The Learning Continues

27 Jun

3 Suggestions for New Grads

brochure man

hillman

Guest Contributor:

Matt Hillman, Creative Director

As I approach a quarter century working in the marketing & advertising field, I’ve begun exercising my hard-earned right to be a curmudgeon. And a recent article in AdWeek offered some interesting reflections on the latest batch of graduates headed out to “conquer” the advertising world, and that helped me get in some quality scowling.

The article’s subhead “Traditional job titles can be shackles for multitalented grads” really grabbed my attention. It got me to thinking about not only new grads coming to advertising, but to the workforce in general.

The article opens:

Meet Jason. He’s an art director/filmmaker/editor/web designer. Or say hello to Sarah. She’s a writer/art director/journalist/photographer. Over there’s Ayusha. She’s a planner/art director.

From the rest of the article, it would seem like these new grads, nurtured by advances in technology and social media-fueled collaboration, are a force of multidisciplinary wunderkind poised to change work as we know it.

But the first problem as I see it isn’t in their state-of-the-art training or access to vast information, it’s their lack of experience—or rather, their confusing of ability with expertise. The notion that graduates arrive at agencies or offices or warehouses or any full-time job with a fully functional collection of self-defined skill sets is absurd at best and dangerous at worst.

The tricky thing about experience is that it takes experience to gather it, and time to realize that knowing is not the same as understanding. One of my favorite parts of the film Good Will Hunting is where Robin Williams’ character explains life to the young, troubled genius played by Matt Damon:

“So if I asked you about art, you’d probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life’s work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I’ll bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling, seen that.”

The desire for those entering the job market to somehow bypass the vitally important experience-phase seems to have grown more pronounced in recent years, perhaps fueled by the interactivity and immersion available from the internet. But there is no substitute for actually working in a real-world environment, removed from the safety and surety of the classroom.

The second problem is the idea that job titles are “shackles.” Job titles are intended to define a function or role, but not a person. And this is not a new idea. People coming from the exact same educational program with the exact same degree would still offer very different skill sets because their backgrounds, personalities, and experiences are different.

If job titles were what defined a person’s abilities, then based on my own skills and education, I could have easily started my career 24 years ago as a “writer/editor/illustrator” or even a “designer/coordinator/announcer” or any number of combinations that would have tried—futilely—to capture what I could contribute.

But instead, I selected one job title and worked to master it. I made a decision and commitment to be the best I could in that one area before setting out to tackle any others. And in the process, I not only made valuable mistakes, but I was able to surround myself with incredibly talented people in the fields that touched mine. In other words, I continued to learn well past graduation.

And that’s where I found the idea for 3 simple suggestions for new grads—let me know if you don’t agree:

Your 20s: Find Your Strengths.

Brimming with information, ideas, theories, and youthful exuberance (do not discount the value of that!) this is the time to figure out what you’re truly good at. Choices will need to be made routinely that will impact the course of your career and life; spend this period honing your skills in the real world, daring to be bold, taking risks, and asking questions. And in that process, learn from mistakes and build on successes.

Your 30s: Know Others’ Strengths.

Once you’ve sorted out what your core strengths are, surround yourself with talented people who are different—and even better!—than you are and learn how you can benefit from their strengths. Continue to polish your craft, but figure out how it relates to those of others. Whether it’s through helping directly, anticipating needs or simply having everything accounted for on your end, focus your energies on being the person everyone else can count on—that person who “gets it.”

Your 40s and Beyond: Understand the Balance.

By this time, you’ll have had some struggles—between life and work, between the job you have and the one you want, between your role and those of coworkers, between being someone who does the work and someone who leads it. This is the stretch where applying what you’ve learned comes into play. Understanding what’s really important and what really isn’t can only come from experience, and now is when you apply what you’ve learned over the years. This is the period where those hybrid job titles aren’t so farcical because they’ve been developed over time and are backed up by tangible experience.

