiliar with technology confused. The tagline sums it up: connecting your customers with you.

Our company mission is to help businesses grow by connecting our clients with their customers through quality websites. The tagline’s promise is that a website by Waterlink Web can do this.

Both online and in our printed material our tagline is shown with our logo. Our logo is a bridge, an image of connection. In this case it is an artist’s rendering of the St. Johns Bridge in North Portland where Waterlink Web is located.

When people ask me what, I do I include the phrase, “Connecting your customers with you,” as part of the conversation while describing my work. This sets Waterlink Web apart from our competitors who generally list website and marketing services when describing their businesses.

Truth in Taglines

M&M's package
“Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” Really?

Taglines are not always honest, and occasionally we can live with that. As a child I remember wondering why the M&M’s were melting in my hand when the promise was, “melts in your mouth, not in your hands.” The M&M’s tagline may lack veracity, but this Halloween that won’t stop me from buying them for the trick-or-treaters who come to our door.

For business owners (and politicians), however, I recommend you keep your tagline truthful. Only promise what you can deliver.

Our fond memories from childhood will help us forgive M&M’s. Your customer’s memory of your service, products, and attention to detail will only be a pleasant one if those memories meet with the promise of your tagline.[divider_flat]

More Tips on Writing a Tagline

Keep it simple. Three to eight words is plenty. You can add more copy and description on your website or brochures. A short and memorable phrase will stay in your customer’s minds.

Keep it natural. Avoid the soulless version that a marketing committee might write. If it doesn’t feel right to you as the business owner, then it probably isn’t.

When I talk with a new client who doesn’t have a tagline we will begin the process of writing one. My client may not be a wordsmith, but I am. It may take a few days and a series of edits, but at Waterlink Web our clients come away with a website and a tagline. I can help teach you how to write a tagline.

For more tips checkout “10 Tips for a Remarkable Tagline” on the Inc. blog.