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Visiting New York on 9/11: A Note on Perspective

15 Sep

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Don’t Lose Sight of What Really Matters

I recently had the unique experience of traveling to New York City for a Business Marketing Association (BMA) meeting that coincided with the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Consequently, this year was a little different than past BMA meetings in that my trip was an opportunity not only to talk about the B2B marketing industry with some of the leading companies and agencies in the country, but also to gain some important and much needed perspective.

This year, I arrived on the day of September 11 and decided to visit the memorial and see the lights, which are illuminated only a couple of nights a year. As I walked around Ground Zero, I saw firemen in dress blues from Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Antonio, Las Vegas, Miami, and many other cities. These men and women had been at Ground Zero in the weeks and months after the attack, lending a hand with the recovery, clean up, and other support efforts for their brothers and sisters in the NYFD.

As I walked from the reflecting pools where the Twin Towers once stood, I saw a big crowd around the Irish pub next to the fire station. Approaching the pub, I realized this was the place to be for all the firemen and women. I wasn’t sure if I could even go in, but as I entered, I realized I was more than welcome.

The firemen and women in the pub and the streets surrounding it were all talking, hugging, laughing, and sometimes even crying with their brothers and sisters who work to serve so many Americans in different cities across the country. Several times I attempted to buy these amazing, everyday heroes a beer or a drink. But every time, they replied with, “No, let me buy you a drink.”

“What? You’re buying me a drink? I should be thanking you.”

But because of their honor and pride, they wouldn’t allow me to buy them one.

We don’t always value the relationships with the people we serve, or who serve us. If you were offered something by the very people you serve, would you accept—or refuse and offer them one instead? Do you say thank you enough to the people who work for you? How about the people you work for?

From the memorial itself to the people I met in the city on this day, the experience of being in New York on the anniversary of 9/11 is something I wish everyone could experience. While a somber reminder of the worst attack on American soil, it’s also the location where thousands of people perished on what should have been just another typical Tuesday at the office.

As marketers, we have lots of “typical days” in the office. They tend to involve helping our companies or clients sell their products and services—they don’t tend to involve saving lives.

For us, making a mistake means a painful meeting or a brutal phone call—it doesn’t mean life or death.

When every project is rushed, we say it’s hot—but it’s not actually on fire.

We might run into a crazy meeting—but it’s not a burning building.

There is always another “typical day” at the office. But as we recognize and recall the events that forever changed our world, let’s also keep our perspective and remember that we can always be more humble, more thankful, and more appreciative of the opportunities we have. In short, more kind.

Appreciate the people you work with and work for, and those who work for you.

Do good work, but remember that your work isn’t the only thing that matters.

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Our Take From Cleveland: #CMWorld Day Two

9 Sep

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Corey and Kate spent two days at #CMWorld in Cleveland. This is the second of two posts sharing their quick takeaways from the event. If you haven’t seen the first, check it out

Our second and final day at #CMWorld. And, like day one, it was a whirlwind of fresh ideas, new friends and awesome swag. (No stress balls!)

Airborne to KC, we’re chatting about what stood out on our final day. Here’s what comes to mind.

First, a stat: For every $5 spent on content creation, marketers are spending just a buck on distribution.

Does that surprise you? It sure caught our eye. Seems like we should be investing more than four quarters to maximize ROI.

Day two gave Corey the opportunity to talk with Jeff Julian on the Enterprise Marketer podcast.

Jeff and Corey chatted about the efficiency of content being pushed through digital channels, rather than dictated by SEO. They also talked about Google updates and how the company continues to show it’s learning context, which is yielding better content as a whole.

We’ll be sure to share Corey’s interview once it’s live. So, stay tuned.

It’s easy to leave a conference like this brimming with new ideas but unsure where to start. Fortunately, Thursday’s opening panel gave some encouraging words on how to take your content strategy to the next level. Here’s a hint: start.

Stephanie Losee with Visa, fresh from Rio for the Olympics, said it just takes one piece of content to begin. Not a launch party. Not a seven-figure budget. Just one piece of content from one SME conversation.

In the same vein, Jenifer Walsh with GE reminded us that content strategy is a marathon, not a sprint. And, that it takes time to build content traction. So, take a deep breath. You don’t have to have a community of a thousand followers on day one.

Finally, Raj Munusamy with Schneider Electric, told us the mind digests visual content six times faster than text. Six times.

What we heard: Goodbye 10-page white papers. Helloooo visual content that wows! (Apparently we should be drawing you a picture, not writing this post.)

So there you have it. Our initial take on two days of all content all the time.

Would we go again? Absolutely. Would Corey remember Cleveland is hot and humid? No doubt. Would Kate pack less? For sure. (Okay, that’s a lie.)

Keep an eye out for future posts from us. In the coming weeks, we’ll share more in-depth learnings from the show.

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Our Take From Cleveland: #CMWorld Day One

8 Sep

 

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Our #CMWorld day one is done. And, these two first-timers are energized by the networking, excited to leverage what we’ve learned, and, okay, maybe just a little tired.

Here’s what’s caught Corey and Kate’s attention in Cleveland.

First, content marketers as a whole are working more from assumptions than fact.

Consider:

  • 57 percent of B2B marketers say they use audience personas
  • However, a mere 20 percent of audiences being reached have the info and means to purchase

Eighty percent of those receiving marketing messages don’t have the interest or resources to make a buying decision. The takeaway is clear: Relying on assumptions is wasting time and our clients’ money. The importance of research can’t be overstated.

Next, a consistent theme heard across the show is marketers are great at providing clients with solutions … but maybe not-so-great at listening to clients’ problems.

Ian Altman summed it up in his session on how content can accelerate sales: If your product or service doesn’t solve the client’s problem, they don’t care about your features and benefits.

