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  • Should Marketers Be Afraid of AI?

    Dean LePoidevin – President and Strategic Director The short answer is no, and here’s why. Looking to the Past Artificial intelligence (AI) is the latest in a long line of new technologies that have “threatened” the jobs of people who work in marketing. The invention of computers is a prime example. Wary marketers panicked at the thought of this new machine and how it slashed the time needed to pull together copy and design components of a file or edit existing pieces. For agencies that billed by the hour and would now be asked to provide the same value in half the time and cost, computers seemed to spell doom. Today, we know that is far from the truth of the situation, and this trend of unfulfilled fears has continued. The internet didn’t eliminate the need for good researchers. Digital design platforms didn’t wipe out jobs for graphic designers, much less creative thinkers. What AI Can’t Do All these technologies caused widespread panic in their initial inception, a trend we are now seeing repeated with AI. However, each advancement has possessed the same limitation that has allowed marketing as an industry to continue to thrive: the need for quality input. When an AI platform responds to a prompt, it is pulling from existing data and its machine learning from interactions and reactions with its previously created content. Today, AI could pull together a piece of music that resembles a Beethoven symphony and creates a similar effect, but if AI in its present capacity had existed before Beethoven, it would not be able to create such innovative work. What AI Can Do Instead of expecting AI to perform like Beethoven the composer, a more accurate representation would be Beethoven the dog from the 1992 movie bearing the same name. There may be some initial hesitation to such a big change coming into the industry, but with the right training, AI can be a tireless and loyal member of the marketing team that helps everyone deliver their best work. New technologies have consistently proven to be helpful, not hurtful, in the marketing field. Marketers who were able to get over their initial fear of the computer quickly found it to be hugely beneficial. Editing a single word in an ad used to require literally cutting and pasting physical files together. Now, a word can be highlighted and replaced in a matter of seconds. This frees up hours of a marketer’s time for intelligent work that provides more value to the client. AI expands those capabilities even further. It can find and analyze data, provide ideas, proof copy and automate repetitive work, among many other traditionally time-sucking tasks. The true value of a marketing agency does not lie in the tactical execution of these small tasks but the strategic direction behind it. If anything, the improved efficiency provided by AI makes marketing agency professionals even more valuable to clients, as it removes some of the time barriers in the way of higher-level thinking and plan development. Coming Changes While AI and other technologies can’t replace the strategic and creative abilities of people, they should still have an impact on the job. Asking a client to pay by the hour for the old-fashioned way of editing a file is completely outdated today given the technology available, and soon AI will have a similar effect on how clients expect work to be done and agencies compensated. Instead of waiting for the time when neglecting AI’s benefits is a dealbreaker, agencies should be proactively working to build their understanding of this technology to effectively and ethically adopt it into their team. Marketing jobs that have been lost due to new innovations are rarely forfeited because technology has overtaken human abilities. Rather, it is because the professionals refused to adapt to the changing times and were left behind. We don’t know the future, and we can’t be completely certain that AI will not surpass human capabilities. However, we can take comfort in the history of past technological revolutions that have done much more to change how we work in marketing than whether we work in marketing. So really, the question should not be whether we should fear AI. It should be whether we should fear our own abilities to adapt, grow and embrace this new technology as the helpful tool it is.

  • The Art of Prioritizing Ad Design Content

    Ashlyn Busse – Senior Graphic Designer The massive prevalence of ads in our everyday lives can make it easy to forget just how much effort and attention to detail goes into each one. A good ad will capture the audience’s attention without requiring too much of their time, communicate information while being visually appealing and stand out without the brand being unrecognizable. In other words, ad design requires the balance and precision of a tightrope walker. Arguably, the biggest balancing act of any ad design is finding the sweet spot of how much information to communicate to initiate the desired response. Ads are usually run in a relatively small space, so the content needs to be efficient. However, they still need to explain enough to generate interest. Achieving this balance in advertising is a challenge, but focusing on visual hierarchy and the function of the ad can help inform both strategy and execution. Visual Hierarchy Every ad design starts with a goal. In the broadest sense, this usually means creating and reinforcing product or brand awareness, but there are typically more specific outcomes, services or features that the client is looking to bring attention to through their ad. Of all the components that make up the design, elements that highlight these ideas need to make the most visual impact on the viewer. Sometimes that is accomplished through catchy text in a larger font or a big focal image, but it’s usually done through a combination of both. In addition to whatever idea(s) the specific ad is communicating, branding is another important component in the visual hierarchy. Logos, brand colors, common imagery, recognizable products and even consistent copy and design elements can all be used to ensure anyone looking at your ad will know it’s from you. This has the short-term benefit of giving interested prospects a direction to go for any further information, as well as the long-term benefit of building on your audience’s understanding of your brand and what you offer, also known as brand identity. Ad Function Balancing these two major elements and any other supporting content becomes much easier when the ad is put in context of the larger marketing plan. The objective of an ad can vary from campaign to campaign, usually switching between informing, persuading and reminding, depending on the audience’s understanding of and interaction with the brand. Calls to action on each ad will look different, with some directing viewers to order now, while others will direct interested parties to sources like the website to build on their knowledge of the products or services. Due to the complexity of the products or services in B2B industries and more in-depth decision-making processes, most B2B ads focus on informing the audience. For this kind of ad, the call to action will generally be directing viewers to a source of additional information, such as the website or sales support professional, rather than directly to the point of sale. This also means the ad is not a solo act. You don’t have to overload a single advertisement to communicate all your selling points. Instead, you can focus on those primary messages at the top of the visual hierarchy and how to make them appealing enough to leave viewers wanting more. When they act on this by going to the directed source, they will be able to find additional information at their own pace to ultimately come to a purchasing decision. We believe that a good designer can fit everything in an ad and a great designer knows what to leave out. Understanding the visual hierarchy of an ad and its place in the overall campaign is critical to achieving that balance of efficient design that still effectively communicates your messages, inspires action and advances your brand.

