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Tweet This! Experience Marketing—When B to B is B to C

Three years ago, Patrick Walldén sold of the majority of his 165 employee agency to a real estate billionaire looking to diversify his portfolio. Arena group was formed when Patrick created Engage, a new lead agency, and combined it with leftovers from his previous company: Kobama, a digital production agency; and Parapix, a film company. Engage works on building engagement within companies . . . and between companies and their customers . . . .to build brand loyalty. Patrick describes Arena as “where brands meet target groups and interact with them in some positive way.”

Rob met up with Patrick at the 2019 South by Southwest Conference in Austin, TX. The two discussed some of the differences and similarities between marketing in Scandinavia and in the USA—the most notable difference being the difference in market size. Arena does work with some large clients. Patrick describes Arena as an activation and communication agency which provides experiential marketing content and event marketing – theater blended with brands and events. A lot of what Arena delivers is product-based.

When Scandinavian Airlines faced constant pressure from discount airlines, Arena helped them establish House of Scandinavia, a physical and digital “bonding platform” where Scandinavian Airlines’ frequent flyers can interact with the company. The focus is on “all things Scandinavian” – food, innovation, and such trademark Scandinavian values as equality and diversity.

Arena creates big brand pavilions for such companies as Volvo and Ericsson in telecommunications. Before social media, it was difficult to get an ROI on huge event marketing platforms. Patrick believes that Social media spin provides the leverage that now makes these big events profitable.

Originally, people thought social media and digitalization would eliminate the need for physical interaction. Au contraire, Patrick claims. Social media actually drives the need to meet more in real life.

No longer are the high-priced marketing experiences targeted to VIPs. Social media has exploded the number stakeholders or influencers that can leverage this type of marketing campaign. So, business to business marketing is becoming more “personal,” – much of it is becoming business to individual or business to person.

How does Arena measure campaign impact? Patrick emphasizes the importance of setting clear targets from the beginning, knowing what you are trying to achieve, and knowing what you could lose. You not only need to know what you need to measure . . . but how you will measure it. If you don’t think it through from the beginning, you may be forced into “faking it” by clever post-campaign KPI placement.

Patrick has found the huge explosion of skilled gig freelancers in the past 10 years has greatly reduced the need for having a large permanent staff . . . agencies can now expand quickly to meet the demands of a large project . . . and easily reduce staff when the project is complete. He feels flexibility and the ability to quickly adapt will become increasingly essential for agency survival.

Patrick can be reached on his company’website at: http://www.arenagroup.eu/ or by email at hello@arenagroup.eu/.

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Compassionate Capitalism

Michael Skolnik, co-founder of Soze Agency, a social impact agency selling compassion, equity, and authenticity, believes that, if his company is going to build creative campaigns about these values, then the company itself has to operate internally according to these values. How is that implemented?

Soze Agency is a worker-owned cooperative. Vacation time is unlimited. What? How does that work?

Soze employees are deeply vested in the success of the company . . . because, to varying degrees, they own it. Michael gave 62% of the company to his workers in the first 3 years and divests himself of 8% more of his ownership every year. In 7 years, he will be out. It is, he says, “an experiment in compassionate capitalism,” a model he would like to see in many more companies. He wants to see everyone win . . . and believes this is one way to make it possible. Employees at Soze don’t take unlimited vacations because they know the company they own and the bonuses they receive depend on their being there and doing the work.

Michael started his career and attended his first South by Southwest conference as a filmmaker, which is a medium for storytelling. Today, his company is rooted in storytelling. At South by Southwest’s March 2019 conference, he participated in a panel, “Moments, Momentum, Movement,” which addressed how cultural “moments become movements, what’s happening now in America and where we are, the work that we do and how that correlates to this temperature rise in the heat of this country, and how we hold onto that for the long term.”

Michael feels this country is in a “tough spot,” uncertain about where it is going and what it wants to become. In the marketing world, this is reflected in brands’ insecurity about how to interact with their customers in critical “moments.” Younger people, in particular, are demanding that companies respond. Michael emphasizes the importance of authentic and relevant communication.

Michael can be reached on his company’s website at: https://www.wearesoze.com/, on Twitter at: @WeAreSoze, on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/michael-skolnik-4998365/, or on FaceBook at: https://www.facebook.com/wearesoze/

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The Purpose-Driven Company: Optimizing Financial Performance

Ann Barlow, West Coast President/ Head of Employee Engagement at Peppercomm, a strategic communications and marketing firm whose purpose is promote, protect, and connect clients—and “to use its innovation and imagination to inspire people to come to know and trust the organizations it works with.” The 23-year-old Peppercomm has its roots in PR, and, although its focus today is on integrated communications, the PR influence persists in the questions it asks: What do clients need? What problems need to be solved? and What is the agency trying to create?

