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Tesla: Innovation in the Driver’s Seat

18 Oct

The Building Materials Industry Can and Must Continue to Innovate

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I recently attended the inaugural Housing Innovation Vision Economics (HIVE) conference in LA. Kudos to Hanley Wood for a successful first-time event.

The opening keynote was JB Straubel, co-founder of Tesla. Arguably one of the more innovative companies right now, Tesla is doing more than just making a beautiful electric car.

When Tesla brainstorms, they start with the problem they’re trying to solve. Their team wanted to reduce harmful emissions. How could they do that? By making an electric car that people would actually buy.

JB and his team looked at how established companies were building cars. Tesla realized how inefficient the process was and created a new way.

During HIVE, two consistent problems kept bubbling up: the housing industry’s labor shortage and the increasing challenge of affordable housing.

How do we create a new way?

How do we build a better process for attracting, hiring and retaining labor? How do we hack and disrupt and innovate to make homes more affordable?

How do we follow Tesla’s lead?

Innovation isn’t industry specific. You don’t have to be Tesla to push the boundaries. A mature industry like ours can continue to innovate – in fact, we have to.

Better design. Better space planning. Better land management. All are important to meet the needs of shifting demographics, sustainability measures and first-time homebuyers.

HIVE was definitely not the typical building materials and housing industry conference. But the conversation about how our industry innovates can’t be limited to an annual event.

What “blue sky” idea is our industry pursuing today that will be mainstream tomorrow?

 

 

 

 

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Do Keywords Still Matter?

28 Sep

Make sure your SEO Practices are Current

Corey1Guest Contributor:
Corey Morris, Director of Digital Marketing

I’m always surprised to hear some consultants still advise clients to focus on up to 10 keywords as the foundation of their SEO campaigns.

It’s not my nature to react to the latest rumor or ranking signal in Google’s algorithm until it’s validated. But, it was clear to me when I entered the SEO industry a decade ago, that content was – and still is – the most important factor for SEO success, not keywords.

Content builds context and fosters engagement through inbound links, social media and web mentions. Without solid content, we’re forced to employ “old” SEO methods that work to varying degrees, such as creating single pages for every single keyword we want to rank.

Google continues to better understand context and meaning, and not rely solely on frequency and density of specific terms in page copy. Context of the website, the section and the page are all more important than a specific keyword.

To say Google’s algorithm has grown in recent years is an understatement. In fact, I heard Google Engineer, Paul Haahr, speak at SMX West and he shared that not a single person at Google knows the company’s full algorithm. This is important because it shows the company has enabled the algorithm to learn context on its own and get smarter in real-time.

The days of targeting a single term to a single page are in the past. That said, we can’t exactly ignore keywords in analytics. Keywords remain important progress indicators, and ways to ensure we understand and attract target audiences.

Clients and prospects are often taken by surprise when I say they can target as many keywords as they want. It’s fun educating them on the shift to content and context, and to see the sense of relief on their copywriter’s face!

Gone are the days of focusing on just 10 links, tracking their rankings and ultimately judging an SEO campaign’s impact based on their performance. What matters for SEO success is the development of relevant content that builds context and fosters ongoing audience engagement.

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The Agency Meet Market

22 Sep

Get to Know Your Creatives

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hillman Guest Contributor: 
Matt Hillman, Creative Director

When you think about your agency relationship, it’s likely your account exec is who comes to mind—and rightfully so. Day in and day out that’s who services your business; it’s who you call when you have a need, an issue or a compliment. They solve your problems. For many companies, the account service person is the agency.

But behind your normal point of contact lies an arsenal of agency talent you may rarely meet. Sure, they’re a name you hear, an addressee on an email, a hand you shake during an agency tour, but their contributions may be hidden behind phrases like “the team” or “work their magic” or “back at the shop,” and as a result, you don’t actually know what they do for you.

So here’s a primer on the core roles of the creative department and what they bring to the table for you and your business:

Message – Knowing what to say, how to say it, and to whom is the function of the copywriter. These are people who use words much like a chef uses ingredients—continually sniffing out the right one, routinely trying new combinations, and never resting until the flavor is just right. Most have trained in English, journalism or communications and language is their hobby. With a sometimes fanatical appreciation for nuance, changing a word is no small matter. Trust them to understand your audience and what motivates them to notice, to care, and to buy.

Design – Regardless of the title—graphic designer or art director—those who compose visuals are all artists at heart. They are deliberate with the interplay of space, form, and color, using the elements to create visual messages. Behind the sometimes eccentric veneer is someone who has studied serious concepts like alignment, proximity, repetition, and white space. While they may style themselves strangely, their designs always value order and are thoughtful and measured. Trust them to understand the latest trends and how the eye moves through a layout.

Direction – Beyond simply making sure that message and design are working in tandem, the creative director is ultimately responsible for the vision that the writer and designer deliver to. Relying on inputs from the client (via account service) and the creative brief, the creative director is like a conductor of an orchestra; they ensure that all the musicians work in harmony. They interpret, shift, and adjust individual elements to delight (and sometimes surprise!) the audience. Trust them to contextualize every project from a higher “campaign” perspective to build the brand.

When working as they should, these three creative roles produce magic. Every brand campaign, print ad, 30-second spot, billboard or promotion you remember…all of them came from this triad of talent working together to deliver for their clients.

Sure, creative types are “different.” But that’s exactly what you want. They don’t see the world like most people, don’t arrive at the same conclusions, and rarely enjoy being on the bandwagon—and it’s a good thing they don’t. Because getting noticed and getting sales requires standing out, and that’s what your creative team lives for.

 

[ref]

links:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/matthewhillman

https://www.aaaa.org/home-page/agency-stuff/human-resources/agency-job-descriptions/

http://creativeskillset.org/job_roles

http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/the-7-characteristics-of-highly-creative-people.html

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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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