  • Organization Tips and Tricks

    Taylor Brazell – Account Executive Everyone who works at an agency may have their own variations on an organization system for files and client work, but having some kind of system in place is an absolute necessity. Managing multiple clients at a time with several projects on each of those accounts would be impossible without one. Agency life is not unique in its need for organizati on, but it does quickly prove what works and what does not. Here are some tips I’ve picked up over my time in an agency that can help anyone go back to the basics to start establishing their own system of organization. Old-Fashioned Organization Still Works No matter how advanced technology gets, a notepad and pen will still be my go-to for gathering initial input. The freedom from sketching on a piece of paper allows me to dictate details and write out thoughts exactly how I want. My whiteboard serves a similar purpose as a physical reminder of important deadlines or due dates upcoming. I don’t even have to leave my desk to reference the content I have drawn out on my board, and I can use it to help keep track of projects’ status when multiple items are in the air. These options are great in the short term, but they are less than ideal as long-term organization methods. Notepads and whiteboards fill up quickly and can lead to slightly connected notes scattered everywhere, cluttering up the office. Dive into Digital When projects need more organization space than handwritten notes can offer, turning to digital tools can save a lot of headaches. A system for saving files in the same location on a server by project and client is inarguably important, but emails should also be similarly arranged to keep conversations in order. Creating folders for each client with subfolders on individual projects or reoccurring subjects makes it easier to access and report the latest communication from where it was left off. Relevant email threads are sorted into the folders, sometimes over the course of years, to keep track of communication. I use my inbox for more pressing projects, remarking emails as “unread” until the important tasks are completed, addressed to the client or filed/noted in their proper way. This provides a quick list of outstanding work that I owe my team members or clients. Most email platforms also have calendars attached. Those are useful tools for obvious reasons, such as organizing meetings and appointments. However, I also use my calendar to set notifications and reminders for myself. Larger projects will often have multiple deadlines for various components along the way, and keeping track of all of them without some kind of tool would be impossible. By putting those dates into the calendar to contact vendors, follow up with client on outstanding projects, submit content and accomplish other steps by a certain date, I get reminders and notifications as I need them to keep projects on track. Delete Strategically Though inbox folders and the server have much more storage capacity than a notepad, they can still get cluttered if old content continues to take up space. Files and emails can be moved to an archive, where they are out of the way without being permanently deleted, but doing this means that they are not readily accessible for client needs. Deleting content is also occasionally necessary to open storage space and keep old drafts from being confused with newer versions of a file. However, deleting something as soon as you’re done with it or when it hits a certain age is unwise. Clients may change their mind about edits and ask to revert back to a former version of the copy or design. They may also pick projects back up after leaving them for a while or lose track of something and ask for it to be sent again. In any of these cases, having old files readily available can save the time and effort that would go into recreating them. Only delete files and emails when you’re sure the client will never need them again. These tips may seem simple and somewhat obvious, but they are the foundation for our clients’ work and the reason we are able to provide effective full-service marketing services. Putting these to work can be key to putting some organization into the chaos of agency life.

