Techweek 2017 Takeaways

Last week Chicago’s thriving technology scene was ignited with the annual Techweek conference that took place over the course of several days all over the city and culminated in the Techweek Gives fundraising competition ending ceremony.

Before getting into the new learnings and themes we took away from this year, we want to take a moment to reflect on the expansion the Chicago tech community has seen. There is something to be said about the strong community network that has developed out of the tech scene in Chicago and successful events like Techweek make that base thrive even more. Year over year, we’ve been able to ingrain ourselves in the lively tech culture and network and for that, we are thankful.

From this year’s summit, here are a few of the sessions Walker Sands employees attended and the points they gleamed from discussions in Data, AI and Enterprise Technology:

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Data Intelligence Presented by Atidiv This session was lead by a panel of CEOs from YCharts, Narrative Science, LQD Business Finance and Civis Analytics. Here are a few major takeaways from the discussion:

  • For data intelligence apps to thrive, full integration is the future.
  • Companies should be mindful of AI and the hype behind it.
  • Companies will need to adapt infrastructure before fully integrating AI.

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Customer Acquisitions for Enterprise – Jeff Ellman of UrbanBound & Hireology, Kevin Kent of ReviewTrackers, Erik Severinghaus of SpringCM and Kristi Zuhlke of KnowledgeHound joined this Techweek panel to discuss their perspectives on acquiring B2B customers. Here’s what we learned:

  • Don’t underestimate the process of qualifying leads.
  • Customer acquisitions have a long pipeline and it can be expensive.
  • Don’t waste time with leads that don’t care and aren’t qualified.
  • In the sales pitch, don’t be afraid to make clients vouch for you via logos and use cases

Picture3Taking time to participate in these events always leads to a regeneration of excitement for our team. This was most obvious by the group who participated in the discussion with Mayor Rahm Emanuel who shared plans for integrating technology into the infrastructural future plans of our city. So many years later and we still find ourselves getting giddy over these kinds of advancements.

Thank you to everyone who worked so hard to pull off a dynamic event that continues to bring together the tech minded community. As a team, we took away great new learnings and are looking forward to what the rest of this year has in store for the Chicago Tech community

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Measuring For Influencer Marketing Success

Influencer marketing is making waves among B2B tech companies because it provides valuable third-party credibility and brand awareness to engaged, well-connected audiences. Influencers can amplify a brand’s social reach, often beyond traditional media outreach, and boost its SEO ranking.

Under-the-Influence_P4The results speak for themselves – 70 percent of B2B companies report that referrals convert better and close faster than any other type of lead.

Although many brands would like to launch an influencer marketing campaign, the challenge is deciding on the who – then effectively managing that relationship to success. There are lot of nitty-gritty details to understand before jumping into an influencer marketing campaign. Here are some important factors to keep in mind.

One-Size-Fits All Won’t Do

  • Picking influencers must be done strategically because having the wrong influencer promoting your brand may do more harm than good. Some important factors to consider include:
  • Brand relevance – A big-name influencer may be alluring, but if they don’t connect to your target audience, it’s not worth much.
    Audience reach – The size of an influencer’s audience matters and should be taken into account to avoid wasting time and energy on a market that’s too small.
  • Audience engagement – It’s about more than numbers alone, if an influencer has 300,000 followers but averages just 20 likes per post, it may mean they have a more passive following.
  • Tone – Though every influencer has a unique voice, it’s crucial that their tone is aligned with your brand to ensure consistency across the campaign content.

Looking for ways to locate and engage with key influencers in your industry? Don’t be afraid to utilize influencer marketing tools like Buzzsumo, SproutSocial and Meltwater.

Tracking To Success

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If you can’t measure the effectiveness of your influencer marketing campaign, it’s impossible to determine if it’s helping to improve your business and if the investment is truly paying off. There are a number of criteria that can help measure success.

For campaign-specific influencer engagement programs, monitor the following:

  • How many pieces of content were created,
  • Sales attributable to influencer relative to influencer channel spend, and
  • The influencer’s engagement or shares of campaign-related assets such as content, URLs and codes.

