Walker Sands is an Inc. 5000 Company for Fifth Consecutive Year

We are honored to announce that Walker Sands has been included on the 2017 Inc. 5000 list of fastest growing companies! This is the fifth year we’ve earned this honor, ranking #3043 in 2017. We’re one of 320 companies nationally that have made the list for five consecutive years and part of a small group of only six companies and one of two marketing agencies that can tote this accolade in Chicago.

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When we first received this honor back in 2013 we felt like we were really humming along. Since then we’ve continued that impressive growth by expanding into new geographies and new service areas. We’ve added new faces to the team and a new office space to accommodate that growth. And we’ve done tremendous work for our clients – helping to bring awareness, credibility, and new leads to a number of growing B2B companies.

Our integrated approach to public relations has afforded us the privilege of making the Inc. 5000 list for five years in a row. By combining digital marketing and traditional PR strategies, teams come together to tackle business challenges and execute comprehensive campaigns that gain top tier placements, create digital narratives and move a wide range of audiences, all of which is illustrated in our #MakeTechHerStory campaign.

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In addition to our integrated approach, our people are what power the award winning work and growth that enables us to stand out among others and make industry strides. We consistently aim to create an environment where our employees are able to do the best work of their careers at Walker Sands. Through company bonding at anticipated annual events, friendly office competitions and special interest groups, we believe we’ve been best able to cultivate an agency that works together to achieve growth and one that strives to approach each road bump and milestone with our three pillars, learn, support and do.

Another year on the list is a true testament to the vision we created for our company over 16 years ago. From day one, we’ve been a team, and we’ve all worked together to make this running recognition and continuous growth possible.

Congratulations to all of our friends and clients, CallRail, Strike Social, PointSource and Billtrust, who made the list this year. To learn more about our listing and those before check out our agency profile on Inc. here and the press release here.

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Video: Public Relations and Integrated Campaigns at Walker Sands

At Walker Sands, our public relations efforts go beyond writing pitches and earning placements. Programs include researching and executing strategies that are tailored to resonate with target audiences.

Likewise, our teams are experts in a multitude of B2B technology industries and have the knowledge to create messaging and creative initiatives that align with our clients’ business goals. PR teams do so by cultivating relationships with journalists and clients to secure top-tier placements and generate measurable awareness.

In the Public Relations at Walker Sands video, Account Director, Allison Ward, and Senior Media Relations Specialist, Kyle Rall, share their tactics to staying two steps ahead of the curve in their respective industries. Watch the video to learn more on how teams support our clients and each other:

In addition to media relations and strategic PR programs, we create solutions for clients through integrated campaigns. Our public relations, demand generation and content development teams work harmoniously to create high visibility campaigns with a focus on engaging digital storytelling.

Watch the Integrated Campaigns at Walker Sands video to hear from Senior Content Strategist, Matilda Schieren, and Senior Designer, Ann Hagner, on how tackling the challenges of integrated campaigns is rewarding and discover highlights from their favorite projects here:

Strategic public relations and integrated, creative campaigns are needed to stand out in today’s crowded market place. Get in touch to learn how the Walker Sands’ approach can work for your B2B tech company.

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Rebranding or Website Redesign? How to Tell If You Need One, Both or Neither

Something’s wrong, but you’re not sure what. Your product/service is as good or better than anything else on the market. Your customers love you, but the sales pipeline is drying up and revenue growth is flagging. What’s missing?

In cases like these, the usual suspects are your brand and your website. They are both crucial to the success of your business. But it can be difficult to tell which one deserves an overhaul; if one is off, the other can suffer as well.

Before we help you decide whether your business needs a website redesign, a rebrand or both, let’s discuss what website redesigns and business rebrands actually are – and what it takes to see each project through.

What is a business rebrand?

When a business rebrands itself, it changes the way it presents itself to the public through every channel (not just the website). A rebrand can impact the design of the brand (logo, color palette, typography, photography, icons, etc.), as well as the messaging of the brand (company name, value proposition, slogan, content, voice & tone, etc.) to more competitively position itself in the marketplace.

Like website redesigns, company rebrands are initiated and shaped by business goals and market realities. After tobacco products were exposed for their inherent health risks, Philip Morris realized that its brand was as toxic as its cigarettes. The company underwent a full rebranding when it changed its name – and accompanying design and messaging – to Altria Group in 2003.

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Contrast that case with Google, which has essentially retained all of its design and messaging since emerging as a search engine, despite growing into a company that today has a hand in cell phones, home systems, business applications, cloud storage, driverless vehicles and more. Google’s periodic rebrands have included type changes and tweaked color palettes to keep up with design trends, along with other updates like redesigned favicons and new sub-brands to support products like Gmail.

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A rebrand as subtle as Google’s can also be referred to as a “brand refresh,” but it’s important to remember that all rebrands exist somewhere on a spectrum. The elements that you reinvent, scrap, enhance, or keep as-is should always be considered within the context of your business goals.