  • Cooling Down Hot Projects

    Taylor Brazell – Account Executive The workload in an agency tends to ebb and flow a lot, with some days being packed while others are a little lighter. During the busy days, especially when multiple projects are due at once, work needs to be managed intentionally to ensure deadlines are met without the agency team becoming overwhelmed. These three tips have proven to keep hot projects from boiling over. Prepare as Much as Possible No matter how organized an agency is, rapid turnarounds are always going to be part of life. Fear of a quick deadline should not stop the agency or client from taking advantage of last-minute opportunities or taking the extra time to make sure a project is perfect. Instead, both parties can make space for unexpected extra work with some organization and preparation. For starters, the agency should be staying on top of ongoing campaigns and avoiding procrastination. This ensures that work with a little bit of buffer time can stay that way and not turn into additional hot projects. Clients and agencies should also be communicating openly about upcoming work. Even if the job can’t be started yet, knowing it’s coming allows the agency to save some extra time and bring awareness to everyone on the team involved with the project so they can note it in their schedule. There’s nothing worse than promising a project to a client by a certain deadline only to find out the team will be out of town, on an offsite shoot or engaged in other clients’ work making the promise impossible to uphold. Prioritize Projects and People “When it rains, it pours” tends to prove true with hot projects, but it’s nothing that simple scheduling and delegation can’t help with. Prioritizing which projects are worked on first isn’t as simple as looking at the final deadline. Each job will have its own unique steps, and some require more time than others. A layout for a brochure that needs to be reviewed by the client, printed and shipped to a trade show by a certain date is much more time-sensitive than an eblast layout that needs to be reviewed and sent by that same date. Consider and account for all the factors that can slow down a project from the beginning to avoid missing important steps. Explicit job roles within the agency team are also important when a deadline is quickly approaching. The more people involved means more schedules to deal with and more time before the work is completed. In these situations, one person will run point and coordinate with other team members for strategic direction, copy, creative and proofing as needed with deadlines clearly stated for each person. This streamlined process still utilizes the full power of the team while keeping content moving at the necessary pace. Communicate with the Client Transparent, proactive communication is always important between the agency and the client, even more so when due dates are quickly approaching. One of the more apparent changes when deadlines are around the corner is how email communication is done. Often, instead of separate email chains for each file, the account executive will condense everything into one email with a bullet point listed for each attachment. The list will include any notes on the project as well as what’s needed and by when. Noting actions with the project name and deadlines in the subject line also helps, for example: “For Review: LePoidevin Marketing Website Updates DUE MONDAY.” In addition to informing the agency of any upcoming projects, clients should be upfront about the process on their end. Many industries, including pest control and veterinary medicine, are highly regulated in what they can and can’t say, so a legal or regulatory department within the organization may also have to review each piece of content. Knowing about this in advance helps the agency to budget more time for this extra step. There are other factors that can impact timing on the client side, and each company will have a slightly different process for reviewing work. As the agency team members get to know the nuances of that process, they can continue to improve the flow of work between both parties. Agencies need to be transparent in their process as well. There are the rare occurrences when a client’s ask needs some adjusting to be possible within the agency’s workload. In those situations, the agency needs to first be careful not to overpromise, then work with all clients that have upcoming deadlines to see what can be moved around a bit to make sure everyone’s needs are met.

  • Trade Show Media Relations Dos and Don’ts

    Katie Robertson - Account Executive, Public Relations When clients go to trade shows, we will often work with them to set up meetings with editors of trade publications and industry news sites who are also in attendance. This is a great opportunity for businesses to take advantage of being in the same space as important media contacts by building relationships and positioning themselves for earned media opportunities. These dos and don’ts will help you make the most of every conversation and communicate the best possible messaging for your brand. Do… Know who you’ll be talking to We will provide details such as the person’s name, publication and any relevant topics from the editorial calendar for you to review before the meeting. Come up with speaking points before the meeting Based on the reporter, come up with 3-5 newsworthy speaking points such as new products, business developments or differentiators to focus on. Ex: Our company recently added a new product, expanding our capabilities in the XX market. Ex: Company XX brings these unique values to our customers. Have relevant handouts/resources available to give them A physical resource or preexisting link builds credibility to what you’re saying and helps them remember your conversation later. Ex: Product sell sheets or design books Ex: Blog or case study that reinforces your speaking points Be concise Speak in quotable sound bites that the reporter can use. These meetings will also only be scheduled for 15-20 minutes, so keep an eye on the time and don’t go over. Don’t… Speak in negatives Don’t repeat negatives from their questions or answer using negative words/phrases. Ex: Instead of “We will never stop delivering quality products,” say, “We will always deliver quality products.” Talk down on competitors Stick to the benefits of your company instead of the deficits of competitors. Ex: Instead of, “Our competitors don’t emphasize quality the way we do,” say, “Our products are durable and long-lasting.” Speculate If a reporter asks something you don’t know the answer to, direct them to someone who does or tell them that you will check and get back to them. Don’t guess or make it up. Answer every question literally You can pivot your responses to highlight your speaking points and make your company look better. Ex: Q- “Why is your product so expensive?” A- “Our customers don’t need to pay to repair or replace the product, so the durability actually dramatically increases the ROI.” Ultimately, editors are looking for a story, and you have good ones to tell. Following these tips will simply help refine and communicate the great content you already possess to advance your brand and enhance your marketing.