Ardath Albee stressed the importance of understanding client challenges. She said our solutions must meet audiences and their problems along every step of the buyer’s journey.

Seems like a good time to step back and ask: Are we truly addressing clients’ needs or are we just telling them what we think they want to hear?

Additionally, Jeff Julian and Andrea Fryrear delivered a strong message about not thinking about content as campaigns. They stressed failing and winning fast, and using learnings to guide strategy, instead of spending time and money on one-time campaigns.

Finally, Rick Wion shared lessons on transparency and trust from his time at Kellogg’s and McDonald’s. Wion referenced Al Golin’s Trust or Consequences book and reminded us that building trust is like insurance for future issues. Because we all know at some point, there will be an issue.

We’ll close this blog with a fun fact learned today: DYK there’s a McDonald’s employee responsible for tasting eight hamburgers an hour, for eight hours a day, five days a week? That’s a quality control job we’d like to have! And, no, his name is not “Big Mac.”

Bring it on, day two.

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The Learning Continues

27 Jun

3 Suggestions for New Grads

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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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SMX West Recap

22 Mar

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Lessons Learned from One of the Best SEM Conferences in the Industry

CoreyMorris3Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Digital Marketing Director

SMX West (Search Marketing Expo) is one of the premier events in the search marketing industry and is hosted yearly in a significant location for the search community—in the heart of Silicon Valley. I’ve been involved with SMX for many years. Last year, I had the opportunity to speak on technical SEO at this event. This year, I was able to catch up with colleagues, absorb as much new information as possible, and even make my first visit to Google HQ in Mountain View.

Coming into the event I anticipated several things, such as:

  • The reintroduction of the Google Dance (more on this below)
  • Industry reaction to the removal of right rail ads on Google
  • Insights and outlook on Google local search (since SMX West focused last year on details regarding the major shake-ups in the local search landscape, with local becoming much more like traditional organic search)
  • Specific details on how to harness added features and functionality in AdWords, including remarketing, customer audiences, and more
  • Seeing how the industry has grown and changed in the past year, as my focus has shifted to an integrated digital marketing model

SMX Google

Starting with the opening evening networking reception hosted by Bruce Clay, Inc., I realized that the buzz was definitely there. I’ve been to many shows in the industry (including West) several times, but this one had a different buzz about it. It seemed bigger and everyone seemed more engaged. Networking was at a different level this year, and while maybe it was just a perception due to the opportunity I had to meet a lot of great new people, I’d like to think that the industry has become more open and focused than ever before.

Key Insights from SMX West 2016

In terms of specific takeaways, I have more insights and perspectives in my notes than I can likely share, but here are some highlights:

  • Consider use of customer match remarketing in AdWords. This was rolled out last year, but most of us took a wait and see approach with this (as we do with many new Google features). Two specific case studies showed an average of 50% conversion rate with this tactic. It has been on my “To Test” list for a while, but has since moved up to a tactic to absolutely work into the remarketing mix and lead nurturing process for my clients. In basic terms, it allows you to upload your email list into AdWords and remarket to users that Google can match to their email address or Google account address.
  • A conversation that I had over a meal (that I can share) included a strong reminder to never forget that while search marketing is more widely accepted than ever before, that there are still skeptics out there (in US, Canada, and Australia…we have similar stories) based on the actions of a small minority and/or those that used shady tactics years ago. Search marketing isn’t in the silo that it used to be. Three of the six of us in our group did not come from search marketing backgrounds and are either new to the space or are working in companies providing the service as a value-add or new component (ex: printing company, PR agency)
  • Another takeaway is a great reminder to not lose sight of the basics in account structure and hierarchy in PPC. Advanced tactics and strategies are great, but you need to cut wasted spend and poor performers before scaling out into other areas.
  • The best slide that I saw in a presentation served as a simple, yet great reminder for PPC accounts:

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  • We received several very interesting insights from Google engineer, Paul Haahr, on the final day. I have a new vocab word in “shards.” The best insight from that session is that it’s rare to look at Google search results and not see an experiment. The oft-quoted stat that Google changes their algorithm over 500 times a year and the fun name associated with the Google Dance are strong reminders that nothing is done in a vacuum. We’re way beyond the days where results were somewhat static and we could see absolute ranking positions. Always be mindful that Google is changing—just like our competition is changing—and we’re (hopefully) also changing as we optimize our sites.

Google Dance

Google Dance

You may have started your reading here by scrolling down to see images of what a Google Dance looks like. Let me start with the
history lesson and detail that hopefully wasn’t missed by those that attended who are under 30. The Google Dance was agoogle-dance historical reference to the early days when Google would roll out updates to the algorithm at off-peak hours that would impact rankings and would often roll back the update (or continue a cycle of pushing out and pulling back updates). This garnered the nickname of the Google Dance from the SEO community.

Fast forward—Google started to hold an event for the SEO community (that Google refers to only as “Webmasters”) at the Googleplex in Mountain View. It was a great outreach event and stopped happening before 2010.

Maile OhyeThis was the first year that it was brought back for a VIP audience of 500 attendees at West. The whole experience felt special—food, drinks, trivia, a DJ, and even a cupcake bar. But the highlight for many was the brief return of Matt Cutts. Since he stepped away from the role of being the face of Google to many in the SEO community, it is now considered a treat when he makes an appearance. The night at Google rounded out with a great conversation that I had with Maile Ohye, a lead engineer at Google and a popular speaker at industry events—be sure to attend one of her sessions if you can, as they are very insightful.

Many items on my industry bucket list were checked off at SMX 2016 and I can’t emphasize enough the high quality of people I engaged with and both the validation of my strategies and supplement of new tactics that this event offered.

 

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