Miranda Gilbert operates Girl Geek Communications, an agency based in Billings, MT that offers services including web design, reputation and social media management, email marketing, and more. Catch up with Miranda on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and YouTube.
Given a business name is so central to a brand, we tend to put a lot of importance on it. How did you arrive at a name, and how do you feel about it now that you’ve been in business a while?
Girl Geek Communications is certainly a unique name and it attracts a lot of attention. I joke with people that I came up with it because, number one, I’m a female and, number two Star Trek is cooler than most people think it is.
Truth be told, it simply popped into my head when my attorney asked me what to write down on the LLC documents. But as a professional marketer, I wanted a business name that would stand out and command some attention. It seems to fit the bill.
With some brands, location is a key component. Is there anything about the place you live and work that’s shaped your own brand?
Many songwriters have referred to Montana as The Last Best Place. And they aren’t wrong! I live in Montana’s largest city at 120,000 people. I can bump into a local client at the grocery store. And I’m always excited to see them — talk about the family and plans for the week.
I treat my national clients the same way.
People are just people, regardless of the amount of money in their checking account or where they went to school. Montana is the least pretentious place I know. And I take a very down-to-earth approach to all my business relationships.
How would you describe your professional experience and background?
I have worked in marketing since college. I graduated from Montana State University Billings with a bachelors in Mass Communications. While I attribute my business and communications skills to school, all of my tech and graphic abilities are self-taught.
Yes, I was the kid in school who fixed the teacher’s computers.
Could you describe the scope of your operation?
Girl Geek Communications takes a holistic approach to the online presence of a business. Yes, we build websites, but we also handle reputation management, online directories, social media management, email marketing, and much more.
Some entrepreneurs describe an aha! moment, the instant they decided it was time to take things into their own hands. Could you describe any of those moments you’ve had?
When I was in kindergarten, I told people I wanted to own a toy store when I grew up. But my answer to "what do you want to be when you grow up?" changed all the time. In fact, I still hate that question. (What I am today, didn't EXIST when I was growing up!)
I was the editor of my high school newspaper and went to college thinking I wanted to become a journalist. When I became the editor in chief of my college newspaper, I realized I didn't have thick enough skin to handle a career in journalism.
I still loved newspaper, though, and got a job at the local newspaper in advertising and marketing. I worked there for almost seven years before being laid off. I then became the marketing director for a quick-lube company when social media was just taking hold for businesses.
The owner wanted his business on every platform, every social outlet, everywhere on the web, and to have a huge website. So I learned everything I could. Mostly by teaching myself — which is how I learned web design, graphic design and at least 80% of my skill set.
After about six years as a marketing director, I was beginning to get burned out. My grandmother had a stroke and I had a "life is short" epiphany. If you don't try, you've already failed...
While driving home from Toys R Us with my infant son one day, I was reflecting back on how awful my experience at the toy store was. Thinking back to kindergarten, I thought to myself, "That was so horrible — why would I have ever wanted to own a toy store?"
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. It wasn't that I wanted to have a toy store. It was that I wanted to share what I loved with other people. In kindergarten, that was toys. But as an adult, it was solving problems in the digital world.
So I started the process of opening Girl Geek at that moment. The quick-lube company became my first client and is still with me today. I've worked with everyone from local plumbers to celebrities. I love learning about all kinds of industries and people.
My only regret is that I didn't do it sooner!
What kind of projects do you prefer to work on?
My favorite clients are small businesses. Either people who are just starting out or those who have tried to navigate building a website or social presence on their own and just got stuck. I have been told that I explain things to clients in a way they understand — and that is a great source of pride for me. People should understand what they are buying and how it works as much as they can.
Could you describe your typical client (if you have a typical client)?
I don’t have a typical client. And that is one of the best parts about my job. I love learning about different industries and how to market them to the average consumer. I’ve worked with attorneys, hotels, coaches, and everyone in between. I love meeting new people and seeing their businesses grow.
Sometimes we’re in a position where it’s necessary to turn down projects or even fire clients. What do those situations look like for you, and how do you manage them?
Not every client is a fit for me and I’m not a fit for every client. Since I consider myself a boutique agency, I actually tell that to potential clients from the start. My business model does not benefit from the “hard sell” technique. If a client isn’t a good fit for my services, I refer them elsewhere.
Could you describe a project that you feel exemplifies you at your best?
I once worked with a local plumber who just started his own plumbing business. His website ranked quickly, he was getting good reviews, and most importantly, he was very busy! His company was acquired by another business after only a year because of his success. Even though that meant he no longer needed my services, he was happy and so was I!
An obvious metric for measuring our own success is how much you got paid versus how much time it took. In your experience, what are the advantages and drawbacks here?
I don’t believe in measuring success solely in dollar signs. I mean, we do have to pay the mortgage and keep the lights on. But I believe that more and more people are finding that success can be measured by spending time with family and being able to work on your own terms too.
And for me, whether I profit $1,000 or $10,000 from an account, knowing that I helped a small business is rewarding too and should be weighted into how you measure your success.
Are there any resources (e.g. apps, processes) that you’d recommend to an up-and-comer?
I love the GoDaddy Pro tools for managing websites and client products. I also recommend creating good processes for onboarding and client management — and sticking to them!
Imagine you could travel back in a time machine to a point where you were like, Forget this. I’m done! What advice would you give yourself?
Since I manage so many social media accounts, political season this year was brutal and I was about to give up the social media offerings for my clients. For example, I would post a special for a restaurant client and someone would comment with a negative comment about politics!
It was overwhelming and exhausting. But one thing over all these years remains constant — change.
I believe that today’s digital communication is a product of the overall evolution of human communications. And if the past 100 years have taught us anything - it’s that change is inevitable and ongoing.
In other words, if something seems difficult now, don’t worry. It will change.
What’s your parting shot for people who want to be like you when they grow up?
If you don’t try, you’ve already failed.
Do you have any feedback or comments to share about GoDaddy Pro?
What I love most about the GoDaddy Pro tools is the WP Worker and the ability to access my client's products and account without their password. I do wish there was a way to access a portion of their billing info. Because some clients really need help and in those cases, I have to ask for their password. But overall, the system is very nice. I also like the referral points!