  • Lead Management Beats Lead Generation, Every Time

    “Put that Coffee Down! Coffee is for closers.” - Blake (Alec Baldwin), Glengarry Glen Ross Written and adapted by David Mamet and stocked with a powerhouse cast, 1992’s Glengarry Glen Ross is a cult-classic, a must-see movie for anyone who works in marketing and sales. The movie is centered around a real estate sales group and the measures taken by the home office to motivate them. With all due respect to that profanity-laced production, allow us to kindly point out several important aspects of a lead management program that you can use to motivate your salespeople and improve your lead program. For many B2B marketers, lead flow has all but dried up at the start of 2020’s second quarter. While certainly not the new normal, the ramifications will persist for months to come. And while some will blame COVID-19, the truth is a well-conceived lead management program will help sustain your business during the lean periods. It will also launch your sales past those of your competitors when the recovery begins. Lead management is much more important to your business than lead generation, which is only one step in the program. A lead management program takes into account a well-defined target audience profile, knowing how many leads your sales team can effectively work in a given period, the generation of quality leads and how they are distributed to your team, lead tracking from generation to sale, and sound CRM for management and reporting. Your Sales Team Successful sales managers know their program is only as good as their captive sales team, and a good sales team is based on excellent recruiting and sound sales training. The thought that good salespeople are born to be in sales may be true, but salespeople can be made to be successful, too. Assuming you have a history of hiring personable and intelligent sales professionals and expose them to a rigorous product and industry training program, you are then ready to unleash them on the marketplace – but you really must send them on their way armed with a stack of qualified leads. Your Target Prospect Sales prospects can be identified in many ways, geographic location, age, title, company and other demographic identifiers. Today, we can also target buying behaviors, recency, visits to your website, responses or requests for more information and a host of other digitally generated and tracked traits that characterize them as likely to buy. One may construct a profile of preferred targets or base your candidates on the profile of past customers. Whichever criteria is chosen, one must construct a desired profile in order to target, connect with and generate a qualified lead. Against this desired profile, all incoming leads should be compared and scored. Your Generated Leads Leads are generated through a variety of means – and from multiple sources with varying degrees of success. Lead quality can range from very low – practically a cold call – to quite high – a potential buyer that has shown a great deal of interest and urgency. The success of your program will depend on how well you identify, qualify, and track each lead from generation through the sale. “The leads are coming!”- John Williamson (Kevin Spacey) “Give them to me!” - Shelly Levene (Jack Lemmon) Your Lead Distribution You have trained your salesforce and identified your ideal prospects. The next step in your lead management program is to define – by each salesperson, ideally – your lead requirements. Even the most seasoned or highly trained sales professional will pre-judge a lead when issued to them. It’s only human nature. A good sales manager will know the number of leads to issue a salesperson within a given period. Give them too many, and they will choose to work those that look the most promising, first. And if time runs out, they will ignore or burn a lead if in their opinion it does not meet their own definition of a good one. One must know their sales team and the number of leads they can effectively work, then issue them just enough leads to ensure they work them all, completely. Leads cost money. Often, much more than your sales team understands. Unworked leads represent lost income on many levels as they cost money to generate and track, and many could have resulted in sales. We realize distributor sales forces represent another challenge when it comes to supplying and tracking leads. Some distributors will share manufacturer- or supplier-generated lead results, but usually in the aggregate. Most will not give you the customer’s information or even specify which product they purchased. At best, you fly blind when attempting to manage a lead system with distributor Inside Sales Reps (ISRs) or Outside Sales Reps (OSRs), having to rely only on direct re-orders or anecdotal feedback. “The leads are weak!” - Shelly Levene (Jack Lemmon) “The leads are weak? You’re weak!” - Blake (Alec Baldwin) Sometimes, the leads are weak! Sometimes, it is how they are worked, if at all. Weak salespeople tend to self-cancel, or you do them the favor. However, if you have taken care to target only those leads you desire for your sales team, issued them on a timely basis, carefully documented the date generated, their source and how they were worked, you really should be in possession of a set of high quality prospects worthy of follow through. Tracking your Leads Knowing your lead source, which salesperson worked it, and what that lead purchased – if anything – is some of the most basic information you will want to track to gauge performance of your program. From a lead data standpoint, you may want to record the following: Date: Recency is very important as leads should be worked at the soonest possible opportunity; while they are interested and will recall seeing your marketing messages. Lead source: Which advertising, PR, event-based or online resource was responsible for the prospect contacting you? Format or lead type: Did they call the company, complete an online form or were they referred to you by a customer or other source? Score: On a pre-determined scale, how likely is the lead to buy, or how well do they meet the qualifications for a prospective sale? Distribution: To whom was the lead issued and at what date and time? Action: When and how often was the lead contacted and what were the results of these actions? Result: What did the prospect purchase and when? If they did not buy, will they remain an active lead or should they be filed for follow-up at a later date? Your CRM If you have not done so already, there are many good CRM software packages to choose from. Most offer user-defined or predetermined ways to track and record prospect information. Yes, Salesforce is one of the go-to integrated software solutions out there, though we have found it to be a bit clunky, as it is written to appeal to a very wide list of companies and applications. Whether you utilize a spreadsheet or a complex CRM software package, make sure you record information useful to your sales efforts. Once you have collected data on a series of leads you will have a better understanding of the lead generation sources you need to use, the type of lead you should generate more often, which salesperson should work the lead(s) and how likely each of these leads will result in a sale. From this data, you can construct an updated prospect profile for future targeting efforts. You will also improve your lead generation efforts, increase closure rates and hit your higher company revenue goals. “ABC. Always be Closing…” - Blake (Alec Baldwin) Perhaps not a mantra to live or manage by, but one that does bear repeating: Successful sales programs are the result of strong sales teams that know how to establish trust, deliver information, transfer enthusiasm for their products and yes, know how to ask for the sale – all of which are made easier with well managed and qualified leads. Your lead management program will also help get you through periods of low generation by providing a supplemental list of pre-worked leads who have not yet purchased your products, and ensure your sales force has a qualified list of prospects once business returns to normal.