While having multiple talents and being versatile can definitely be an asset, there’s an inescapable truth to the term “jack of all trades, but master of none.” With the ability to move laterally in different roles, the generalist will always have a place in an organization, but being a true master of your craft is the surest way to move up instead of just around.

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Concoct the Perfect Recipe for B2B Personalization

21 Jun

B2B Buyers Seek Personalization Efforts

B2B_mix

It is no secret that personalization is essential when marketing to B2C buyers. In fact, according to a recent article, 80% of marketers believe personalized content is more effective. So then why is there a lack of personalization within B2B marketing? This is something that those in highly personal industries (like building products) must especially consider. One of the biggest challenges facing B2B personalized marketing is that there is no perfect recipe consisting of equal parts strategy, data, and technology usage. But as someone who knows a thing or two about making concoctions, here’s one that virtually any B2B marketer can use:

Take 1/3 Parts Strategy…

It is important to keep in mind that B2B buyers have different needs and desires than that of B2C buyers, and therefore they need to be approached differently. B2B buyers are more understanding as to how the industry works, and they are looking for transparency and recommendations, as well as content that will educate them and solve a problem.

According to an Accenture survey, 54% of B2B buyers want personalization and “personalized recommendations across interactions.” This allows you to establish a relationship with your client before a sale even takes place, creating loyalty amongst clients.

No matter how flashy your marketing ploys may be, they won’t mean anything to a customer if they don’t have a need or desire for it. Knowing your audience and their demographics, purchasing behaviors, motivations, and location can change how you garner content for each client.

Add 1/3 Parts Data…

To help capture useful data and to better understand your target audience, you can create a brief survey for them to fill out. When personalizing content for B2B buyers, including data attributes such as their name, company, and role within their company can be the deciding factor in whether or not your client is initially engaged. This can also be helpful when generating leads or creating a personalized lead-nurture campaign. It can even help you tailor emails to those specific buyers and even include imagery and links that will create a personalized touch.

Mix with 1/3 Parts Technology…

While content and strategy are essential to personalization, so is technology. According to Rapt Media, 94% of B2B buyers say better content technology is crucial to creating personalized content that is measured and optimized. So what does that mean? Technology can be used to simplify your company’s message and can be used across different platforms that relate to your audience. For example, content from whitepapers can be repurposed for short, digestible videos and then the audio from the video can be used to make a podcast for clients who don’t have the time in their day to watch a video.

Shake Well and Serve

Granted, my preferred concoctions usually involve a shaker and a cold glass, but the perfect personalized B2B marketing campaign can taste pretty satisfying. And with a fresh strategy that is geared toward B2B buyers, you can satisfy your customers’ needs while also gaining new revenue and retaining reoccurring revenue. All you need is three ingredients and a shaker.

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Separating Media Usage Fact from Fiction

8 Jun

New Media Usage Surveys Provide Insights into the State of Marketing

dma-response-rate-report-2015

With all the marketing-related tips, tricks, and think pieces floating around the internet, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Whether it’s in the realm of B2B, B2C, content marketing, or any other subset of marketing, you’re bound to find a few hot takes out there claiming everything from “direct mail is dead” to “email is passé” to “data trumps creative.” Most of these opinions are meant to push people in the direction of digital-only marketing strategies.

Maybe some of those opinions are true, and maybe some of them aren’t. The point is that trying to find the truth in an ever-changing industry like marketing can be difficult, especially with so many voices and thought leaders speculating about it. We all want to be the edgiest and latest to adopt new trends, and sometimes that pushes us to take edgier stances on what’s next for marketing.

I recently read through some stats on different marketing communication tactics, and as it turns out, the truth might lie somewhere in the middle of all the rhetoric. (Shocking, isn’t it?) Here are a few of the findings that stood out:

Fact or Faction: “Direct mail is dead.”

Fiction. Direct mail is alive and well. In fact, 69% of marketers are actually holding their direct mail budgets steady or increasing them. (Source: Target Marketing’s 2016 Media Usage Survey)

Fact or Faction: “Print is dead.”