For an ongoing influencer engagement program, think bigger:

  • Tracking web traffic,
  • Conversions, and
  • The number of brand mentions over time.

Keeping an eye on this information can provide a clearer picture of year-over-year value. It’s also important to note the sentiment of influencer mentions. What are people saying about the influencer’s content? Is it positive, negative, or neutral? Having more than 400 comments on a post may seem promising, but if the conversation is negative, your influencer may actually be damaging your business.

Small Product, Enormous Influencer Success

In 2015, we worked with electronics distributor Newark element14 to announce the launch of Raspberry Pi 2, a pocket-sized computer that offers six times the speed and twice the memory of its original version. We utilized a three-phased influencer marketing campaign to drive sales and grow product awareness among purchases and enthusiasts. In addition to traditional media outreach, we engaged with influential vloggers on YouTube and coordinated giveaways on social channels, generating buzz in places that buyers frequented.

The results were palpable – approximately 40,000 combined shares on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as 84 media placements in a month. Outreach to key influencers resulted in the influx of these social shares and influencers’ videos received more than 60,000 total views. All in all, the company saw a 67 percent growth in sales following the product launch campaign.

Whether you’re looking to harness the power of influencers for a product launch or a long-term campaign, the most important part of the process is cultivating a trusted relationship and measuring the campaign to success. To learn more about the B2B approach to influencer marketing, download our white paper “Under the Influence: A B2B Brand Guide to Influencer Marketing.”

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Grow your Employee Advocacy with Bambu

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Several months ago, we began using Bambu, Sprout Social’s employee advocacy platform. As an agency, Bambu allows us to broaden our social reach and invites our employees to engage with tailored internal and external content and messaging. The platform removes the fourth wall of social media and helps create brand awareness with our people at the forefront.

Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 10.42.33 AMTo begin, employees are invited to the platform and asked to link their social media profiles. From there, they have access to a main feed full of marketing, leadership and practice area related content that they can share directly to their own social media platforms. To make sharing even easier, the software allows you to draft suggested copy that automatically populates with the linked content.

Every week, the application sends out a content roundup newsletter, making it super simple for employees to share content with one click. Newsletters include everything from internal job postings, agency news and weekly client placements. Screen Shot 2017-06-26 at 10.43.02 AM

The platform is a win, win, win. When employees share our suggested posts, they’re advancing their own professional platforms as well as helping to circulate our agency messages and in the case of sharing placements, making their clients look good. Everybody wins with Bambu. 

What we love most about the platform is the ease of use. Everything is laid out in an intuitive manner, which makes adding or editing content seamless. They have a full support team available for assistance, but we rarely find the need to reach out because the platform is effortless.

Sound like a platform that would work for your organization? Request a demo for free today at getbambu.com.  

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The Sky was the Limit for Walker Sands at the PRSA Skyline Awards

We were honored to be recognized among Chicago’s best and brightest PR professionals at the PRSA Skyline Awards last night. PRSA nominated four Walker Sands campaigns from 2016, which included a mix of media relations, data driven content and integrated marketing. We were honored to take home four awards — two Skyline Awards and two Awards of Excellence.

We are so proud of our teams for working hard to gain recognition for some of our most exciting projects this year. At Walker Sands we are continuosly humbled by the opportunities we get to produce work for some of the smartest companies at the top of their industries.  

Here’s a recap of some of the work we were recognized for last night:

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CompTIA: Skyline Award

Our #MakeTechHerStory campaign for CompTIA, a nonprofit trade association for the IT industry, took home a Skyline Award. In 2016, Walker Sands approached CompTIA with an idea for an integrated awareness campaign that would unpack a nagging issue within the technology industry: why so few girls are pursuing careers in IT.

The campaign consisted of a complete rebrand of Rosie the Riveter, social awareness video, strategic media outreach and an interactive socially driven microsite. The campaign resulted in 130 media placements, including 25+ feature stories. The video was viewed a total of 35,000 times, with the Facebook Live! announcement of the campaign reaching 17,000+ viewers.

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Label Insight: Skyline Award

The second Skyline Award of the night went to the Label Insight team for their work creating and promoting tandem data studies. Label Insight transforms product data into smart attributes for CPG brands and retailers.