  • Communicate With Your Employees Now to Better Weather the Recovery

    In the recent past, having too many conference calls and meetings to attend was an ongoing general complaint from the office-based workforce. It’s a topic regularly converted into humorous memes that elicit chuckles from anyone who has ever spent their days in an office environment. With the sudden onset of COVID-19 and unprecedented work-from-home mandates now the new normal, that same workforce has replaced groans about yet another meeting, with cravings and appreciation for any and all communication from the home office. Employees we’ve talked to are placing a very high value on communications during this quarantine period. Overwhelmingly, many companies from a variety of industries including software, insurance, sales and marketing have really raised the bar on connectedness and creativity - and employees are taking notice. For companies who are doing everything possible to frequently communicate with their employees, it is an investment in both their talent and the overall company. Boosts to morale, clarity regarding the organization’s health or challenges, and camaraderie that retains team bonds, are all benefits of maintaining consistent communication with employees during shutdowns related to the COVID-19 crisis. Communication for the Win Communicating with employees during a crisis is really a win-win situation as the company-employee relationship is a symbiotic one. What is good for employees, is ultimately good for employers. Valued employees are more motivated and reliable and therefore, will do their best to help their companies successfully navigate through this challenge. This is not a situation affecting only one division or department in a company – or even one industry – everyone has a stake in this crisis. To ensure your employees maintain their productivity and dedication to your organizational mission and vision, consider different communications strategies to help their work feel less remote at a time when every other area of their lives is isolated. How you choose to communicate with your employees is entirely up to you and what feels right for your organization based on resources available and your organizational culture as a whole. If you are not sure how or what to communicate, consider the following insights as you craft your messages to employees. What Not to Do In the first week or two of national social distancing protocols, a few companies including a well-known nationwide retailer, endured an onslaught of bad PR based on little communication and guidance for their public-facing employees. When the retailer finally did communicate with employees, the messages were insensitive and failed to address employee concerns. During this crisis, some company leaders and managers might resent stay-at-home mandates and feel like they are giving up control of their operations. They may also suspect that some employees will abuse a work-from-home arrangement or worry that less disciplined individuals, new to working from a home office, may find it hard to focus. These are valid concerns. Company leaders need to clearly convey their expectations. Likewise, employees must understand their employer’s perspective, they still have a business to run. However, it’s important that managers remember that employees were thrown into this situation nearly overnight – just as they were. Most employees would much rather be working in their office buildings away from their kids and pets. Some have even restructured their home layout and are utilizing personal resources to make sure they are conducting business as usual in a not business as usual economy. Tone Simple touchpoints with your employees go a long way. For internal communication, it’s ok to lighten things up and ease regular formalities. Like you, employees are going through a lot at no fault of their own. Worries about their investments, job, immediate finances, how their kids are performing in virtual school, their own health as well as their loved ones, are weighing on their minds. For those working from home, they want their employers to trust that they are still performing at a high level despite their environment. Some employees feel like a fish out of water right now. Regular positive messages and feedback keep them swimming forward. Frequency Because the pandemic situation is rapidly evolving, many companies are communicating with employees daily. Most of the employees that responded to an informal survey we conducted indicated that they are being addressed at least once a week by a company leader (CEO, CFO) and on average, nearly every day by a manager or other coworkers. At the minimum, once-per-week overarching communication from corporate leaders about the state of the business or shifting strategies due to pandemic influences is recommended to keep employees informed and on-task. One employee we spoke to reported that their company hasn’t communicated with them at all. It’s adding to their already heavy stress load and morale is low at the company. The consensus among employees at that company is that they are unappreciated, feeling uneasy and left in the dark. Channels Employees are taking note of any type of communication now. With several weeks of virtual communicating under our belts, preferences for communication channels are emerging. Eighty-six percent of corporate, nonprofit and government employees recently surveyed by Ragan, publisher of Ragan’s PR Daily, cite e-mail as the most effective channel for crisis-related messages. According to the study, video conferencing comes in second, but not far off from other channels such as team messaging apps like Slack or traditional teleconferences. Approach Some employers want to be transparent and communicate better with their employees but are not quite sure what or how to communicate – especially when there may be a work slowdown or they simply are not sure what is around the corner with each new week of quarantine. A simple conference call on alternating days, or weekly, to inquire how everyone is doing and sharing team updates may suffice for some workgroups or smaller companies. There might not be much to share during some calls but at least the lines of communication are open. Besides weekly leadership calls, blog posts or e-mails about the state of the business, employees of some larger corporations we talked to have reported creative approaches that really demonstrate supportive empathy and appreciation for employees. These workers have reported home deliveries of office supplies, gourmet popcorn baskets or new corporate swag, as well as stimulus checks from their companies. Some enterprises have distributed surveys to employees to ascertain how management can help make this period better for employees as well as emailing support tips for remote workers. Almost everyone we talked to has participated in morale boosters such as quarantine photo contests, virtual company spirit days, coffee breaks and happy hours. We are in a whole new world where worktime may be the only social outlet for some people, so these activities are engaging and exciting for them to participate in. Employers who execute a strong communications effort with their workers during this unprecedented downturn will find that these employees will remain loyal and productive long-term. Well-informed employees will understand what exactly is needed from them in order for their companies to have the best chance at a successful recovery. It is not lost on them how lucky they are, when so many across the country are either not working safely or not working at all. Employees who feel communicated with and valued by their companies will keep working their hardest to ensure there is a profitable company with a job remaining for them when the dust settles, and the masks come off.