Fiction. Marketers spend 28.5% of their marketing budget on print and direct mail related campaigns. 8 out of 10 American adults said they prefer to read a printed piece than an online piece. (Source: Target Marketing’s 2016 Media Usage Survey)

Fact or Faction: “Digital marketing is more cost-efficient than direct mail.”

Fiction. Here are some numbers about the cost-per-acquisition for various media categories: (Source: DMA’s 2015 Response Report)

  • Direct Mail: $19
  • Paid Search: $21-30
  • Internet Display Ads: $41-50
  • Email: $11-15

So what’s the takeaway? Simply put, marketers need to temper some of their more bombastic predictions about the future of marketing. Moving forward doesn’t mean abandoning the tactics that have worked well for years; it means combining those tactics with smarter, more insightful approaches that integrate the old with the new.

For example, a strong data approach will empower “outdated” tactics like direct mail and print to drive success. But neither an all digital nor an all traditional approach is likely to be the answer—smart marketers need a blend of the two.

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3 Reasons to Renovate Your Website (And 3 Sites That Are Getting It Right)

18 May

An Outdated Website May Have Bigger Consequences Than You Think

web design

ChrisGuest Contributor:
Chris McCutcheon, Interactive Manager

Websites. We see and interact with them every day, and it seems there is one for just about everything. As an interactive manager at ER Marketing, I’ve seen it all when it comes to websites—the good, the bad, and the oh-so-ugly.

Not too long ago I had someone ask me to look at their website. I pulled it up on my phone and nothing showed up. Thinking it was a little strange, I waited until I got home and found it on my iPad. Still nothing. I knew then that something was definitely going on with this site. She said it was new, so why wouldn’t it come up? Turned out the entire site had been done in Flash, which I discovered after I pulled it up on my laptop. She was extremely disappointed and had no idea the person she hired to do her website built it using old technology.

So, ask yourself a few questions about your own website. Does it look good on mobile? Is the site built in Flash? Still using clipart from 1999? Still relying on misguided keyword stuffing? Is it supporting your brand? Unless it’s been updated recently, it might be time to rethink your website.

Here are 3 reasons why it may be time to renovate your website:

1. It’s not mobile friendly.

  • Two-thirds (64%) of adults own a smartphone, which means if your site doesn’t render properly, or delivers a bad user experience, potential customers may go elsewhere.
  • Google will ding you. They announced last year that sites will be penalized in the rankings if they aren’t mobile friendly. According to research by online ad network Chitika, Google page one results enjoy a whopping 95% of all search traffic, while 91% of searchers never reach page two.

2. Unknown security vulnerabilities.

  • Security flaws affecting an older website are much more likely, as these sites rely on older technology.
  • Even if you might not have confidential information you are worried about being stolen, there are other reasons you should be concerned, like letting unfiltered data insert into your database. This can cause a high risk of SQL Injection, which leads to your site being hacked—and unwanted links being injected into your site.
  • If you use any kind of third-party software—meaning your IT department didn’t code it—you must make sure it is always up-to-date. Any outdated software with security flaws can cause your site to be at risk.

3. High page abandonment rate.

  • Many older sites take forever to load. Sure, you may love the large images and the huge slideshow, but it’s probably making your site lag. 47% of consumers expect a webpage to load in 2 seconds or less, and 40% of people abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load. [1] Google values the length of time someone stays on your page, so if your website has a high abandonment rate, your SEO will be negatively impacted as Google puts delivering the best and most relevant content to users first and foremost above all else.
  • Poor navigation. If the user doesn’t know what to do or where to go, you are missing out simply because there isn’t any clear direction for the user.
  • Many websites fail to deliver a clear sense of what the company offers. Unless you are a well-known brand, you need to let people know who you are and what you can offer them in a way they can understand and easily access.

