Published by Russell Cooper, April 27th, 2017
If growth - driven by new products and services - were the natural state of business affairs, the economy would grow more than 2% per year. In fact, you might say that simple inflation of prices accounts for this level and real growth this last decade has been next to nil. In 2016, Robert Gordon’s monumental study, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, provided ample documentation of how most of the necessities, conveniences, and productivity enhancers of our modern life were invented and developed more than 70 years ago. Efforts since - with the exception of computing and media - have largely been just window dressing. Planes fly at the same speed they did in 1957.
My first, eye-opening encounter with the inability of your average business to invent, grow, and change was my involvement with an industrial retention association in Cleveland during the mid 2000s. This was a group of family businesses and smaller divisions of corporations - largely long established and employing 25-200 employees. There were no start-ups in the group. Many were single product or service firms. Sadly, most seemed a few generations removed from the inspiration and energy that created them. As a sizeable portion of these firms were experiencing declining fortunes at the time, the association organized workshops and group discussions to address growth issues; launching e-commerce, overseas expansion, new product development, or starting service arms. To my astonishment, the general consensus was to "wait out the recession and business levels will return to normal."
Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. In the mid-1990s, I worked at Emerson Electric and participated in their growth planning cycle, which culminated each year with a one- or two-day growth conference for each division. Leading up to this, Engineering and Marketing teams would invest months investigating how to squeeze out new variations of existing products, or finding new applications for existing offerings. Given the time, effort, and results, it was taking a sledgehammer to a nail. But you damn well knew that growth beyond inflation levels was expected. In 30 years, I have rarely encountered such a commitment in the many businesses I have come to know. Most don’t have the discipline for it. Does yours?
In order to develop and launch new products and services, a firm must have ideas and ambitions. More precisely, the critical few individuals who innovate and lead within the firm must have these. Organizational vision and commitment to planning and marketing are also required, otherwise ideas and ambition cannot flourish.
There are a variety of approaches to achieve business growth through new products and service offerings. Many times, your ambitions are augmented by factors outside your control or knowledge. John Rockefeller had a superhuman fixation on making kerosene cheap and safe for the masses, in hopes of extending the hours of the day with light. He was hugely successful early on to be sure. But the success and wealth of Standard Oil would have been limited without the advent of the automobile and its insatiable thirst for gasoline some 30 years into these efforts. The readiness to address new opportunities was the greatest factor.
At other times, the larger growth may lay beyond your original scope for an idea.It was recently reported that tens of thousands of traditional retail stores - both independent and large national chains - will close this year and next. Do we really believe that Amazon had this in mind as a primary goal of its business 15 or 20 years ago? Its early business model was based on channel to market innovation, and it proved to be a wrecking ball for the likes of Borders and Barnes and Noble, not to mention the devastation visited upon local independent booksellers. In these early days of success, management consultants urged the firm to stay true to its niche and fundamentals and harvest the fruits of this innovation. Luckily for the future utility and convenience of the vast consuming public, once the concept was mastered, Amazon invested heavily in expanding this vision into new products and markets.
But innovation is not enough on its own. Gone are the days of the world beating a path to your door for a better product or service; the ever-shrinking global marketplace is too crowded and competitive. This is why OffWhite is increasingly emphasizing to its clients the importance of successfully launching new products and services. For 32 years, our firm has specialized in making complex and technical concepts more understandable. Where are such services more important than with introducing new products or reaching new markets?
In a series of blogs throughout this year, OffWhite will share its experiences, suggesting strategies and tactics that help to insure success, warn of common mistakes, obstacles and risks, and make light of how we can help you reach your goals for sustainable growth. For more information, Contact Russell Cooper at 800-606-1610.
Published by Jane Cirigliano , December 30th, 2016
As we enter 2017, I find myself reflecting on the changes I have seen in the digital marketing sphere over the past 15 years. When I started at OffWhite, digital marketing was dominated by websites and what we would now consider very rudimentary SEO. That was pretty much it.
With the advent of social media, analytics, marketing automation and too many other digital spokes to list, we now have so many options that we often lose track of the ultimate goal of all digital marketing: connecting with a customer at the right moment to create a lasting relationship that translates into sales—and in a perfect world—brand advocacy.