  • A Client’s GPS of Marketing Success

    Taylor Brazell – Account Executive In marketing, being proactive is preferred to being reactive. Working with a full-service agency can offer you the best opportunity to implement proactivity into your business model, but finding the best way to work with a third party can be difficult to navigate. Whether you are running a quick campaign or developing a year’s worth of corporate communications, following the GPS (goal setting, planning and sticking to it) model is how you can make the most of your marketing agency collaboration. Goal Setting Just like a road trip, the first and most important decision you will make for our campaign is the destination. The first phase of marketing involves laying out the place (or places) you want to be at the end of the road, otherwise known as the goals. You’ve likely heard of SMART goals, or goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. These five qualities should be the building blocks of your marketing goals to give meaningful guidance to the work and allow for progress to be tracked along the way. Before meeting with your agency team to discuss goals, make sure to get input from stakeholders within your company. Marketing agencies don’t just support marketing departments. They help people in sales, leadership, customer service, internal communications and many other members of your team reach their goals as well. Bringing everyone’s needs to the table can help find the best possible destinations for your entire organization. Planning If a goal is the destination, the planning is the directions used to get there, but instead of distances and turns, marketing uses strategies and tactics. These two get confused for each other a lot, so to clarify: A strategy is a marketing method used to achieve our goals and objectives A tactic is a specific action we do that follows our strategies There are a few important considerations to keep in mind while building a plan. You may be tempted to focus exclusively on bringing in new customers, but retaining the ones you have is just as important. The plan needs to support every step of the customer’s journey. Balancing multiple interrelated tactics is also critical to achieving success. The best marketing plans don’t put all their eggs in one basket, but instead focus on many different channels offered by a full-service agency, such as advertising, social media, trade shows, earned media, etc. Each has its own strength that plays into strategies in a complementary way. To manage both these challenges and any other features of your unique marketing approach, communication is key. The more input your agency has, the better the team can plan. Even details that may seem insignificant could inspire an ad theme or an article topic, so do not hesitate to give them everything you have during the planning phase. Sticking to it Communication between teams does not stop being important once the plan is set. It needs to be constant and highly transparent to ensure everything can stay on track. If you have a direction in mind for a tactic, let your agency team know in as many details as possible. If you have critiques on a draft, give direct, specific feedback. These simple steps keep everyone on the same page and help save time and money by cutting extra rounds of edits, keeping both the budget and schedule in line with the plan. Just like a road trip, marketing plans can be thrown off course by unforeseen circumstances. Though agencies can’t predict the future and avoid all these situations, a team that is well-versed in your industry and understands your goals can anticipate detours and work with you to get your plan back on track.