Ann participated in a panel, “Prescription for Sexual Harassment,” at the March 2019 South by Southwest creativity conference in Austin, TX. She places the onus on companies to create opportunities for people to “actually listen to each other.” Solving workplace problems like sexual harassment will require open discussions about things people might think are okay, but actually are not. Clarity about such issues . . . and working toward solving them . . . will improve individual and business performance. People work better in more collaborative, purpose-driven, listening environments, which Ann calls “cultures of innovation.”

Ann sees a difference in what the younger generation of workers demands as employees from the companies where they work—that their companies take a stand on social issues. She feels that companies that have a “North Star” will have an easier time attracting and retaining talent . . . and that companies that are purpose-driven perform better financially  

Ann is researching what needs to change inside organizations . . . and the interrelationship of employee engagement, business structure, how people within organizations listen to each other, and productivity. She intends to publish the results of that study on her company’s website at: http://www.peppercomm.com/

Ann can be reached at her company’s website or on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/ann-barlow-4a42371/

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Recipe for Success: Do Less of Better, Not More of Crap

Lee Caraher is Founder, President, and CEO of Double Forte, a “fiercely independent public relations and social media firm” with offices in New York and San Francisco. They select clients that are good companies doing great things in their categories (in particular – consumer lifestyle, digital life, and professional services); and set goals based on business outcomes (ROI)—not PR outcomes. At least 50% of the company’s employees has a minimum of 8 years of experience.

In this interview, Lee provides tips on how to communicate effectively in email messages and why it is important for an agency to be “easy to work with.” She believes that measuring against business goals comes first, because the closer an agency is to meeting its clients’ business goals, the longer term its contracts will be. The longer term its contracts are, the more profit the agency can drive out of those contracts and the longer it will keep its employees. Her company’s average client engagement period from Day 1 is 5-½ years, double the average retention rate in San Francisco. With an eye for the numbers, Lee points out that these strategies also help on the staffing side: Her 16-year-old company’s average tenure for people under 30 is 4-½ years and over 30 is 6-½ years.

During the 2008 recession Lee re-engineered her company. Originally, she had required new hires to have at least 10 years of experience. With the economic downturn, she knew she had to bring on less-experienced people so that when things turned around, she would have a continuum of experience instead of a “hard times” hiring freeze “doughnut hole.” She cut frills, diversified the client base and increased the percentage of consumer goods clients (working with consumer goods clients on a national basis), and told her employees to dig deep with prospective clients. Instead of saying “No” as a first response to clients that didn’t appear to “fit,” she told her agents to say, “Yes, tell me more.” If they got to “No” in the end, they would have arrived there by going through, “Yes,” and not bypassed an opportunity.

Lee can be reached on her company’s website at: double-forte.com or follow her on Twitter @DoubleFortePR.

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Leveraging Personal Swag for the Right Brand Message

Izzy Lugo is COO at Urban Misfit Ventures, an 8-month-old, start-up holding company that Izzy confesses “pivots a lot.”

One agency subsidiary, IEEG, specializes in storytelling and influencer marketing – often by creating a video to tell a brand’s story. The influencer marketing portion of their work is based on stories told by influencers, but the influencers are Urban Misfit Venture’s employees, each of whom has a massive individual following. Because the employees are the influencers, they can consult with clients and carefully craft the messages that need to be presented. No paying an influencer and trusting that individual to say “the right thing.” IEEG knows what message it wants to send . . . and knows it is going to get it.

Urban Misfit Ventures’ clients include Milwaukee’s professional sports teams and national and international clothing and design brands, who are amazed that the agency and the influencers are one and the same.

The second Urban Misfit Ventures’ subsidiary, MKE Misfits, is an events company that tells the client’s brand story, is very involved in that story, and then provides “quirky” experiential promotions to differentiate itself and its client companies. The company has a major reputation in the Milwaukee area. Urban Misfit Ventures is planning to introduce a number of other specialty subsidiaries I 2019.

How did it all start? After a period of separate careers, Quentin, Izzy’s college roommate, had met with two of the company’s other founders, and then approached Izzy to pitch the idea of Urban Misfit Ventures. After an hour conversation, Izzy was on board, and two weeks later, he quit his job at the bike share. In eight months, the team has grown to 10 employees, including interns. When they started, they traded services for their space at a co-working space, truly starting from scratch.