Despite all of the changes in digital marketing, in the life sciences B2B world, your website is still the center of it all. Every email marketing campaign, social post, content marketing tool, lead generation effort and advertising activity draws customers and prospects to your website, where you can capture their information and provide personalized content that delivers value and creates customer loyalty.
So how do you know if your website is doing a good job? Here are 10 key performance indicators of a strong website presence. Read on and see how your website stacks up.
- Easy to Find. Before your customers can engage with your brand, they must be able to find you. SEO is ever evolving, and we expect 2017 to see even more changes, especially in mobile. It's not all about SEO though. Paid traffic can also generate new business, if monitored correctly so you don't overspend. In addition, third-party traffic sources such as social media, directories, forums and even paid product listings provide quality traffic and leads. The trick is to monitor incoming traffic and leverage the sources that generate the most (and best) leads.
Inform Customers. Once your customers (and prospects) have found you, your website needs to deliver the right information at the right time, speaking to where your customer is within the buyer journey. If a customer is searching for application-specific information that fulfills a specific need, your website's content must be categorized in ways that are simple for customers to locate, even if there are multiple pathways to reach the end goal. Which leads us to...
Lead Customers on a Journey. Not only should your website inform customers, but it should also take them on a brand journey that tells a story. Whether you incorporate customer success stories or simply tell your own corporate story in an engaging way, customers should always be able to see the next step, or call to action. Based on their location in the sales cycle, your website should lead customers to download resources, request quotes, place orders or connect with your company in other meaningful ways. All of these calls to action, by the way, provide your sales team with leads, which we will review further in #6.
Personalize Experiences. Once you have acquired customers, it is your website's job to recognize them when they return. Customers, and even prospects, who have shown an interest in particular products and topics in the past should be targeted for personalized content that should be of interest based on previous visits. Cross selling similar products and services can also be achieved when personalized content pathways are created and used to their fullest potential on your website.
Engage Customers. In addition to providing on-site personalized engagement, your website should easily tie into other engagement platforms, such as social media and email marketing. By connecting with customers across multiple platforms, with consistent messaging that ties into your overall brand story, you solidify your position and grow relationships. A simple way to re-engage customers who have already visited your website is with remarketing campaigns.
Generate Leads and Sales. Engaged customers not only result in repeat sales, but they become brand advocates that in turn help you generate more leads. Your website needs to be prepared to nurture leads with multiple sales pathways depending on the customer's areas of interest and place in the buyer journey. Existing customers need nurturing too. Value-added content marketing tools such as ebooks, white papers and other resources help you attain leads and stay in front of existing customers with helpful information.
Be Agile. The speed of business does not allow you to wait for a programmer to add new products, resources and other valuable information to your website. Often, blogs and responses to industry news are entry points for new customers. Your website needs to be built on a platform that lets you respond to the market in a timely manner. Anything less puts you behind the competition.
Support Your Team. While your external website is designed to inform, engage and incite action from your customers, your website should have a separate, often hidden or password-protected, area for your internal team. File sharing, sales training, calendars and other internal resources such as webinar recordings, product presentations and sample proposals are easily accessible via Digital Asset Management, all connected to your website.
Tie All of Your Marketing Together. If everything you do—from paid ads and media placements to social media and email marketing—drives customers back to your website, your website must set the tone for your overall brand. Many website platforms can be integrated with CRM, email marketing, accounting systems and more to provide information on multiple data points, all in one cohesive system.
Track Success. Having all of these tools in one place is great, but it means little if you cannot track the results. Your website should either contain server-side tracking tools; integrate with Google Analytics, HubSpot or other third-party software; or offer a combination of both. With a robust tracking system, you can determine the ROI on each of your marketing efforts, making budget planning and campaign management much simpler. Having the ability to track leads generated and customers gained across multiple channels removes guesswork and allows you to focus on conversion rate optimization.
Published by Abby Spung , October 13th, 2016
Investing in an outside agency to grow your business through integrated marketing often means a rather large investment. Yet more than money and a few weeks or months of work go into this investment. Like a marriage, the continued success depends on more than the wedding—more than a one-time expense.
Making a commitment to redesign your brand, website or launch a new company is exciting. You get to shop around to find the best people to support your vision and make your special day (the launch day, of course) the most memorable and rewarding.
While the launch day does represent the culmination of your hard work, it also represents the first day of your new bright and promising future. As long as you have a continuing plan.
