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 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 Bill White , August 21st, 2015
The first time I sat at the controls of a helicopter the pilot said “This is like a bumblebee; it’s not supposed to fly but it does.” The first time I sat at the controls of an airplane my pilot friend pushed the throttle forward and said “Don’t be afraid of it; it wants to fly”. And it did.
The difference, I learned, was one of inherent stability. Properly designed, the airplane wants to fly. The helicopter does not. It has no inherent stability. You have to create it by managing collective and cyclic pitch, rotor speed and rudder controls.
This obtuse comparison is a perfect metaphor for managing the new algorithmic mysteries of search engine optimization to optimize page rankings and intelligent content enriched by metadata. A few years ago, if you wrote the copy and it was well done, readable and accurate, it would be understood. Inherent stability.
This is no longer good enough. Content marketing, according to industry expert Ann Rockley, “. . . is structurally rich, semantically aware and . . . automatically discoverable, reusable, reconfigurable and adaptable”.
As marketing people, we depend on the internet and digital marketing platforms to distribute our content as far and as high as it can go. Amid a crowded landscape, everyone has a message. The push to the top is brutal. Today, brute force and big bucks are no longer keys to success when it comes to showing up on search engines. We have to finesse our way into the equation using a combination of tools all related to content.
No matter what you call this new discipline – content optimization, intelligent content, whatever – there are good ways and useless ways to approach the balancing act. The good ways involve managing analytics, processing feedback, adjusting what we say on a website or in social media, and watching the impact of our changes as they propagate throughout cyberspace.
The days of writing good content and letting it fly are over. Good content doesn’t want to fly; it has to be flown, and the only inherent stability we can count on is the stability we create with hands-on control. Without expertise and a keen understanding of algorithms, traveling through the digital world can be a white knuckle experience.
Don’t try this at home. Find someone you can trust, work with them and enjoy the ride. Click here for more on Intelligent Content. To discuss how we can assist with the challenges you're facing with content optimization contact Jane Cirigliano or Bill White at 800-606-1610.
Published by Jane Cirigliano , February 20th, 2015
Business partnerships drive all parties involved to be better. They encourage trust and collaboration. When you partner with another company, you gain new skill sets and the opportunity to mentor others.
Two recent partnerships in the search engine world are affecting the strategies we employ in Search Engine Optimization and social media.
Yahoo and Firefox
In November 2014, Firefox announced it would be ending a 10-year partnership with Google, and Yahoo would become the browser's new default search engine in the U.S. As a result of this partnership, Yahoo has already improved its search user experience with insights from Firefox. The contract mentions "other" joint ventures over the next five years.
Over the past few months, we have watched as Yahoo's traffic on websites we manage has increased. Google traffic hasn't taken as large a hit as one might expect, but there is a noticeable difference.
This partnership has serious ramifications for anyone investing in SEO. Where once the largest focus was on Google rankings, Yahoo has honed in on a larger market share, escalating the need to appear on Yahoo search results. If your organic traffic has been down since the holidays, compare your Google and Yahoo sourced visitors to find out if this new partnership is affecting your web traffic.
Google and Twitter
Twitter announced earlier this month that the social network will partner with Google to bring tweets back into search results. Twitter will give Google access to its feed of data, and Twitter's advertisers will gain more coverage with non-Twitter users via Google. By the way, Twitter already has similar deals in place with Yahoo and Bing to display tweets on their search engines.
So what does this mean for businesses? Real-time information is going to have a more prominent place in search results. We've already seen this with Google+ results and previous social network deals (i.e. Twitter and Google from 2009-2011).
If you are not actively posting on social media, especially Twitter, you are missing an opportunity to reach more potential buyers. You must post strategically and often, choosing keywords carefully to tie into your SEO program.
Why Partnerships Matter
As seen in the two examples above, the way that we do business, market our products and services, and reach our prospects is constantly evolving. Not only do new innovations, technologies and tools change the way we communicate with our customers, but also outside forces alter the way we do business.
Do you need a partner who can help you navigate this constantly-changing environment to keep you in front of your customer base?
Published by Jane Cirigliano , January 20th, 2015
Over the past few months I have received dozens, if not hundreds, of articles touting the latest and greatest marketing and digital trends that we should employ in 2015. While it is important to be aware of new tools and technologies, we should implement them strategically, not just because everyone else is jumping on the band wagon.
Just Another Buzz Word
Our role as marketers is constantly evolving and shifting as new technology is introduced. Digital marketing has morphed from the new face of marketing to a buzz word with very little meaning. We tend to focus on the multitude of digital tools available to us (social media, email, PPC ads, analytics, etc.). If we use these tools, we consider ourselves active in the digital marketing realm.
What we are losing sight of is that we are marketing in a digital age, not to digital media. Differentiating ourselves amongst the noise is harder than ever. To truly stand out from the competition, we must use marketing channels - digital and traditional - creatively. This means coming up with unique ways of using these new tools to reach our target audiences in ways that our competition has not thought of yet.
What Is Important?
While I am not encouraging you to latch onto any one marketing fad just because it is new and exciting - or the competition is doing it - there are some realities you should be aware of:
- Mobile traffic is constantly growing. Security on mobile devices is a hot topic, meaning that companies are planning for increased mobile purchasing via e-commerce and payments with apps like Apple Pay.
- Knowing your audience has always been important, but micro-targeting and automation are becoming the new standard. Customers expect your communications to be personalized and polished.
- Given customer expectations and the availability of information online, professional writing is more important than ever. Brand loyalty is built when customers have positive interactions with your company. Make a strong first impression and see it through with consistent messaging.
- Since customers look to their peers for product recommendations more and more, internal communications are a priority for many companies. Your employees can be groomed through education programs to become brand ambassadors for your organization.
- Wearable devices like the Apple Watch, Google Glass and others are becoming more widely used. If your product or service has a viable application on one of these devices, you should be planning ahead now.
Try Something New
Whether it’s coming up with a new way to convert grad students to customers through Instagram or developing a highly-targeted inbound campaign that yields great results, try something different this year. When you do, implement one new channel at a time, making sure that you can track traffic, leads and sales to determine successes and areas for improvement.
When you know which marketing channels are producing the best results for your company, you can make decisions on investments and new ideas with confidence.
At OffWhite, we are marketing technologists. We understand that developing a unique way to share your company’s brand promise across multiple channels for a unified message is more important than the tools you use to share that message.
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Offenberger & White, Inc. (OffWhite) is an integrated marketing solutions company based in Marietta, Ohio, USA.
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