Izzy can be reached on his company’s website at: urbanmisfitventures.com, as can anything related to IEEG or MKE Misfits. His company is also on LinkedIn and Instagram. Izzy, Israel Lugo III uses @IzzyLugo for all his handles..

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Avoiding Chaos to Expedite Agency Growth

Jason Blumer is CEO of Blumer and Associates, a CPA firm dedicated to providing strategic growth strategies to creative design, digital, and marketing agencies ready to go to “the next level.” Key areas of influence include transforming people to facilitate growth, leveraging teams to scale, and recrafting business models. Areas of greatest impact are pricing . . . and how a business is run.

Jason notes that an agency’s pricing reflects its value to its market or its niched expertise. It will take 2 to 3 years for an agency to transition from hourly pricing to value-based pricing – a process that starts with new clients. Legacy clients who refuse to abandon the old hourly-pricing model become “legacy baggage.” No matter the form, the co-existence of legacy systems (the old way of doing things)—whether pricing, organizational, or operational – and new, conflicting, growth-targeted policies and procedures causes confusion, and what Jason refers to as “chaos.” This kind of growth problem is often the result of an owner not letting go and letting the business become what it is meant to be – or the owner pulling rank and violating the new “rules,” destroying credibility.

Much of the focus of Blumer & Associate’s work is on moving toward simplicity, eliminating chaos (chaos inhibits growth), and transforming business owners into organizational leaders. These leaders are then charged with:

  1. Developing relevant mission statements and defining how to live out those missions
  2. Implementing core (foundational) values and effective patterns, processes, and rhythms
  3. Caring deeply for their teams and the rhythms around their teams
  4. Keeping people and teams accountable and leading them to all walk in the same direction.
  5. Encouraging collaboration. Collaboration leads to strength

Jason warns companies not to hire people who are unwilling to collaborate and outlines a process to safely release an employee who refuses to collaborate or fails to follow an organization’s core values:

  1. Recognize and acknowledge nonconforming behavior, with a friendly offer to help or explain
  2. Make a less-friendly suggestion that the employee work on the problem
    1. The employee’s failure to follow core values
    2. That the employee must follow core values for the company’s health
    3. That the issue has been discussed
    4. That the employee knows the rules and knew them when hired
  3. Meet facetime (in-person/virtual) with a manager pointing out:
  4. Meet facetime (in-person/virtual) with a manager telling the employee that s/he has to follow the core values and then stating, “You will do it and this is the last conversation we’ll have asking you to do it.”
  5. Let the employee go in a way that does not hurt the firm and or the released employee

Jason can be contacted by googling “Jason Blumer,” on Facebook, on Instagram, on his website at jasonblumer.com, @JasonMBlumer on Twitter, or on his company’s LinkedIn site at https://www.linkedin.com/company/blumer-&-associates-cpas-pc/ , or website at: https://www.blumercpas.com/.

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Building Strong Links to Move the Needle

Four years ago, Paddy Moogan, author of The Link-Building Book and Co-Founder of Aira, sat with Matt Beswick in the Aria casino in Las Vegas, and over a half hour and too many drinks, planned out the company that would be Aira. Today, the company employs 34 people and provides SEC, paid search, content marketing, digital PR, and link-building. Clients range in size from local companies with 3 to 4 employees on up to FTSE 100 clients earning billions—but most are “in the middle.”

Aira’s focus, now that they are big enough to turn down clients they don’t want, is on companies big enough to have their own marketing department . . . those that have enough of a budget to work with Aira long term.

Paddy participated on a panel discussing, “How to Drive Inbound Links in the Age of Content Skeptics,” at the January 2019 SMX East in New York City. Panel members provided tips on how to establish links by producing and promoting good content. Paddy presented seven different techniques Aira uses to create more engaging content . . . to build links and onboard bloggers and journalists (see Addendum below).

 

Addendum

Paddy Moogan’s seven tips form the January 2019 SMX East Conference panel discussion, “How to Drive Inbound Links in the Age of Content Skeptics”:

Develop reusable content: If someone releases data on a regular schedule, make an infographic and swap new data into the same template as it is updated.

Make Outreach an ongoing activity: Build a content bank for non-stop outreach.

Learn what works across industries: Analyze campaign, link, industry, and content type effectiveness. Track link attributes. Use the tracking data to prioritize future efforts.

Exclusive content: Select a client-relevant, top-tier publication. Contact a journalist for that publication and offer an for 24-48 hour coverage exclusive on a data-backed story.