For OffWhite, and many similar agencies, the goal in working with a client is to eventually step out of the picture and let them take over management of their brand. While planning for eventualities like retirement are a given in a partnership like marriage, this level of forward thinking is not always the norm when businesses partner with a marketing agency.
Many companies don’t want to invest in a corporate standards manual, brand book or curriculum development because they fail to see the value. However, if they experience any turnover, something that is almost always a certainty, they have nothing that explains to new hires how to do the work.
What You Can Do
With the intention of saving money or minimizing expense, many companies hire a marketing coordinator who has exposure to many facets of what we do, like graphic design, video production and marketing. This usually creates minimal overhead for the company as just one person oversees a variety of marketing areas. Yet these cost savings are not without issue.
It is often difficult to find someone who can do this and do it well. Because of the variety of mediums we manage it is hard to find someone who can handle all of that well, particularly at an entry level position. If a company does hire the right person, it is much easier to work with them and have everything set up properly to ensure the continued management of the brand. Yet because of the nature of this position, there’s typically a fair amount of turnover. How do companies then prevent the coordinator’s departure from degrading the business’ identity; does it leave with them?
If you develop a plan for the endgame and do so as early in your agency partnership as possible, you can prepare for turnover as well as what happens when you do finally part ways with an agency, which is really the nature of such relationships today. To know where you are going, you need to know where you have been. Investing in the a corporate standards manual or brand book also helps you track where you have been for the continued growth of your company. The exit strategy and your continued planning for success are just as, if not more, important than the initial project work completed by an agency – otherwise your investment gets lost.
What We Can Do
The model of just staying with an agency is not always feasible, particularly for smaller companies. When we work with clients we try to find a middle ground to develop templates that are sophisticated enough to represent the image they want to present but distilled to a level that someone of limited or varied expertise can do what they need to do in the files once we are out of the picture.
To do that successfully, however, we need to write a corporate standards manual or brand book that explains, without information overload, the step-by-step instructions of the process. This manual is the solution to the inevitable parting of ways between agency and business as well as any staff changes a company might see.
Take the time to understand your investment and what its continuing value can be. As an agency, it becomes frustrating for us when we see shortsightedness and know we can’t do anything about it. Having an end plan is just as much an investment for us as it is for the client. It protects their investment and it protects our time because we can show through our portfolio that this is something we are still proud to have contributed to. If you do anything for your next marketing overhaul, come up with a road map. Just like you plan in life with a career, savings and retirement, you must consider the endgame.
Published by Elizabeth Godfrey , August 25th, 2016
Google continues to make updates and improvements to its cross-device conversions metric which was first introduced three years ago. Starting this September, Google will begin including cross-device conversions under the main conversions column automatically. This change moves the information from the “Cross-Device Conversion” column where it has previously existed and removes the option to manually include the metric under “Conversions.”
What it is
Cross-device conversions track the full search to purchase process of online customers, regardless of multiple devices. Online shoppers who are signed into their Google account across devices, like mobile phones, tablets and desktops, can be tracked to show device usage throughout the conversion process. This means clicks on a Google AdWords pay-per-click ad that originate on one internet enabled device are tracked throughout the search and purchase process on any other device.
Cross-device conversions is still relatively new to Google AdWords. Yet a growing reliance on a variety of internet enabled devices makes it more beneficial than ever to track these conversions. Google’s push to increase visibility of cross-device metrics demonstrates the increased need for companies to invest in responsive website design if they have not already done so. According to Google, “61% of internet users and over 80% of online millennials start shopping on one device but continue or finish on a different one.”
Why it matters
Marketers know the importance of mobile readiness and tracking. Moving cross-device conversion to the main tab makes it easier to find this information and continue, or start, tracking these conversions. Setting up attribution allows you to actually give credit to mobile users for conversions that previously defaulted as desktop users. This provides a more accurate picture of mobile conversions and, ultimately, the ROI for responsive website designs.
Published by Bill White , January 7th, 2016
"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose"
Les Guêpes, January 1849
As we commit our Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations to warm memories of a hectic month, we turn our attention to January, 2016 and prepare to celebrate our 31st year at OffWhite later this month.
Since we started our company on a cold day in 1985, the evolution of OffWhite - and to business and technology in general - is staggering. While the pathways to our markets and client services have offered new dimensions in efficiency and accountability, our basic work remains the same. The more things change, the more they stay the same, right?
