Last week, a few members of the Walker Sands team visited Catapult, Chicago’s peer-selected tech hub. We were joined by a handful of the current residents to help answer their questions and facilitate insightful conversation around how marketing can help to elevate their brands and reach their company goals.
Our very own John Fairley and Meghan Spork led the conversation and fielded questions surrounding the traditional PR and digital aspects needed for a well-rounded marketing program. The companies attending had diverse backgrounds ranging from law, travel to fintech, which led to interesting perspectives and fun conversations full of lots of new learning.
Here are a few key highlights from our discussion and helpful information for other startups looking to add marketing to their strategy:
- Press Releases – Too often startups issue a press release and think that reporters will come calling. That may have worked 15 years ago, but not anymore. And when operating with a limited budget, it’s important to understand when to issue a release over the wire and when it’s best just to post it on your website. Press releases are a great way to archive your company’s milestones and should live in a newsroom on your site. They’re great for SEO, helping to theme your website and can act as a good resource for you and prospects to reference.
- Social Media – When you’re running a business on limited resources, social media is an effective resource for grassroots marketing. Different platforms attract different audiences, so tailor your posts to who is reading. LinkedIn is a better place to reach VC firms and other possible investors, while Facebook and Twitter are better platforms for reaching your customers or potential new hires.
- Account Based Marketing – It’s the biggest buzz phrase for marketing in 2017 and for good reason! We touched on the psychological factors behind creating personal messages that go beyond your basic mail merge. Before you send out any personalized videos, emails or other content, it’s important to refine your list and target prospects based on their stage in the buyer journey and customize messaging that will resonate with them.
At the end of the discussion, we left the companies with a comprehensive tip sheet to help them integrate marketing into their startups. Here’s a few of key bullets from the sheet to help ramp up your marketing as well:
- Customers – Your initial customers will inject their passion for your product to help fuel vital content and collateral that can be used for promotion. Maintaining these loyal relationships will be crucial in launching your first marketing initiatives.
- Bandwidth and Focus – Forget about the CEO running the business and doing a little marketing on the side. It doesn’t work. Establish a marketing contact. This is your go to person who is focused on marketing and isn’t the founder—they’re fully immersed in the industry and have time to devote to setting up campaigns and looking into returns on your efforts.
- You’ll Need a Story to Get Press – Think critically and creatively. Gather your team together and think of all the possible angles you can take to leverage your brand. Does your founder have a story? Great! Recent product launch? Even better! As long as you have something interesting to share with the press, you’ll have an easier time getting placements.
Usually when I think of retail trends, they involve fabrics, color schemes, and shoes (always shoes!). But this month I had the chance to attend Retail’s BIG Show and take a closer look at the other side of retail – the one that works relentlessly to provide shoppers with the best overall experience possible from product quality to seamless checkouts, and makes it look easy in the process.
Retail’s BIG Show is an annual conference held by the National Retail Federation to provide education, networking and exhibition opportunities to the biggest names in retail. More than 33,000 industry leaders from around the world attended this year’s show in New York City to learn what’s trending, what’s next in retail technology and what each company needs to do to remain competitive.
Here are a few trends I noticed while at this year’s event:
Retail as an experience
E-commerce and m-commerce rule today’s retail landscape, leaving brick-and-mortar stores struggling to compete for consumer attention. Experts anticipate that physical stores will continue to shrink in 2017 and even disappear if they can’t meet the evolving demands of today’s tech savvy consumers. To pull them away from their screens and into stores, retailers are revamping business models to offer entertaining experiences to shoppers. For example, Nike recently opened the Nike & Jordan Basketball Experience, a 6,550-square-foot basketball focused store in Beijing. Not only can shoppers purchase clothing and sneakers at the location, they can also immerse themselves in a true basketball experience on the store’s half-court Nike+ Basketball Trial Zone or create customized apparel in the store’s NIKEiD studio.
Retail meets robotics
“Big data” is a buzz term that’s been floating around for a few years, but hasn’t fully materialized until recently. The retail industry is one of the first to introduce the implications of big data data with robotic and artificial intelligence solutions dedicated to creating more efficient inventory management, price optimization, pattern recognition and more for merchants. For example, Righthand Robotics, Inc., exhibited and demoed its auto-pick robotic system RightKit at the show. RightKit uses 3D vision to sort and pick up thousands of small grocery, beauty and electronic items for e-commerce order fulfillment without reconfiguration.
Retail prioritizes security
Cybersecurity is a 24/7 job for every company, and retail is no exception. With the popularity of e-commerce and m-commerce comes an increase in cyber-attacks. For example, Eithen Steiger, VP of information security at Domino’s, estimated that the company would experience between 100 and 500 cyber-attacks during his 30-minute presentation at the show alone. Small and medium size businesses are just as visible and vulnerable to cyberattacks as retail giants like Target or The Home Depot. Retailers of all sizes should take a number of steps toward cybersecurity in 2017, including:
- Find the gaps that expose your business to risk.
- Identify what information your business stores and uses.
- Leverage available industry frameworks.
- Invest in cyber insurance to absorb the financial impacts of crimes.
When we approach planning with our clients for the new year, it’s usually about how we can help grow their companies. We discuss how we can target bigger audiences, execute on more creative campaigns and secure more media placements and leads than we did the prior year.