Outreach to second-tier websites: Discover who links directly to your content, and links through others who are covering you. Reach out to secondary linkages and invite them to link to you directly.

Use keyword research for more links: Find these keywords in analytics, the open graph, title tags and descriptions. Think about the keywords that you can rank for in content pieces and campaigns.

Get past gatekeepers: Internal PR teams and may guard their contacts. If you can determine their campaign plans, you can create and share a content calendar with those PR people. Establish, build, and share your own contact lists. (Be careful in the EU to comply with GDPR regulations)

Retrieved 01/15/2015 from https://searchengineland.com/how-to-get-links-to-your-site-create-content-that-people-want-to-link-to-307096

In this interview, Paddy talks about what marketers need to do to build strong links:

  1. Developers need to create websites with good user experience in mind: good websites, good content, fast websites, and mobile-responsive websites
  2. Developers need to build and promote website content that is link-worthy. Link-worthy content scales well. A website with a wealth of link-worthy content will get links beyond those that are expected.

At Aira, Paddy’s team might generate 50, 60, 70 content ideas for a website. They then go through a validation process—asking a lot of questions—to determine which ideas are link-worthy, including:

  1. What concepts should get links?
  2. Who is going to link to it?
  3. Who is going to care?
  4. Who will actually look at that content and go “yes, I’m going to link to it”?
  5. What will inspire people to link to the site?

Paddy notes that there is “a massive difference between a good piece of content and a good piece of content that can get links” and that content should be appropriately updated, because Google prioritizes fresher content. He also provides a “timeline guideline” that Aira uses to handle client KPI impact expectations.

Paddy can be reached on his company’s website at: https://www.aira.net/ and on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/paddymoogan/.

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Growing (Exponentially) with the Clients you Grow . . . in 20 Native Languages

Bastian Grimm is CEO and Director of Organic Search at Peak Ace, a full-service marketing agency located in Berlin. Peak Ace provides organic and paid search, SEO, content marketing, and AdWords services.

Bastian, with an organic search background, and his partner, Marcel Prothmann (now Director of Performance Advertising), with a paid search background, met when they found themselves working on the same projects. They started Peak Ace at the beginning of 2008 with a focus on German, Austrian and Swiss markets and grew to around 15 employees in 5 or 6 years, then added France, the Netherlands, Italy and Holland.

Europe has a high cultural and linguistic diversity. Peak Ace started to add language capabilities for existing clients who wanted to a penetrate additional markets. Key to the success of its program was the understanding that pure translation—extending languages by using freelancers or translation agencies—does not work in communicating messages and the nuances of messages across cultures. It is critical to also understand the culture and the applied marketing technology. As its customers requested more language facility, Peak Ace hired natively fluent speakers to meet their needs and demands. The company wanted the same high level of quality across all languages—from German to French to Chinese and Japanese, and all the varied accents of the Arabic Emirate.

About 3 years back, Airbnb, with one of the top 10 marketing budgets in the world, took note of Peak Ace’s language capabilities. Working with Airbnb gave Peak Ace the opportunity to scale from their 15 employees and original 5 or 6 languages to 130 staff natively fluent in 20 languages in one office. Bastian recognizes that, if his company had not grown in its language capabilities, its clients would have had to deal with its counterpart competitors in other countries. Shortly thereafter, the company found itself doubling every year, with attendant growing pains as its processes and structures struggled to keep pace with the company’s growth. Increased language capabilities increased headcount, which changed the office dynamics and the clientele in a spiraling feedback loop.

When Peak Ace works with multinational clients, it builds a master template in English, and then localizes the message into the various languages. Bastian feels it is important to keep a common structure whenever possible—as this provides one more tool to ensure consistent quality

Bastian finds working in a multi-culti environment to be highly rewarding. But managing a company that, over the past few years, has doubled in size every year creates challenges. In this interview, Bastian outlines the strategic decisions behind his company’s success, and the values he has found to be increasingly important in today’s market:

  1. Be aware that a growing company will change significantly at different stages in its growth and impact hiring and promoting decisions.
  2. Create a structured path to guide people in their personal and professional growth within the company.
  3. Build appropriate scalable software solutions and business processes from the beginning.

Bastian can be reached on his company’s website at: https://www.pa.ag/en/agency/, on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bastiangrimm/, and on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/basgr.

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Talking Technology and Featured Snippets

Eric Enge, CEO at Stone Temple Consulting, spent 15 to 20 years providing SEO, content marketing, and social media for large enterprise clients, including several Fortune 50 clients. The company distinguishes itself with a strong commitment to solving actual problems, rather than pitching generic formulas and “hoping they stick.” Stone Temple Consulting became part of Perficient Digital, a $500 million public consulting firm, in July 2018, after a 3-month courtship. Today, Eric serves as General Manager of Perficient Digital.