Your corporate rebranding can enhance brand equity if it succeeds in attracting and retaining more customers, bolsters brand loyalty, and improves brand recognition. The rebranding decisions you make along the way will no doubt impact the design and/or messaging reflected on your website, but rebranding your business is not the same as redesigning your website.

What is a website redesign?

A website redesign is more than a new look. It’s a re-engineered website that is written, designed and developed to help your business accomplish specific goals. Priorities vary across businesses, but they can include:

  • Driving more traffic
  • Increasing user engagement
  • Generating more and/or higher-quality leads for your sales team

Clearly, these are KPIs that every business would love to see improve. Unfortunately, website redesigns don’t happen overnight. Here’s the Cliff’s Notes version of what our own website redesign process looks like:

  • Stakeholder Surveys and Interviews
  • Competitive Analysis
  • UX and Information Architecture
  • Design and Content Creation
  • Programming and Implementation
  • Analytics and Marketing Automation Setup
  • Optimization for Search Engines
  • Final Go-Live Checklist and Launch

Each of those phases requires meetings, informal communication, research, management responsibilities and sub-tasks. The time it takes to complete any given website redesign project depends on a number of factors such as website size, number of stakeholders and technical complexity. But when your business is counting on a more productive website that supports business goals, the investment of time and effort is worth it.

Take the CloudCraze website redesign for example. Walker Sands Digital redesigned the e-commerce company’s website after they had just completed a rebranding. (Note the different logos.)

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After:
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Before the redesign, the CloudCraze website had a busy design, complicated user paths, and a relatively slow load speed. After the redesign, the CloudCraze website was clean, easy to use and fast to load. If you’d like the full story on how we did it, we encourage you to read the case study.

So, how do you tell if your business needs a rebranding, website redesign, or both? Here are a series of questions to help.

Does your business need a rebrand?

If you suspect that it’s actually a rebranding that your business needs, then ask yourself these questions:

  • Have the products or services we offer significantly changed since our last rebranding or inception?
  • Has our target audience evolved (demographics, perceptions, goals, budget, etc.)?
  • Is our brand out of step with current design trends and market expectations?
  • Is our messaging and/or design aesthetic inconsistent across channels (e.g., website, sales materials, business cards and email signature)?
  • Does our business lack a strong point of view?
  • Are our key audiences unable to understand what we do?
  • Are our key audiences unable to understand what we stand for?
  • Are our employees unable to consistently and succinctly say what it is that we do and the value we offer?
  • Are our internal marketing and sales teams asking for brand assets and guidelines to communicate with external audiences?
  • Is it difficult to distinguish our business from our competitors?
  • Is our brand more of a liability than an asset?

More than three yes’s indicate that you should probably consider a rebranding for your business.

Do you need a website redesign?

If you wonder whether it’s time to update your business website, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have we redesigned our website within the last three years?
  • Do we ever hear compliments about our website?
  • Does our website compare favorably to other websites in our industry?
  • Have we seen traffic to our website steadily increase over time?
  • Do our website pages load in 3 seconds or less across all devices?
  • Is our website mobile-friendly?
  • Does our website have SSL or HTTPS security?
  • Are visitors finding our website on search engines?
  • Are visitors converting on our website (e.g., submitting forms)?
  • Do our visitors convert at or above industry averages?
  • Is our website easy to navigate?
  • Are visitors staying on our website and clicking around?
  • Am I proud to share our website with prospects?

As you review your answers to the questions above, any more three no’s should have you considering a website redesign.

Check the foundation once more

After you ask yourself these questions, it’s important to consider whether the challenges you’re facing are related to your website, your brand, or your actual business. Your website and brand are both extensions of your core business, but rebranding and/or redesigning your website will have very little effect on your bottom line if fundamental business shortcomings are left unaddressed.

Gain new perspectives from colleagues

If your answers to the above questions have you leaning toward either (or both) a website redesign or a rebranding project, then it’s time to begin the conversation inside your organization. Canvas your colleagues across departments and levels of authority to get a sense of how important those initiatives are to them, and what they would want a website redesign or a rebranding to achieve.

Connect with the right partners

As consensus for a website redesign or company rebranding project builds, open up conversations with digital agencies and/or branding agencies. Ask them questions about their processes, experience in your industry, and how they measure success. This will get you started on the path to finding the right partner that can help you execute the right project. The investment of resources will be worth it, as it will allow you to best position your business for success in the years to come.

Looking for some inspiration?

Check out some of our favorite website redesigns and rebranding projects in our gallery of client work. If you’re interested in how Walker Sands Digital can help you reach your business goals with either a website redesign, rebrand or both, then you can get in touch with us here.

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Three Ways to Better Manage the Multigenerational Workforce

Employee longevity is at an all-time high. As result, three generations of employees are now working alongside one another, each generation bringing its own communication and workstyle to creative agencies.