  • Appealing to the Experts

    Katie Robertson – Public Relations Account Executive One of the challenges of working in B2B marketing is generating content for informed audiences. Unlike B2C, where the messaging is about everyday products and geared toward average people, B2B focuses on building brand awareness and generating leads for products developed for a specific field from individuals who work in that field. The level of technical knowledge within the target population is high, meaning marketing and PR collateral needs to meet, if not exceed, that level to establish credibility and influence behavior. This can be achieved in one of two ways. The first is the agency team members on an account going through the years-long process of obtaining all the degrees, certifications and job experience held by the professionals they are trying to reach. The second (and more realistic) option is establishing these three key factors to ensure they have the pieces they need: A Basis of Knowledge Any new client that comes in requires the agency to apply existing internal product, category or industry knowledge and perform extensive research into the organization’s reputation or standing in the industry, as well as the products or services it offers. Understanding of the market will grow over time, but agencies should review competitors’ sites, trade publications, online articles and any other available resources to start out with a solid foundation of general industry knowledge. Once this is established, the agency team can do a deeper dive specific to the client. There will inevitably be product attributes, jargon, acronyms and information related to the client’s offerings that may be common knowledge to the audience but unfamiliar to marketers coming into the industry. Learning the “language” of the product ensures that it can be presented properly to people in the field without mistakes or over-explaining basic concepts. Transparency Just as clients rely on agencies for strategic direction and creative solutions, agencies rely on clients for product features and benefits along with any technical input. This starts with building that initial basis of knowledge and continues throughout the entire agency-client relationship. Finding success within this dynamic is dependent on transparency. For the client, being transparent consists of sharing as much as possible with the agency. Having the full breadth of information is the only way to ensure the most thorough, full-service marketing plan and well-informed tactics. For the agency, being transparent means being honest with itself and the client. There will likely be information needed for writing copy or designing creative that the agency may not be able to learn on its own. This is especially true early in the relationship and as new products or services roll out. The agency and the client need to understand that grasping complicated concepts to create high-level content requires a realistic timeline and two-way cooperation where both parties are free to ask questions and obtain important background and product information. Relationships with Experts Having the right questions is important, but agencies also must know the right people to ask. Many firms will only interact with the primary marketing contact on their clients’ teams, which may leave a wealth of useful expertise untouched. The client’s organization is brimming with experts who can provide their knowledge as a resource for various stages of the marketing program. Developing relationships with all stakeholders helps the agency draw from the experience available across many internal resources and to pull from and streamline the process of gathering input. In addition to contacts within the clients’ companies, agencies should form lasting relationships with experts from the field. Editors from trade publications are knowledgeable contacts, and relationships with them can provide the added benefit of more PR placements. If the client is willing to put the agency in contact with customers or other experts it has worked with, they can offer valuable information and credible content such as testimonials and articles from a third-party source. Influencers can also offer independent feedback on a product or category that will help round-out the information and data needed to clearly convey messages designed to inform and motivate audience members.

  • Tips of the Trade Publications

    Steve Staedler – Account Supervisor, Public Relations Clients have great stories to tell, but getting their editorial pieces in front of the right audiences can be challenging. This is especially true in B2B, where the available media that target a client’s key demographics are limited. The process of placing a story begins with a pitch to let an editor know that you have a story that you feel would be a good fit for their audiences. You’ll be up against countless other stories vying for limited space, so making a good first impression with the pitch is critical. These four tips can help give your story the best chance to make it to print or online. Know the publication – Research the publication you’re pitching to and familiarize yourself with the kinds of articles it publishes. Do they run stories submitted by agencies or end-users, or do they just publish articles written by the staff? Have they published similar content to the story you’re pitching? Are there upcoming special editions or topics that would be a good fit? Knowing this information will show an editor your familiarity with and interest in their publication and will help you craft your pitch and resulting story to be more successful. Know the audience – Who exactly are the target audiences of the publication or website you’re pitching to? Your proposed topic needs to speak directly to those audiences with supporting arguments, tips or other information that will be useful to them. Editors go to great lengths to ensure the content they run best serves their audience, and making your story’s relevance obvious in the initial pitch keeps it in the running. Provide value – The content in trade publications and associated websites can be very technical in nature. Editors are looking for articles that provide a resource to their readers. Your pitch should highlight the novel concepts you will be presenting and any ties to larger trends or events in the industry that would add relevance to the story. When done right, the final story should present the client as a thought leader in its field. Deliver on the deliverables – Editors operate under tight deadlines. If the editor is expecting a story package with 1,200 words and four high-resolution photos by a certain date, you need to deliver. Missing deadlines not only places added stress on the production schedule of the publication or site, but you lose credibility with the editor which could affect future pitches. Earning media placements is not an exact science, and there is a bit of luck involved. However, doing some basic homework up front and communicating that extra effort to the editors sets both you and your client up to turn that pitch into a homerun.