Lead co-author of The Art of SEO, the 900+ page “bible of SEO,” contributing author (Forbes, Search Engine Land, Marketing Land, Search Engine Watch, Copyblogger and Social Media Today), host of 2 live video broadcasts a week (The Digital Marketing Excellence Show and The Digital Marketing Answers Show) and a Coursera Instructor, Eric spent the first 10 years of his career at Phoenix Technologies, manufacturer of BIOS, a software piece that “boots” most of the world’s computers, and then 5 years running his own business development consulting firm.

He took a right turn when a friend asked him to build business development strategies for a DVD e-tail site. Eric researched ways to use search engines to drive traffic the company’s page. A year later, organic searches had generated $3 million in annual sales. Eric became the SEO digital marketing expert. Approaching problems from unconventional angles is characteristic of his work.

A global Fortune 200 e-commerce site that requested that Stone Temple audit their site, check the SEO, and add some content marketing to overall increase organic search traffic and sales from that traffic. Stone Temple discovered 95 percent of the company’s business came from the US site, but Google spent 70% of its crawling time going to the international versions of the site. In a bold move, Stone Temple blocked Google’s access to the international versions of the site. The result? Total aggregate site traffic increased 30% in 60 days.

In this interview, Eric provides a wealth of information on:

1) the goal and impact of Google’s 2018 updates (how to make query responses relevant to users—by looking at not only the content that answers user’s question, but also the content that would answer the related questions that would tend to follow),

2) the role of “featured snippets” and “speakable markup.” (A featured snippet includes an answer that has been extracted from a webpage, a link to the page, the page title and the URL. Because the featured snippet block appears above the organic search results and below the AdWords block, it sits, not in position 1 of the Google search results, but in what is referred to as “position 0.”), and

3) the future of conversational interfaces. He asks what a good conversational interface looks like and what it will take to build it. “People will shift to voice experience,” he says, “once it becomes a better option for them than their keyboard experience.”

Finally, Eric talks about “who to hire” and why and how he sold his company as he approaches his retirement

Eric can be reached on Twitter at @stonetemple or on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/ericenge/.

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Remarkable Sales! Getting Clients to Know, Like, and Trust You

Mike Lieberman, CEO and Co-Founder, Square 2 Marketing (the first Hubspot Diamond agency), describes his company as a revenue growth agency. Its purpose is to create revenue generation “machines” for its clients that will provide scalable, repeatable, and predictable revenue growth results – starting with attracting website visitors, turning them into leads, and the helping clients convert these leads into new customers.

Mike feels that driving revenue growth is far more complicated and complex than it’s ever been before, Key to the process is the idea of, “How are we going to create an amazingly remarkable experience for our prospects?” and “How do we continue that experience?” He uses Disney’s “Experience Mapping” in describing a better (more remarkable) form of customer “sales experience.”

A remarkable sales experience starts when 90% of the initial conversation is about the customer. “What’s going on in your business? What brings you here today? Tell me what’s going on. What’s working? What’s not working? Why marketing? Tell us what you’re thinking.” Asking a lot of questions is the only way the sales team will know enough about the client to be helpful.

Mike believes that, when you ask people about themselves, “magical” things happen – they like talking about themselves and get comfortable. You have to give them the chance to feel safe with you – a nervous or uncertain client is more likely to balk at going forward. Mike notes that people buy emotionally first . . . and then later rationalize the decision. The key things that make someone feel safe are that they have to feel that they know, like and trust you.

Marketing today in a complicated mesh of strategy, tactics, technology, and analytics. Mike feels that many companies, large and small, “miss” because they fail to have a compelling message. He references Seth Godin, a savvy marketer who says your business has to be remarkable . . . as does your message. “Me, too” or vague and generic messages fail to communicate product and company strengths.

Mike is looking forward to more HubSpot add-on technology services and has developed a piece of comprehensive artificial intelligence software that scoops up date from HubSpot and Google Analytics (and other eventually other data-generating software), and then analyzes and synthesizes the data to provide insights and make recommendations. MaxG at maxg.ai is promoted as “the First AI-Powered B2B Marketing And Sales Insight And Recommendation Engine.” Agencies can sign up for pre-launch access on the maxg.ai website.

Mike is available on his company’s website at: Square 2 Marketing and on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-lieberman-7a9579 or https://www.linkedin.com/company/square-2-marketing.

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