Interview with Debra Stewart
Owner, Triad Marketing Solutions
If you’re a small business owner, residing in the Ypsilanti area and surrounding Michigan cities, you may have heard of the name Debra Stewart. A multi-talented business owner who is the founder and CEO of Triad Marketing Solutions, Debra has quite the resume and portfolio to back it up. Providing her clients with marketing services, digital and print graphic design, social media management, and content development – Debra is unique in that she specializes in not one but several areas.
I met Debra at a King of Love (KOL) Sunday service at Eastern Michigan University a few years ago. It wasn’t until August 2015 during a conversation behind the audio and sound booth however, that we began talking about the type of work we both were involved in. I found out that Debra and I had somewhat of a similar professional background and that she was someone I would love to work with in the near future.
A few months later, Debra called me to assist her in writing copy for one of her clients. Since then, I have made myself available to provide a variety of writing services to Debra. After assisting her in writing a video script for a local client, I realized I didn’t fully know the scope of what Debra did. Henceforth – this interview was the perfect way to learn more about all aspects of her business, as well as satisfy the graduate student assignment for my Writing for the World Wide Web class (WRTG 544).
In traditional Q&A format, I’ve captured most of the 40 minute phone interview I had this month with Debra to learn more about herself and her business, Triad Marketing Solutions. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did interviewing her 🙂
Hi Deb. For the purposes of this interview, can you tell me again what is your educational background?
Sure. I graduated from Eastern Michigan University (EMU) with a BA in Administrative Management
I remember you saying that’s what you went to school for. Can you tell me a little bit about your business, Triad Marketing Solutions, and how you got started?
It’s a business geared towards helping small businesses succeed, marketing wise. I do everything from marking coordinating and print/digital graphic design. It started because I love helping people and I love helping people succeed. I enjoy more of the consulting work, but realized people don’t wanna pay just for consulting. They will pay for graphic work though. As people were starting businesses I would consult them on stuff like quick books – I didn’t know a lot about marketing but I knew about admin processes. I self-taught myself graphics. I started on Photoshop actually when the church (KOL) needed graphics that were more than clip art. So one day I bought the program and I started teaching myself how to use it and increasingly I’ve gotten better as I’ve been learning
So, if someone wanted to know specifically what you do – what do you tell them?
I usually tell people I’m a marketing company that does graphics (print and web) and digital marketing on social media platforms.
Wow. So you do a lot! Can you tell me a little more about the different services you offer to your clients and which ones are the most popular?
Graphic design is the most popular – that’s what keeps my business going. In print and web design people understand that what’s beneficial is they need a website and they need something that’s mobile friendly. A lot of people already have a website and want something fresh OR mobile friendly. Social media management is next. I would say, most people understand the necessity of it but small businesses don’t know how to do it or approach it, or have the time to do it.
For those reading this that don’t know, can you explain what you mean when you say “social media management” and why is it important?
To some industries, it’s a “necessary evil” because everyone is on there. It’s all about the demographic audience you want to reach. For instance, most people wanting to reach the 35-65 range mostly use Facebook. You can use it in different ways too. One is informative – that is just you getting info out. The other way is sales for your company. Community is also big. Trying to show the community you are in about your business and how you can give back helps. It helps small business get a foot hole and traction in a platform that isn’t super expensive. For example, if you’re looking to get an advertisement in a magazine you’re looking at hundreds of dollars which can be cost prohibiting. However, because of social media, you can put your advertisement on Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram for a much cheaper rate. On these platforms there is more tractability and it has a far better reach.
You say on your website that having a functional and visually appealing website are crucial for business owners. What does it mean for a website to be functional as well as visually appealing?
What I mean by functional is this: structure of the sight. What is the purpose of the sight, what am I trying to get clients to do on the sight, and what information do they need? People don’t have time to read a bunch of stuff – so sight organization is important. A lot of people just do a quick scan – so if they don’t see what they need in 10 secs they are gone. Something that was popular in the 2000’s but I stay away from is music and you know, that java dancing thing, like all of that stuff is so outdated! Generally, if I’m doing a sight I’m like no – these things have to go. Visually appealing has to do with color Scheme: colors that work in the industry that you’re into but are also appealing. Someone might like a color but that might not be a color that other people love (like olive green).
What would you say is the most effective social media platform for business owners?
It depends on your demographic. Like, a young high schooler or college age student might use Instagram and SnapChat. But individuals or bands might like Twitter.
Why is there such a difference?
To some degree—whatever is the latest fad becomes super popular. Different likes for the times. When Instagram first came out – people got so much into pictures. They were one of the first platforms that came out with these cool filters. So like everyone could be like “I’m totally amazing with these photos that I’m taking” and then SnapChat came out and everyone was like, “oh, I can totally do so much with these 10 sec photos and videos that delete in 24 hour!” The younger generation embraces the newer platforms and Facebook is so outdated to them but the older generation is like “OMG THIS IS GREAT (Facebook).”
Hahaha, that does makes sense. Now I’m going to shift the topic since we are coming to the end of the interview. Can you tell me some of the struggles you have encountered in the work that you do?
Competition. There’s a lot of people that do what I do. Like, there a lot of people that do graphics/digital marketing but not necessarily together as much as I do. Budget can also be a struggle. When working with smaller companies, they don’t have a ton of money to spend. Sometimes that can be stressful. In any marketing – it takes a bit to get things going. Some people just don’t have the budget. And then you’re trying to make miracles happen on a small amount.
I definitely see how that can be a challenge. Is there any advice you would give to someone interested in your line of work?
In these industry’s – you always have to be at a place of constantly learning. Social media, content management, and design needs change because there are trends. If you’re not constantly learning then you’re going to quickly fall to the wayside and become irrelevant. This is very true for anything digital marketing. Learn what sets you apart and makes you different. Any of these industries are very competitive. If you want to start your own business—what’s going to make you different? Everyone has access to everything – so what can you do that will be better or different for your clients?
That’s great advice, thanks for sharing! Now, for my final question – how do you stay relevant?
Realizing that I don’t know it all because I stretch over so many things. There is no way I can do it all. That’s why I find people to work with that are passionate about what they do—so therefore they keep current and relevant in their respective fields. That spills over to the clients I work with so I can better offer them services that are up to date and competitive.
This interview was conducted on November 12, 2016 by Ja’La Wourman – a graduate student at Eastern Michigan University in the Written Communication program. This assignment fulfils the graduate student requirement for the course, Writing for the World Wide Web (WRTG 544). Special thanks to Debra Stewart for taking time out of her night for this awesome phone interview!