  • Serve Your Clients and Colleagues with a Better Style of Leadership

    Mike Isaacson – Senior Account Executive Account executives (AEs) play a key role in establishing the culture and dynamic between clients and agency teams. As they navigate through the responsibilities of meeting client expectations, managing projects and fostering team collaboration, it can be difficult to effectively maintain positive working relationships. In these situations, the principles of servant leadership offer an easy guide to cementing healthy team dynamics and reinforcing productive communication practices. Servant leadership is a management style that focuses on serving others first and leading second. The term was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf to emphasize empathy, collaboration and the well-being of team members. Applying these servant leadership principles in an agency setting creates a positive work environment, fosters trust and ultimately leads to better outcomes for clients and the agency as a whole. Empathy and Understanding: By understanding the needs, concerns and aspirations of their clients, AEs can better align agency efforts with client objectives. Similarly, showing empathy towards the creative and account teams creates a supportive culture that boosts morale and productivity. Active Listening: Servant leaders are adept at active listening – a skill crucial for AEs dealing with diverse stakeholders. By truly hearing and comprehending the perspectives of clients, team members and other participants, AEs can make more informed decisions for better strategic outcomes. Clear Communication: Clear and transparent communication is essential in advertising. Servant leaders prioritize open and honest communication, creating an environment where untried concepts can grow into effective campaigns. AEs can apply this principle by fostering a culture of open dialogue, where everyone feels comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns. Fostering Collaboration: Successful advertising campaigns require a collective effort from different departments. Servant leaders actively promote collaboration by breaking down barriers and encouraging cross-functional teamwork. Account executives can create a collaborative environment by facilitating regular team meetings, brainstorming sessions and knowledge-sharing initiatives. Development and Growth: Servant leadership emphasizes the growth and development of each team member. AEs can take on a mentoring role, providing guidance and support to those around them. Recognizing and investing in the professional development of individuals enhances team performance and contributes to the long-term success of the agency/client business relationship. The most successful AEs clearly demonstrate the values and behaviors they expect from their teams. AEs set the tone for a positive and collaborative work culture by embodying the principles of servant leadership in their own daily actions and decision making. By embracing empathy, active listening, clear communication, collaboration and a commitment to development, AEs create a more positive and productive work environment that meets client expectations and fosters the growth and success of their teams. Even as advertising agencies evolve, the proven principles of servant leadership can help AEs build relationships that endure.

  • What’s the Point of Client/Agency Status Meetings?

    Taylor Brazell – Account Executive A regular status meeting between agency personnel and their direct client contacts is not just a chance to hang out with your favorite team members, it can also be an extremely useful tool to check in on goals and keep projects on track. Whether they’re once a week, once a month or at any other time interval, meetings between clients and agencies covering a single project or multiple campaigns can allow for better input, increased organization and clearer communication while saving time and money. Input Similar to the yearly planning meetings between the agency and its client, a recurring update meeting gives both groups the chance to evaluate how campaigns have been going and map out the next steps; it just does it on a smaller or more focused scale. While these meetings typically include the client representative or team and the account executive from the agency, they also offer opportunities for other agency staff to receive and give input directly. Depending on the projects, members from the agency public relations, creative and digital departments can hop into meetings as needed to help the process of translating client requests into deliverables, offer their expertise, provide recommendations and offer a new perspective for any brainstorming discussions. Even the meetings themselves can be reviewed at the meetings. Most agencies bill clients according to the time spent on projects. With that in mind, update meetings should only happen as needed. The initial frequency should be set based on the expected workload, but adjustments can be made to meet more or less often as project needs increase and decrease. Organization Everyone has heard of the meeting that should have been an email, but what about the email that should have been a meeting? When multiple projects are going at once and several versions of drafts are circulating to different people within the agency and client teams, keeping up with the most current information can be a challenge over an asynchronous communication channel like email. An in-person or online meeting alleviates some of the dependence on emails by giving everyone the space to discuss decisions, while getting immediate feedback that keeps projects moving and saves time. To keep both the meeting and any ongoing projects on track, account executives should prepare an agenda that includes important steps for each project, including the history of completed components, current needs and upcoming deadlines. The report should also list who is responsible for completing each task, so no one is confused about where their responsibilities lie. Savings Clients may not think of meetings as a way to manage budgets, but good status update meetings will do just that. A real-time conversation can take the place of countless rounds of emails and edits as the client and the agency try to understand each other’s input, ask questions and get on the same page. With a thorough agenda, the right meeting frequency and team members ready to discuss important steps and project goals, regular update meetings can be one of the best investments clients make in their marketing program.

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