Here are a few sites in the building products industry to inspire you and get you thinking about your own site:

Blu Homes

  • Site is responsive and mobile friendly
  • Good user experience
  • Nice, easy to navigate design

Royal Building Products

  • Loads fairly quickly, even with a full screen slider
  • Offers a clear sense of who the company is and what they offer
  • Displays well on mobile devices

Guardian Building Products

  • Utilizes a card-style layout for chunks of content
  • Mobile friendly
  • Easy to navigate

[1] https://blog.kissmetrics.com/loading-time/

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Book Review 3: The Fred Factor (Part 2/2)

12 May

4 Steps to Find and Develop “Freds” in Your Organization

fred-factor

I recently wrote a blog post on Mark Sanborn’s book, The Fred Factor. While that post focused on explaining what a Fred is (long story short: a passionate employee who delivers an extraordinary customer/client experience) and how to identify one, this blog post will dig into how you can find and develop Freds within your own organization.
But first, why go to the effort? Quite simply, Freds—the most passionate people in your organization—are different. They do ordinary things extraordinarily well. Not surprisingly, Freds are also generally happier because people doing good work feel good, and people doing exceptional work feel, well, exceptional.

Sanborn uses the acronym FRED to explain how to develop “Freds”:

  • Find: There are three main avenues for finding Freds within and for your organization:
    1. Let Freds find you. If you really want your company to be world-class, it must become the kind of place that attracts Freds. To accomplish that, you must empower the Freds you have so their impact will be felt not only in the work your company does externally, but also in your internal culture.
    2. Discover “Dormant Freds.” There are many employees, also known as Dormant Freds, whose inner Fred has yet to blossom. To find them, watch for people that do things with flair (not to be confused with showing off or trying to attract attention)—an exceptionally well-done project, an elegant client meeting, or a clever suggestion are all possible tip-offs that a Dormant Fred is hiding in plain sight. Here are some questions to ask yourself about a potential Dormant Fred:
      • What do I remember about this person?
      • What’s the most extraordinary thing he or she has ever done?
      • How badly would this person be missed if he or she left his or her current position?
    3. Recruit and hire Freds. When you have exhausted your internal Fred pool, you may have to look externally to find them. Here are some great interview questions to find those prospective Freds:
      • Who are your heroes? Why?
      • Why would anyone do more than necessary?
      • Tell me three things that you think would delight most customers/clients/consumers.
      • What’s the coolest thing that has happened to you as a customer?
      • What is service?
  • Reward – Implement a rewards program to make sure Freds are recognized and appreciated, even if you are only recognizing good intentions and not a good final result. While nobody likes to fail, it is important to encourage employees to take chances. When people feel like their contributions are unappreciated, they will stop trying. And when that happens, innovation dies. My company, ER Marketing, recently implemented an award system in which employees nominate each other for exceptional work and attitude. This is meant to encourage employees who live up to the ER Marketing values of Curiosity, Respect, Accountability, and Performance (yes, we know what that acronym spells) with peer and management-level recognition.
  • Educate – Find examples of “Freds,” (both inside and outside of your organization), analyze those examples for commonalities that others can learn from, teach others to act extraordinary everyday—not just when there is a crisis—and set an example (invite others to act similarly).
  • Demonstrate – Set an example by inspiring, involving, initiating, and improvising. Here are some ways you can set an example and inspire employees to better serve your customers, vendors, and fellow employees better:
    • Inspire, but don’t intimidate.
    • Involve by creating a “Team Fred” of leaders in your organization.
    • Don’t wait for the “right” moment. It will never come—you have to make it.

One final, important thought from the book: Pull, Don’t Push. You can’t command someone to be a Fred. You can’t require someone to practice the Fred Factor. Command-and-control short-circuits the spirit of the Fred Factor, which is about opportunity, not obligation.

Invite people to join you. The most powerful tool you have to spread the Fred Factor throughout your organization is your own behavior—the example of your life and the effect it has on others. The best “Freducators” are themselves Freds. As John Maxwell says, “You teach what you know, you reproduce who you are.”

 

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