The results of the campaign were remarkable, with more than 130 pieces of media coverage. Additionally, Label Insight brought a new concept to the market, “Transparency ROI,” that changed the industry conversation.

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Grubhub: Award of Excellence

The Grubhub team was recognized with an Award of Excellence for their work developing comprehensive content, consisting of blog posts, whitepapers, SEO pages and downloadable resources to help bolster the B2B side of their business.

Through our content marketing program, Grubhub was able to achieve desired results and position themselves as a thought leader in the B2B side of the restaurant delivery space.

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Manta: Award of Excellence

An Award of Excellence went to the manta team. Manta is an online resource dedicated to small business, offering educational courses, proprietary research and content, and personalized marketing services. Manta regularly surveys its small business members via on-site flash polls. During the 2016 election season, our teams identified an opportunity to turn these flash polls into a window into the minds of small business owners on topics related to the election.

Using the data derived from the poles, the manta team leveraged existing reporter relationships to ensure questions asked would garner coverage, despite the saturated nature of political news. The program resulted in 232 unique media placements and a twitter mention from then presidential candidate, Donald Trump.

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Walker Sands’ New Whitepaper Outlines The B2B Approach to Influencer Marketing

Just about every business decision – no matter the magnitude or industry – hinges on a single key ingredient: trust.

The recommendations of individuals with significant industry and social followings carry heavy weight with customers, sparking a growing desire to capitalize on the credibility of an influencer’s backing. To help cultivate trust among potential customers, a growing number of B2B brands are wisely turning toward influencer marketing.

WS_whitepaper_Under-the-Influence_cover_300pxWhile sales professionals and marketing collateral can certainly help raise awareness of specific products or services, buyers inherently trust people over press releases. In fact, 84 percent of B2B buyers start the purchasing process with a referral.

In our new whitepaper, “Under the Influence: A B2B Brand Guide to Influencer Marketing,” we’ve outlined the steps you can take to bring influencer marketing to your business. From executing influencer marketing initiatives to measuring success, discover how our approach to B2B influencer marketing can jumpstart buyer interest in new products and initiatives.

Finding a fit

When done right, influencer marketing can be a win-win for both brands and the influencers they work with. Businesses have their messages amplified while influencers get their hands on data-based insights that can help grow their social following.

But as in any other relationship, fit is crucial.

Before reaching out to a potential influencer, take a few minutes to ask yourself, “Is this influencer’s content and audience relevant to my business?” Although it’s always tempting to pursue a well-known thought leader, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to make a big difference in your brand’s bottom line. Keep an eye out for influencers who regularly engage a large portion of your target audience using a tone that aligns with your brand.

Pulling the trigger

Once you’ve identified which influencers you’d like to work with, the next step is to set aside the time and budget needed to bring a campaign to life. Thinking about getting an influencer to promote your next product launch? We recommend spending at least two months researching and reaching out to relevant analysts. The more ambitious the influencer marketing initiative, the more time you’ll need.

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When it comes to budget, many of the same rules apply. If, for example, you want an influencer’s help producing a video, be prepared to pay more than you would for a simple mention in their blog post. While nurturing an organic influencer relationship may help you save on costs, it will also take more time. By developing a sound strategy for your campaign and clearly identifying the desired outcomes of the relationship, you can determine how much time and budget are needed to execute a successful campaign.

Measuring success

Measuring the success of your influencer marketing campaign will not only provide insight into an initiative’s ROI, but also highlight areas for improvement moving forward.

Since measurements can vary based on the type of influencer marketing investment, we’ve created a different set of criteria for both ongoing and campaign-based programs. From the frequency of influencer interactions to share of voice among target influencers, each data point can help determine whether the campaign helped move you one step closer toward your goals.

Eager to learn more about influencer marketing? Download our whitepaper, “Under the Influence: A B2B Brand Guide to Influencer Marketing,” and stay tuned for more content surrounding the B2B approach to influencer marketing.

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Visit the Walker Sands website. We specialize in PR and marketing services for technology solution providers and B2B companies. Walker Sands Digital offers a wide array of digital marketing solutions and helps firms to get the most from their online presence.
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