Top 3 Marketing Tips from Digital Summit Dallas

Digital-Summit-HeaderIn a rather unsuccessful attempt at escaping the bitter Chicago cold, I traveled to Texas for Digital Summit Dallas, a marketing conference focused on content, SEO, UX, strategy, and design.  There were tons of great speakers from a wide variety of companies like Google, Cisco and Starcom. I was amazed at how much information they packed into two short days. Here are three quick insights, pulled straight from my 25 pages of type-written notes!

  1. Marketing is a massive fight for attention and we are rarely given permission. Keynote speaker and bestselling author Seth Gogin [google “Seth” to find his blog] explained how we are constantly vying for the attention of people online. The internet is the first form of mass media not intended for marketers but indefinitely abused by them. We demand a lot of our audience, with very little pay-off for them.  Wouldn’t we be more effective if we talked to people who want to be talked to? Permission is letting your audience decide what is valuable to them and what is not. If you have the permission of people who a truly interested in what you’re selling, you can build a real and lasting relationship.
  2. Leverage your existing content to increase organic search traffic. 71% of B2B researchers start their research with a generic search. Marketers can improve their organic search results by keyword-optimizing content already on their site. Vertical Measures Director of Marketing, Quinn Whissen, advises that you look at pages that are performing poorly and revitalize the content with 1-2 target keywords and a couple of synonyms (semantic keywords). Republishing pages is a great way to get a lot out of your marketing efforts, and timely content does better in search engines. Quinn astutely quoted John F. Kennedy’s “a rising tide lifts all boats” to illustrate the SEO benefit to your website from refreshing its content. Increasing the search value of your pages will go a long way towards generating more traffic and leads site-wide.
  3. The website should be the focal point of the marketing mix. A common goal of PR, email, social and SEO/PPC campaigns is to drive traffic to the website. If the onsite user experience is horrible, all your marketing efforts are essentially nullified. No amount of traffic is going to capture qualified leads when your users can’t figure out what your services are. Why spend time and money on a PPC campaign that directs users to an overwhelming landing page with outdated messaging? Make your website worth your users’ time. If conversions are low and exit rates are very high site-wide, it might be time to revisit your website strategy and UX.

Overall, the conference focused on improving the experience of users across all marketing channels and provided a good combination of tactical and aspirational insights. Anyone who is involved in marketing would benefit from this conference series; there are multiple U.S. events throughout the year.  I am thankful for the opportunity to experience a new city and receive some great takeaways for the new year in digital marketing.

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4 Key Takeaways from Fast Company’s Innovation Festival

Earlier this month, we had the opportunity to travel to New York City for Fast Company’s Innovation Festival. During the four-day conference, we trekked all around the Big Apple to take part in conversations and activities around the latest innovations in the tech industry. Featuring over 150 speakers and plenty of networking sessions, the second annual Innovation Festival was grounded in the theme of “Find Your Mission, Deepen Your Purpose.” From the keynotes featuring celebs like SJP and Cher to panel discussions centered around diversifying tech recruitment, this mission was ingrained in all of the sessions we attended.

Not only did this conference expose us to some of the biggest names in business and technology (and even a little bit of pop culture), it also provided several valuable lessons. Here’s a look at some of our favorite sessions and key takeaways:

  • Trust your intuition: Professional golfer Jordan Spieth and Under Armour Founder and CEO Kevin Plank discussed how taking risks and honing their intuitions have contributed to their success. In just 20 years, Under Armour has become a major player in the highly competitive athletic wear business. The company made early bets on Stephen Curry, Misty Copeland and Jordan Spieth, all of whom have gone on to become household names. When selecting these athletes, Plank said Under Armour has followed its intuition and selected athletes based on their personal connection and attitudes. This a reminder that when making decisions, it’s sometimes best to simply trust your gut. IMG_5914

    Plank also said the only thing that will get you fired from the company is to say, “But, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” Plank credits this culture of innovation as a core driver behind Under Armour’s success.
  • Question your current process processes: The future of human resources and hiring was another major discussion point at the conference. General Assembly, the global education company specializing in 21st-century skills, educates individuals and helps companies source talent, discussed how companies can unlock access to top talent by focusing specifically on skills-based hiring practices that expand the talent pool beyond those found through traditional screening methods. The two presenters discuss how companies need to blow up the “Top 20 School” paradigm, and explore other methods for finding the right talent. One suggestion was to assess the talent you’re getting differently and look where you haven’t looked before. For example, when dating, singles that look for dates through multiples avenues – social events and organizations, friends and dating apps – increase their chances of finding someone. Similarly, hiring managers that seek talent through a variety of methods – recruiters, references, hiring websites, networking events and educational institutions – open themselves up to a broader range of talent.

    Another panel consisting of Black Girls Code founder Kimberly Bryant, Pinterest’s head of diversity Candice Morgan, and Global Citizen Year founder Abby Falik explored the type of tech knowledge, leadership skills for hiring and managing diverse workforces that companies are going to need in the future. The group discussed a number of challenges holding companies, especially tech organizations, from having a diverse workforce. One challenge they touched on was the confirmation bias, which is when people favor information that resonates with their established beliefs. For example, when an interviewer forms a distinct opinion about a candidate based on information like the college they attended before the actual interview. Based on these biases, some candidates may not make it to the interview or be perceived as less competent than others. To prevent confirmation bias from impacting their chances of hiring great candidates, Morgan of Pinterest discussed how they’ve implemented rules requiring hiring managers to interview a set number of women and a set number of ethnically diverse candidates for each position. By setting these parameters, companies open up their talent pool and gain a more diverse perspective. Morgan said these rules are part of how the company found its new head of engineering.

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Team Spotlight: Erin Jordan

I sat down with Erin Jordan, an account director at Walker Sands and lead of the retail and e-commerce technology team.

Erin has been with the company for almost five years! While she’s busy looking for ways to grow her team’s practice areas, Erin took the time to give me a glimpse into what life is like at Walker Sands for her.

Here’s what she had to say!

1. What is your role at Walker Sands? What does your day-to-day look like?

As the account director for the retail technology team, I ensure my team has everything they need to service our clients and get great results. I also help keep the team constantly up-to-date on trends in our space. Other activities I work on include survey research to demonstrate our expertise and expand knowledge within the retail space, working on new business and coaching my team to help them grow in their own careers.

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2. How has Walker Sands changed since you first started at the company?

The company was much smaller when I started. We only had 15-20 people. One of the best things about Walker Sands is that while the size has grown, we’ve maintained the scrappiness and ‘no idea is too small’ mentality that comes with having small teams.

We’ve come a long way in our expertise and great work. We now have the infrastructure and experience to handle bigger team projects. Growth of our practice areas is one things that has led to our success, and it has helped evolve our knowledge across different client industries. It’s also interesting to see how much our digital team and ecosystem of services have grown alongside PR.

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Chatbots, onboarding solutions and data aggregation showcased at FinovateFall 2016

More than 70 companies ranging from industry giants such as IBM to recently launched fintech startups took the stage at the 10th annual FinovateFall conference in New York City earlier this month. The two-day event was a reflection of how truly global fintech has become, as the conference drew attendees and presenters from six continents. Each company had seven minutes to demonstrate its product to an audience filled with investors, bankers, regulators, analysts and industry peers — think of it as financial technology speed dating.

With a constant stream of new product launches, it was easy to see some trends come to the forefront that hint at where banking and financial services are headed:
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— The days of calling your bank or stopping by a brick-and-mortar branch to speak to an actual human are long gone. The next wave of financial services is all about the chatbot with many on display at FinovateFall. A crowd favorite was Clinc’s banking chatbot “Finie” which uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to communicate in conversational language. A similar chatbot launched by Kore is specifically designed to give retail bank and credit union customers a personalized experience, specifically on mobile. The Kore Smart Bot is also integrated Walker Sands client Finicity’s banking platform, enabling the chatbot to access user-permissioned financial data quickly and compliantly.

Onboarding solutions — Technology designed to improve the new account opening and onboarding process in banking highlighted how financial institutions often struggle to create a (somewhat) enjoyable onboarding experience. The Financial Brand profiled seven companies that unleashed onboarding technology including GRO Solutions’ claim that financial institutions can open and fund new accounts in under four minutes.
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Data aggregation and analytics — In order to continue delivering fintech innovation to consumers and businesses, user-permissioned financial data must find its way from banks into the hands of app developers. Similarly, banks need to know how to best use the data to provide their customer with modern solutions and analysis to assist with personal financial management. MX, a technology provider that enables financial institutions to acquire new data, won the very coveted “Best of Show” award at FinovateFall for its advancement in its data analytics platform.

As fintech grows and traditional banks evolve to meet the needs of businesses and consumers, the innovations on display at Finovate will continue to advance the global financial community.

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Team Spotlight: John Fairley

Ready for another team spotlight?

The digital ecosystem is Walker Sands’ integrated approach that combines both PR efforts and digital marketing tactics. To ensure our clients get a full-service agency, Walker Sands’ executives work closely together to guide their teams through successful 360-degree campaigns.

As a key part of this equation, John Fairley, VP of digital services and partner at Walker Sands, leads the digital team. John’s team is in charge of digital strategies, including website design and development, search engine optimization (SEO), pay per click advertising (PPC), social media, content marketing solutions and more.john-fairley

I sat down with John to discuss his experiences managing the intersection of PR and digital services. Here’s what he had to say!

1. What is your role at Walker Sands? What does your day-to-day look like?

My role is to make sure that anything that touches digital runs smoothly and aligns with our clients’ businesses. Day-to-day, this could be anything from a one-on-one meeting with members of the staff to strategy meetings for our clients. I make sure that our prospects’ needs match up well with a solution we offer.

When our projects are complete, I run the postmortems (retrospectives), which are where we discuss lessons learned. Every quarter, we check in to see how the lessons learned are being applied.

2. How has Walker Sands changed since you first started at the company?

I’ve been here nine years, so a lot has changed. I became an employee when Walker Sands was only about 10 people, so we didn’t have as many of the formal processes that we have today. We may not have had an HR department, but at this early stage we did have an internship program!

I think the fact that we have both digital and PR (and that they’re integrated) is a big leap from where we were nine years ago. Today, we can have a PR program that builds SEO value for a client, while we drive leads through LinkedIn advertising and nurture leads via email using marketing automation.

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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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