Given the fast-paced nature of the PR industry, each generation has found an agile workstyle that allows for quickly switching from task to task. But with so many types of workflows at odds with one another, managers are falling short of meeting each group’s collaboration and cultural expectations. What’s more, failure to meet these needs results in inefficient employees and high turnover. This makes accommodating various workstyles increasingly important for PR managers.

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With the right strategies and tools in place, PR managers can quickly learn to navigate the challenges brought on by this triple-generation workforce. Here are three ways we at Walker Sands have been able to meet the needs of our multigenerational workforce:

  1. Embrace new communication platforms – From grabbing coffee to holding in-person meetings, Gen X employees (born between 1965 and 1984) want to develop a personal relationship with their employees. While these methods of communication will prove effective, Millennial and Gen Z are finding that collaboration solutions and videoconferencing (i.e. Slack, Google Hangouts, Skype, etc.) are more cohesive with their workflows because they allow for quicker response time and more frequent feedback. Our managers have found it helpful to ask employees to share their preferred methods of communication to most efficiently and effectively communicate amongst their team.
  2. Allow for flexible workdays – Across generations, many employees will work long hours between Monday through Friday while others prefer a greater work-life balance throughout the week – even if it means working a few odd hours on the weekends. Inability to accommodate these various workdays could result in the loss of your best employees, given that almost half of all professionals have left a job, or considered leaving one, because it lacked flexibility. By accommodating different workstyles with a flexible work policy, we’re able to retain top talent at Walker Sands. If an employee works six hours one day, they have the freedom to pick up extra hours when and where they can.
  3. Create a space for knowledge-sharing – Despite its challenges, teams of multi-generation employees provide its members with invaluable opportunities to learn from one another. At Walker Sands, we hold weekly Lunch & Learns where junior, mid-level and senior employees come together for knowledge-sharing sessions. Session topics range from Google Sheets 101 to how one can successfully move off their parents’ insurance. No matter your age, every employee has a something others can learn from.

Businesses, especially those in technology, need to be adaptable to a variety of work styles in order to retain top creative talent. By adopting new communication platforms, allowing for a flexible workflows and creating a knowledge-sharing space, organizations can overcome the challenges brought on by this triple-generational workforce.

To learn more about our multigenerational team that make up our powerhouse workforce, click here for our PR team and here for digital.

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Walker Sands’ 2017 Future of Retail Report – The Rise of the Connected Consumer

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Over the past several years, Walker Sands’ VP Dave Parro and I have taken a closer look at how commerce is changing through our annual Future of Retail report.

While last year’s version was focused on the backend changes happening to support innovations on the retail front, this year’s report takes a closer look at the dramatic shifts happening in consumers themselves, leading to a future of connected consumers, connected commerce and changing connected experiences.

In this three-part blog series, I’ll take you through some of the key findings from the study, starting with the connected consumer.

A lot has happened since the Future of Retail report first launched in January 2014.

Online ordering has become the norm, fast and free shipping is expected and storefronts have started to disappear. Still, what’s driving this evolution in commerce seems to have hit warp speed with the introduction of AI, machine learning and voice-ordering technologies over the past year or so.

Today’s consumer is vastly different from the consumer of just a couple of years ago. What used to be a distant idea of a ‘smart home’ is now seemingly here to stay, and integrations of data to the supply chain have made sure no consumer is without the goods they need in a fast-paced world.

Three big takeaways from this year’s report on the connected consumer include:

  1. More than a quarter of consumers (27 percent) now own some kind of in-home smart device, including smart appliances (16 percent), thermostats (14 percent) and lights (13 percent). And as retailers are paying closer attention to consumer data for personalized experiences, consumers are more focused on their own data, too – 18 percent now own wearable fitness devices and 13 percent own smartwatches.
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  2. Today’s connected consumer is used to getting their information on demand. Consumers today are cord cutters, with more consumers now reporting they own a digital tv subscription (64 percent) than a traditional cable subscription (52 percent). Nearly a third (32 percent) own a streaming device like Apple TV or Roku.
  3. The connected consumer is getting used to voice-based technology. Perhaps the biggest innovation in the connected consumer lifestyle has happened in just the past year with mainstream adoption of voice-controlled devices like the Amazon Echo and Google Home. Nearly a fourth of consumers (24 percent) now own in-home voice-controlled device and another 20 percent plan to purchase one in the next year.

The same innovations that are changing retail are also changing the way consumers think and interact in their everyday — completely disrupting the landscape retailers have gotten comfortable with. 30492017770_58450b5f69_b

As new innovations in IoT, machine learning and voice technology arrive on the scene, the way consumers expect to be engaged will also continue to change. Younger consumers are already more open to these kinds of devices, opening new opportunities for retailers and brands in the future of commerce.

To learn more about the connected consumer and how they’re impacting the future of commerce, download the full Walker Sands 2017 Future of Retail Study here. Also stay tuned for additional blog posts and analysis as a part of our three-part series.

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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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