For marketers, a new year also means an opportunity to grow, learn new skills and refresh your marketing strategy. In the spirit of growth, here are five resolutions that should be on every marketer’s list in 2017:
- Track, measure, repeat: Accurate and consistent tracking are key for gauging the effectiveness of B2B marketing campaigns. Though it can be easy to get caught up in the hustle of a campaign, it’s important to make time to thoughtfully analyze how to move forward. By leveraging analytics, you’ll be able to ensure you’re targeting the right people with the right message while capturing some useful insights for future initiatives.
- Develop better content: Content was king in 2016, and the same will hold true for 2017. This year, marketers should ramp up their digital marketing efforts by integrating relevant SEO keywords into their content. To retain your brand’s status as a thought leader, create an editorial calendar to ensure you’re regularly publishing original content, newsletters and on social media.
- Attend industry webinars and conferences: Though conferences and workshops require travel and professional development budget, they provide marketers with valuable takeaways. Make a case for your presence at industry events, work it into your budget and make the most of every minute you’re there. Check out The CMO Club’s Spring Innovation Summit or the 2017 Marketo Marketing Nation Summit.
- Read a new marketing book: Between hectic work schedules and personal obligations, reading is something many people just don’t make the time for. But setting aside some time each week to read a new marketing book can reinvigorate passion for your job, provide new knowledge and expose you to new industry research. “Hacking Marketing” by Scott Brinker and “Driving Demand: Transforming B2B Marketing to Meet the Needs of the Modern Buyer” by Carlos Hidalgo are two of our go-to books.
- Try new things and think big: To jump start the year, hold a brainstorming session with your team to think of ways you can inject more creativity into your marketing efforts. It’s easy to fall into the same routine of what’s worked in the past, but marketers can avoid this mentality in 2017 by making a daily effort to think more creatively and come up with out-of-the-box ideas for their companies. Technology can also help marketers streamline their efforts — freeing up time for more strategic efforts. With the influx of new marketing software and devices, it’s important that marketers are open to trying new things this year.
While this is by no means an extensive list of the ways you can grow as a marketer, it’s a good place to start thinking about how you want to improve your department in 2017. Write your resolutions down in a spot you see often, and lean on your colleagues or friends to ensure you execute on your goals.
Marketers, what professional resolutions are on your list for 2017? Tweet us @WalkerSands!
Determination, tenacity and a strong work ethic are a few traits people often associate with success – but what about happiness?
The Walker Sands Book Club recently explored this idea with “The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success” by Emma Seppälä. The book explains how traditional measures of success place emphasis on hard work but typically forget to address personal fulfillment, compassion, and mental well-being. The author explains that prioritizing happiness can actually boost productivity and improve the quality of your work.
Over the course of three discussions, our reading group found a number of connections between our day-to-day lives and themes emphasized in each chapter. For example, many of us noted how easy it is to get caught in a sea of meetings and emails, forgetting to be present and enjoy the little things. With help from “The Happiness Track,” we were able to identify areas in our personal and professional lives where we can make changes (both large and small) to improve our overall happiness and well-being.
Here are some of our favorite tips from “The Happiness Track”:
- Close your tabs and focus on one thing at a time: One of the most common habits our reading group discussed was our tendency to multitask, often with countless tabs open in our web browsers and our smartphones always nearby. Ironically, stepping out of overdrive can actually help improve your quality of work. Research shows that, when focusing on one thing at a time, people are better able to enter a “flow” state of increased calmness, imagination and productivity.
- Make time for meditation (or at least take a couple of deep breaths): To be honest, I was skeptical when I saw the title of chapter four, “Get more done by doing more of nothing.” But once I read about the physical and psychological benefits of meditation and mindfulness, I was ready to give it a go. Our reading group took a stab at meditation with Headspace, an app which helps users devote time to mindful breathing and stillness. Many of us had some difficulty completely unplugging from the outside world at first, but more seasoned meditators were able to explain the benefits they saw from prolonged mindfulness such as increased positivity and focus at work.
- Tap into your imagination and take risks: In public relations and digital marketing, creative ideas are crucial to standing out from the crowd. But many individuals tend to turn away from imagination and toward convention from childhood to adulthood. To inspire winning ideas, organizations need to embrace potential failure and take creative risks in the brainstorming process.
- Be compassionate to others and to yourself: Research shows that people who give back, whether to charity, their colleagues or their clients, are often happier and more successful. The author also emphasized that self-compassion is equally as important as giving back to others. Chances are, you’re your own worst critic; making a daily list of what you’re glad you accomplished and things you’re grateful for is an ideal way to exercise self-compassion embrace personal power.
Share your favorite moments from “The Happiness Track” with us on Twitter @WalkerSands!
Though we’re currently enduring winter here in Chicago, we already have our minds set on summer. At Walker Sands, summertime is filled with team bonding, beautiful weather and of course our summer intern class. Our internship program, which we like to call The Sandlot, helps aspiring PR, content, graphic design and digital marketing pros get hands-on experience and do real work for our tech and B2B clients.
We’re currently looking for talented young professionals who are eager to hone their skills and join our fast-paced environment. Check out what past interns say about their experience at Walker Sands, and learn more about our internship program here: