Walker Sands Sponsors ITA Initiative to Empower Women in Tech

When the Illinois Technology Association (ITA) launched Women Influence Chicago last fall, we immediately recognized an opportunity to be a part of an initiative that we’re passionate about­­: empowering women in tech.

In addition to being associate members of the ITA, we’re so excited to announce that we are now proud sponsors and founding partners of their Women Influence Chicago Initiative. Through this incredible organization, we have the opportunity to help women in the Chicago tech scene through training, education and events, with the goal of empowering women throughout a variety of leadership roles.

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The Women Influence Chicago Initiative will focus on three key areas:

  • Pre-Workforce: encouraging interest in technology through mentorship, education and STEM programs
  • In-Workforce: providing resources and training for Chicago tech companies, as well as their male and female employees, to help them create inclusive work environments for women
  • Positions of Influence: increasing the number of women in the C-Suite, on boards and in other prominent leadership roles at tech companies in Chicago

Powered by the ITA, Women Influence Chicago is co-chaired by Kelly Stickel, CEO of Remodista, and Aimee Schuster, CMO of Miller Heiman. Walker Sands will attend Women Influence Chicago board meetings as their public relations and marketing advisor.  

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Allison Ward, Senior Account Director

Walker Sands senior account director Allison Ward is excited to bring her experience and insight to this initiative. As a senior member of our FinTech public relations team and a working mother, Allison is personally passionate about Women Influence Chicago’s mission to empower female leaders and hopes that their work in the city has a wide, long-lasting effect. “We want to make Chicago an ecosystem where women in tech are not only prevalent, but thriving and supported. If we can empower women in tech in Chicago, hopefully there’s a ripple effect in other large tech markets.”

Toward that goal, Women Influence Chicago will be working on action-oriented projects throughout the year. They are determined to not just highlight the problems — but to actually solve them. Events like the “Women Influence Chicago Series: Negotiating Your Equity Package” are designed to do just that. The group is also working on an actionable blueprint to promote diversity and equality in the workplace, with tips for tech companies on how to empower their women into the C-Suite and leadership positions.

We are thrilled to be a part of this important initiative and can’t wait to share more with you on their fantastic projects throughout the year. Keep an eye out for future Women Influence Chicago blog posts, and in the meantime, connect with them on their website or on Twitter.

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Walker Sands at Inbound 2017: Two Memorable Keynotes from this Year’s Show

Marketing and sales professionals from around the world headed to Boston last week to attend Inbound 2017 hosted by HubSpot. This year’s show attracted more than 20,000 attendees who came out for a myriad of inspiring keynote and breakout sessions, networking events along the seaport and other educational seminars.240090

Walker Sands was among those attending. With boots on the ground to explore the emerging tactics and technologies helping to shape our industry, we went to every session we could, talked to every exhibitor we could and absorbed as much as we could in the four days we were on-site.

There were countless takeaways for business leaders and decision-makers in the B2B tech sector. To help our clients keep pace with these new, emerging trends, we’ve assembled a list of key points from the two most memorable sessions we attended.

  1. Former First Lady Michelle Obama – The highlight of this year’s event, former First Lady Michelle Obama was invited to join an early morning session hosted by professor and best-selling author Roxane Gay. The interview centered on Michelle’s experiences as first lady, her thoughts about the election and her goals and aspirations as she looks ahead to the future.

    She stressed the importance of reintroducing herself at public events as a former “First Spouse” as there will come a day soon when we’re ready to appoint a woman as our commander-and-chief. To reach this milestone, we need to understand how to find our own authentic voice. According to Michelle, any woman who voted against Hillary Clinton during our most recent election voted against their own voice.

    There is a message here for marketers. We need to help our customers find their voice. We can do this by reaching them where they’re at with messaging that resonates with who they are, what they need and how we can help. This is why listening is such an essential first step in coming up with messages that will resonate with a target audience. At Walker Sands, we’re always listening, whether it’s on a discovery call with a customer contact or through information gleaned off a customer’s website, blog or social media profiles.

  2. Co-Founder of Refinery29 Piera Gelardi – Piera Gelardi is Executive Creative Director and Co-Founder of the award-winning digital media company, Refinery29. She has been widely recognized as one of the most creative people in the world of media.

    Her session focused on why we need to establish the conditions for creativity before we can achieve creative breakthroughs. These conditions are different for everyone. For Gelardi, she is in position to be her most creative self when she is in her warm, fuzzy office cocoon which she has adoringly dubbed “The Peach Pit.” It’s here that she drinks rose, laughs and comes up with off-the-wall ideas alongside those she knows and trusts.

    This isn’t far-off how we brainstorm creative campaigns here at Walker Sands. From CompTIA #MakeTechHerStory to the Owler CEO Likeability study, we are always chasing our next big idea. Like Gelardi, we require the right conditions to come up with the creative concept that’s going to resonate with the media and different stakeholder groups who we’re trying to reach.

This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we saw and heard during this year’s event. If you want to learn more about our experiences at Inbound ‘17 in Boston, let’s connect!

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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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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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What’s Next for Brick-and-Mortar Retailers

It’s been a rough couple of years for traditional retail. Companies like Amazon have upended the retail structure, and as consumers continue to turn to e-commerce, brick-and-mortar retailers must adapt to survive.

To do so, many companies are turning to hot-button tactics like virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), simple or even nonexistent payment tactics (hello ApplePay and Amazon Go), and more. However, these strategies are more aspirational than practical, as they require heavy infusions of capital, huge upgrades to existing infrastructure and widespread consumer adoption to be successful.

While retailers work to make these long-term dreams a reality, there are several trends brick-and-mortar retailers can pursue to stay relevant and competitive in the more immediate future:

1. A Focus on Stores as Showrooms

As the purchase process continues to migrate online, we’re seeing brick-and-mortar stores used as a way for consumers to feel and see products before they pull out their phones and make a purchase. This approach works best for categories like furniture, where people are traditionally hesitant to purchase without physically interacting with products.

Examples of this strategy include Apple stores, which focus more on showcasing products and what they can do, or Bonobos’ guideshops, which exist purely as a way for consumers to interact with the web retailers’ goods (you can’t even walk away with any merchandise, but you can order clothing).

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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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