Andy Crestodina – Breakfast with a Chicago Web Strategist

Andy Crestodina is the strategic director at Orbit Media Studios. He brings vision and Web marketing expertise to the Chicago business community. At his best, he is an idea machine, aligning client’s goals with effective Web marketing techniques. Ideas are tempered by 10 years of experience on a huge range of business models and interactive projects. Andy is continually consulting with clients on what is possible, how to do it and if it’s a good idea. In other words, he approaches Web marketing with a sense of what’s both realistic and effective.

Andy’s Web strategy experience includes analysis and planning for 100+ websites since 2000. He also developed the Orbit process for planning, designing and building websites. This process has been used for 500+ sites by Orbit’s team of project managers, designers and programmers and has led to successful outcomes for virtually all client projects.

Andy also is a speaker on topics including SEO, social media and Web marketing strategy. He shares his insights and ideas in the “Orbiter,” Orbit’s Web-marketing newsletter. Previous careers include IT recruiting and teaching foreign languages. He speaks Mandarin Chinese and lived in Beijing from 1996 to 1997. Since 1998, he has lived in the Ravenswood neighborhood of Chicago. He enjoys reading and playing piano.

What are you working on right now?

Orbit is getting involved in more pure Web strategy projects, where we’re brought in to actually create the roadmap for the next generation of a company’s marketing. We’re also adding more open source options for our clients. But most of my time is spent on new business initiatives, giving advice, making new connections and marketing.

3 Trends that excite you?

I’m asked this a lot and I usually answer with three words: Video, Mobile, Social. Although times are always changing, I don’t find it hard to envision the next era of the Web.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Very carefully! It’s important to help clients understand the opportunities and risks that go along with their ideas. I do a lot of consulting with people just to help them consider the options. When they’ve got a clear picture of the potential project and if it’s a fit for the Orbit capabilities, we assign a team whose skills match the requirements. It’s critical to not take on projects that aren’t likely to generate a return on the client’s investment (bringing a bad idea to life) and make sure the wrong people aren’t on the project (bringing an idea to life badly). When done properly, healthy, happy ideas are born and can grow.

What is one mistake that you made, and what did you learn from it?

At one time we tried to offer print design and branding services. The work was good, but we weren’t focused on it enough to make it great. We let go of those offerings and focused on Web and video, making those services even stronger. What did I learn? You have to have the courage to decide what you’re all about. It’s just not possible to be the best at everything.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

I did a seminar recently where I shared a ton of ideas and Web marketing tips. Most of them are posted in a PDF download at

It’s all based on using a short article to promote a business online. I broke it down into seven steps, and it’s very practical advice. If you know something and can write about it, you’re ready for Web marketing. Try it! It’s easier and more effective that you’d think.

How do you stay relevant in such a fluid industry?

First, listen to clients, since this is where technology and design actually meet real world requirements. Let the reality of business pull you forward. Next, listen to the team. Surround yourself with smart people and let them drive the project outcomes. Last, always meet new people. You have to expand your contacts to keep getting exposed to new opportunities.

What cereals are you eating lately?

I’m glad you asked this. I feel that the more advanced hybrid cereals that combine elements have an advantage in today’s bowls. I’m talking about the Raisin Bran Crunches and the Honey Bunches of Oats. The technology going into these is cutting edge. But you have to know your history before you understand the future of the sugary breakfast. Get back to basics. My cabinet portfolio is heavily stocked with classics like Apple Jacks and Lucky Charms, especially Lucky Charms. Magic and deliciousness are a powerful combination.

Connect with Andy Crestodina