Marketing started as a side job for Dallin Cooper, but as he dabbled in search engine optimization, he said he realized he could use his hobby to improve the local business economy.
“I was starting school, and I wanted to do something besides having money go out the door,” said Cooper, owner and founder of Atmosphere Marketing. “To make a little money, even if it was on the side or on the weekends, I started with affiliate marketing, which is when you refer people to big companies like Amazon.”
Learning the ins and outs of optimizing internet search results, the process of maximizing website visitors by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine, was tedious, he said. But, after hundreds of hours researching optimization and online marketing strategies, Cooper said he started to see the flaws in Laramie’s small-business sector.
“Wyoming businesses on the whole are behind,” he said. “There is an idea they can get by without digital engagement. If we’re going to keep up with the Amazons of the world, we have to adapt our small businesses to the digital age.”
The management-and-marketing major began creating a business strategy he could use to help Wyomingites bridge the cyber gap. Pitching his ideas at the University of Wyoming’s 2016 John P. Ellbogen $30k Entrepreneurship Competition, Cooper won third place and moved his business into the Wyoming Technology Business Center.
The son of small-business owners from Riverton, Cooper said he was familiar with some of the struggles facing Wyoming’s small businesses.
“I think a lot of the little businesses like small coffee shops think, ‘We can’t afford to do an app like Starbucks,’” he said. “But there is always a way within their scale. That’s what I am trying to do.”
Atmosphere Marketing not only helps businesses with traditional marketing strategies such as advertising and branding, but the company was founded on the idea of helping small-business owners use the internet to boost profit margins.
“It is amazing how many hundreds of options there are for each individual business — mobile-friendly websites, online ordering, data analytics — there’s no cookie-cutter solution,” Cooper said. “That’s where I come in. Helping businesses determine how best to blend the digital with the physical.”
While a hotel on the interstate and a floral shop downtown might use the internet in different ways, he said Atmosphere Marketing could help them both formulate and implement a digital-integration strategy.
“Maybe the little shop in Laramie can become a specialized online store where people all over the world love their thing,” Cooper said. “Or maybe, they can become someone who supplies Amazon with their products, instead of losing sales to Amazon.”
However, he said convincing businesses to take a chance on digital integration has been difficult. So, he said he decided to use his entrepreneurship competition winnings to host a competition of his own.
“A competition helped me get here, so maybe I can pay it forward,” Cooper said. “We’ve never really gotten a chance to show how cool (full digital-integration) would be. So, I decided to take a chance.”
Interested parties can enter Atmosphere Marketing’s 2017 Wyoming Marketing Makeover Competition by visiting www.atmosphere-marketing-group.com and filling out a few simple questions.
“We’re asking participants to provide their name, the name of their business and a brief summary of what their business is,” Cooper said.
A panel of judges selected from around the state will rank the entries based on a variety of factors, including the affect an online marketing strategy could have on the participant’s daily business, he said.
“I want the opportunity to really be able to show what a difference it can make,” Cooper said.
Entries will be accepted until Nov. 4, and the winner will be announced Dec. 4.
“The grand prize is a total marketing makeover, which is about a $3,000 value,” he said. “It will be somewhat tailored to the business, but we can refresh or rebrand their logo, update their business cards, create a new website and provide some basic local (search engine optimization) for at least the first year.”
The winner could also receive other marketing amenities based on the needs of their business, Cooper said.
“The only requirement is the business needs to be Wyoming-based,” he said. “I love Wyoming. This is my home. I want to do everything I can to help our small businesses.”
Despite his focus on small businesses, he said nonprofit organizations and larger companies were welcome to enter the competition as well.
By providing his service for free, Cooper said he provides a company the full scope of his services and gain an example to provide future clients.
“I want to change the mindset of local businesses in Wyoming, making us an influencer in the global market,” he said. “I want people to look at Wyoming and say, ‘Hey, what have they got going on over there?’”