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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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The 4 Cs of Change Communications

7 Sep

Communicate Cost-Cutting Measures with Care

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Guest Contributor:
Kate O’Neil Rauber, Vice President of Public Relations

It was a record year for mergers and acquisitions in 2015, and 2016 is expected to follow suit. Experts also say certain industries will be more susceptible to layoffs, including tech and oil.

Whether companies are thinning teams to avoid M&A duplication or right-sizing staff in order to regain financial footing, executives must communicate cost-cutting measures with care.

“Survivors,” or those who remain with a company after massive changes, tend to have three initial thoughts:

First, shock. They can’t believe it’s happening. They may even be worried about having lost a close work friend.

Next, survivor shock quickly shifts to me. As in: Am I next?

Finally, there’s workload. Meaning, how much more work will I have to do now that others are gone? Or, how will I get my current projects done without a critical member of the team?

Understanding the survivor mind frame, executives communicating tough change management messages should embrace the four “Cs”:

1. Compassion: Someone is either losing a job or getting more work — when they already feel overworked. Show compassion and appreciation for everyone impacted. Remember, you’re talking about someone’s livelihood.

2. Candor: The story behind why this change is being made must be crisp and paint a compelling business case. Fluff and spin have no place here. Remember, employees will be looking to executive leadership — you — for answers.

3. Clarity: Paint the vision for where the company is headed. The initial sting hurts. But, (most) survivors will get on board if they understand and believe your vision. Remember, jobs have been lost and workloads have ballooned. Overnight.

4. Confidence: Survivors need to believe you. They want to know that in your bones, you believe this change is the best thing for the company. Remember, confidence is not the same as arrogance; one attracts — the other detracts.

Cost-cutting measures should be communicated with care — whether it’s a right-sizing, restructuring, downsizing, or another corporate code word for layoffs. You can’t merge corporate cultures or right the financial ship without your survivors on board.

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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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Book Review 1/3: Built to Sell

1 Mar

Building Something with a Life Beyond You

As part of a blog series, I’ve decided to complete three reviews of three separate books. The books are about topics like marketing, business, and leadership. My goal with this series is to draw out some teachable lessons for anyone attempting to grow—personally, professionally, or otherwise. In this blog, I will cover some humbling lessons that leaders, business owners, managers, etc. can learn about creating a business and developing people to be able to grow independently of their leadership.

It’s a relevant topic to almost anyone with direct reports or a business to be accountable to. Haven’t you ever wondered how you can create a department or a company that can thrive without you? If you aren’t a business owner in the building materials segment, do you run a department or product category? Could some of the same principles necessary to generate a sustainable business work in this scenario—one without you?

To that end, I recently finished reading a book titled Built to Sell by John Warrillow. What a fabulous read. Throughout the book, John offers valuable insights and tips to help the reader build a sustainable business or department that can continue on without the leader.

I’ve compiled a few of the tips I found most interesting—and if I’m being honest with myself, the most humbling as well.

  1. Don’t generalize—specialize. If you focus on doing one thing well and hire specialists in that area, the quality of your work will improve and you will stand out among your competitors.
  2. Owning a process makes it easier to pitch and puts you in control. Be clear about what you’re selling, and potential customers will be more likely to buy your product.
  3. Don’t be afraid to say no to projects. Prove that you are serious about specialization by turning down work that falls outside your area of expertise. The more people you say no to, the more referrals you’ll get to people who need your product or service.
  4. Hire people who are good at selling products, not services—even if you are in a service business. This expertise leads to scalable solutions as opposed to all customized one-off solutions.
  5. Build a management team and offer them a long-term incentive plan that rewards their personal performance and loyalty.
  6. Think big. Write a 3-year business plan that paints a picture of what is possible for your business. Remember, the company that acquires you will have more resources for you to accelerate growth.
  7. Always know your pipeline prospects and what their worth is to your company. This metric is essential to be on top of market opportunity and your potential for a percentage of that.

Don’t take the book too literally—this concept is not just about business owners and it’s not just about selling; it’s about leadership and creating something sustainable beyond you. Elton and I aren’t trying to sell ERM, but the lessons from this book are ones that any business owner, manager, or leader attempting to make something bigger than themselves can learn from.

Whether you own a business or manage a department, these are tips that should influence how you approach the work if you want to create opportunities for long-term success. At the end of the day, none of us can be in our roles forever. The more you can do to lay the foundation for success, the more poised for success you—and the business—will be.

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IBS 2016: “The New Big Thing” Is…

23 Feb

My Key IBS Takeaway for Building Products Marketers

IBS 2016

We’ve talked a lot about the 2016 International Builders’ Show (IBS) throughout the course of the last few weeks. You might even say we’re a little obsessed. But the reason why is that, for building products marketers, trade shows are a big deal. And there is perhaps no bigger one—or more important—than IBS. Every year, IBS represents where the building industry is going, from products to design trends to marketing. And every year, it’s at IBS where you can find “the next big thing.”

For me, the next big thing in trade show marketing is pretty clear: experiential booths. For a long time—too long, in fact—boring and uninspired booths have ruled the roost. Matt Hillman, our creative director at ER Marketing, even recently went as far as to describe the majority of booths as “brochures you stand in.” Not far off. But things are changing. In his post, he discusses some of the booths at IBS that delivered much better experiences for their audience. The common theme was that these exhibitors need to put on a “show” for their audience.

I think this is true no matter what trade shows you attend. In fact, it sparked my thinking on some other trade shows I’ve been to that have exemplified the experiential booth marketing that was such a hit at IBS. Here are some of the standout booth experiences I’ve had attending trade shows—experiences that should become the model for B2B marketers in the building products industry:

  1. At the Food Equipment Show, a commercial sausage making company proved the power of their product by doing multiple demonstrations using Play-Doh. This created a colorful (in more ways than one) experience for attendees.
  2. A simple product demonstration that proved effective was a window company that let attendees experience their good, better, best product offerings. By placing single, double, and triple paned windows in front of heaters, visitors could simply touch the glass to feel the difference in quality.
  3. A house wrap company had an innovative approach to showing their product’s resilience. By pulling their house wrap taut and placing it next to competitors’ products, they were able to demonstrate which was the strongest—by having a professional pitching machine shoot baseballs at the wrap.
  4. At the Deck Expo, one company created a competition in which attendees attempted to break their product with a hammer. If they were able to break it, they won a huge prize. It was simple to execute, and best of all, the loud noises of people attempting to break the synthetic decking drew a crowd.

IBS proved that the next big thing for building products marketers is creating an experience attendees will remember and breaking from tradition to do it. But that’s not exclusive to IBS—these examples demonstrate that it’s a change happening at all trade shows. B2B marketers in the building products industry need to do better. Your average, boring trade show booths are no longer effective. Worse, they’re very likely a huge waste of your money.

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