Yes and no.
In 2015 we continued to reinvest in the tools and technologies we need to compete in a global market. The substrate upon which we run OffWhite is as advanced and efficient as any in the world. While we work in an historic, bucolic college town on the banks of the Muskingum River in Marietta, Ohio, we are within reach of anyone and everyone on earth at light speed. We rightfully claim we’re in the middle of nowhere, and in the middle of everywhere.
The foundation for the OffWhite business model may be unique; we’re a relatively small firm specializing in technology marketing for highly specialized companies who we select as much as they select us. But our acumen runs deep. The details we seek, the weeds in which we live, the desire to learn, and the natural curiosity that drives us to peek behind the curtains of new technologies and business processes, make up the DNA of who we are and what we do at OffWhite. It is this curiosity that drives us to excellence.
In 2015 we implemented our new business development program that brought us together with companies who share our values. These are companies that are making a difference in their industries and bringing true value to their markets. We committed to travel more frequently and to reach out beyond our borders while remaining tethered to the cloud servers that bind us together and host our intellectual property.
As a result, we are fulfilling the objectives of several companies who have put their trust in our entire team at OffWhite. These companies are located throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. No two are alike. The marketing services we offer don’t come off the shelf. And while our inventory walks out the door each day, we are always on the job.
The Need for Planning
The orchestration of a blended marketing program begins with a plan. We have gotten better at enforcing brand discipline on clients who are often too close to their own pivot points to understand the true context of daily decisions.
Accountability in the marketing investment has never been better, especially now that we have extraordinary analytics that reveal secrets of customer behavior in an instant. Knowing how to set-up this equation, and what to do with the information itself has become a centerpiece of our marketing strategies. Too little information, and we’re back where we started. Too much information and we’re paralyzed.
Staying Ahead of the Next Best Idea
The interplay between conventional marketing tools and continuously evolving innovations enabled by digital platform management reveals results that may be fascinating, but not always useful or productive.
At OffWhite, our first test for any program is “just because we can doesn’t mean we should”. And, no matter how we’re reaching our customers today, we know that tomorrow will bring another option, and the background noise will continue to rise. It’s our job to cut through it, at the right time and with the right people, so that a need can be met, a sale can be made, and a customer can be served. This basic equation applies to selling technology and perfume. One delivers a solution; the other promises hope.
Our Business Objectives
If you are our client, we will take care of you. We will give you our best work, on time and on budget. If we’re not sure, we’ll ask. If we think you don’t know, we’ll challenge you to find out. And above all, we'll do our own thinking.
If you are not yet a client, but think we would be a good fit under a mutually beneficial arrangement, we will explore the chemistry.
If you are a business partner or an alliance partner of OffWhite, we will continue to support you and seek your support in return. Our network of trusted advisors will soon span three decades and we will reward ourselves with the challenges and opportunities that have kept us together for so long.
If you are a sales, marketing or product manager, we will respect the confidence and trust you have placed in us; we know that your job, your reputation, is based on the outcomes we share. We’ve never phoned it in and never will. We will not let you down.
If you are struggling with the mysteries of search engine algorithms, social media drivers and the newest language of marketing, we will lead you on this journey while you focus on your business.
If you are a vendor, we will spell out what we want, but seek your counsel; we don’t know everything. When we’re done you’ll be paid as promised, quickly, as always.
And if you have something to say – and you must – we will find the words. Despite the changes we’ve absorbed over the last three decades, one constant is the one so many fear: Content. In content, there is nowhere to hide. In technology, there is no way to wordsmith an understanding of products, processes or services that remain critical to whatever industries you reach. At OffWhite, we exist to create content.
Behind the Curtain
Client service is not just what we do; it’s who we are. Service is why we come to work. People often ask us how we have survived in a volatile environment for more than 30 years. There are no secrets to this. We wrap our talents, skills, technologies and teamwork around our clients like a warm blanket.
Let's have a wonderful year, together.
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Offenberger & White, Inc. (OffWhite) is an integrated marketing solutions company based in Marietta, Ohio, USA.
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P.O. Box 1012, 521 Fort Street, Marietta, OH 45750. 1-800-606-1610 or 1-800 OFFWHITE.