For a new chapter in her business life, Melanie Fisher borrowed a page from a previous one.
Fisher, best known until 2015 as co-owner of Bend’s Cog Wild, had previously taught English in Japan for two years after graduating from the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Hence, her new enterprise is called Consulting Sensei. Sensei is Japanese for teacher, usually associated with martial arts, but in Fisher’s world it applies to the struggle to find an edge in the world of online commerce.
“The goal is to have business owners be successful, to have people find them first in search engine results and go to their website and from the website work with the business owner to have there be a clear path to a sale taking place,” Fisher said Jan. 31. “That’s how I work with them.”
Fisher developed her digital marketing skills over 10 seasons with Cog Wild, a mountain-bike touring company based in Bend. She and business partner Lev Stryker bought the business from founder William “Woody” Starr 11 years ago.
Fisher, at the time working with a wine-country bike touring company in California, first contacted Starr by phone, she said, and informed him that she would soon be working for him.
“There’s like a pause on the phone,” Fisher said. “‘Who are you? What?’”
By April 2006, Fisher was part owner of Cog Wild and eventually the marketing manager, among other duties, she said. She spent the offseasons learning about marketing and implementing those lessons, some of which she gathered at the annual Swivel Marketing Conference, in Bend. Cog Wild, Fisher’s experiment in digital marketing, became internationally known.
“Someone from New York would come and say, ‘The whole reason I’m here on vacation is I read the New York Times online every day and the Cog Wild ad was there, every day,’” Fisher said.
But running the business kept her away from the mountain bike trails, she said, and eventually she left Cog Wild to Stryker and started Consulting Sensei.
“Cog Wild works fine with one business owner, and I really enjoy the opportunity to empower other people,” Fisher said. “This way I can focus more on my local community and I feel like I’m helping people more, which is very important to me.”
As the principal behind Consulting Sensei, Fisher breaks down digital marketing into lessons on search engine optimization, utilizing social media and making best use of a business website. There is homework — five to 30 hours’ worth, she said.
“What I like to do is start with the business owner, what their business goal is and what they’re profitable at, making sure those two things align,” Fisher said, “and making sure their online presence actually directs people to spend money with them.”
— Reporter: 541-617-7815, firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: You teach people to maximize the various aspects of their business’s online presence, whether it’s the website, search engine optimization or use of social media?
A: Melanie Fisher: There are so many things, and that’s why I’ve broken it down. There’s the description that comes up (for a business) when someone does (an online) search and you can change that, or working with companies to really hone in on their message and place it properly everywhere. Basically, you’re trying to make your case for search engine sites that you are an authority on your business.
Q: What are some common mistakes or outright errors in digital marketing?
A: Everyone assumes your business has to have a website, but they’re not thinking about the user experience. They’re thinking from their point of view. I did this great job and want to show pictures of it. I love my Instagram feed and want to have that be the homepage because I love photography on the site. This is not about you, this is about your bottom line, so it’s about the user experience and (it) being able to work for you. Social media feeds, blog posts, depending on your business, might be important. (But), if you put Instagram in front of someone, immediately they’re on a different trail.
Q: What are your expectations in the current political environment and the attention being generated by social media?
A: This is going to be a crazy year, just with the “fake news” and the frustration people were having. But at the same time, the Women’s March was organized on social media. I’ve been trying to stay off social media because it’s just a crazy time, but at the same time I’m just such a nerd. I’m a think-out-of-the-box type of person. I’ll see someone doing something and be like, yes, bookmark that, that’s a great thing for a tour company or a local restaurant.