Archive for 2014

Throwing Holiday Wishes Your Way!

snowball fight, snow, holidays, new year

All of us at The Simon Group wish you health, happiness and prosperity in the New Year… and peace, love and understanding throughout the world!

Check out the Groupies getting ambushed at www.simongroup.com/holidays2014

Why B2B Needs to Get on the Social Media Bandwagon

social media explained, social media donut analogyWhile there is a marked difference between how business-to-consumer tactics relate to business-to-business marketing, sometimes there are lessons that cross over.

One recent example in our modern age is how a business can use social media to communicate with and inform customers and prospects.

Be Visible
Now, of course we’re not talking about building a fan base geared around the latest microchip to hit the engineering scene.

We’re talking about being where the people are—these tools have given marketers new methods of communication that will appeal to a number of different audiences, in the manner in which they chose to obtain their information.

From a customer perspective, you need to be visible in the places they are looking.

The Business Benefit

And from a business perspective, it’s important that a B2B company is the one holding the reigns to harness it’s online brand. (Have you heard the one about the company whose employee claimed its corporate Facebook page…)

The critical component is recognizing the individual uses of each, and how these tools can—or can not—be used effectively to enhance your current marketing program.

One of our favorite infographics still has to be the “Social Media Explained” donut analogy (see image top left)—we wish we could track down the originator and give them a big pat on the back! Or at least buy them a coffee to go with their donut.

What Can Really Be Learned

But in all seriousness, some of these social media sites can be put to productive use in a business environment.

  • Think of Twitter as the latest RSS feed technology, and if you can get editors to retweet your content, you’re on the right track
  • LinkedIn has done a nice job of keeping this professional and credible, with some clients starting to report identifiable sales leads based on news content posted under the company profile
  • Pinterest can serve as an engineer’s design board. All you need to do is post application examples so they can pin it and refer back when a project starts for them.
  • Videos on YouTube, if resources allow, emulate the picture says a thousand words adage. Even short 30-60 second clips are beneficial to clearly stating the benefits of your products or to highlight an application example.
  • As for Facebook, while it definitely paved the road for many a social media tool, it’s still primarily anchored in the consumer realm, but can be effectively used for certain situations. For now, we include it to honor its legacy in building out social media (oh, and it automatically posts to Twitter, so it’s kind of a two birds, one stone type of deal…)

These are just a few ways in which social media tools can be effectively employed by B2B companies.

While we don’t recommend allocating a huge part of your annual budget to building out all these tools, it might be time to think about which ones are worth taking a look for the coming year.

Direct Mail as a Modern Marketing Tool

direct marketing, printed marketing, hard copy, promotions, mailWhen digital media started to storm the scene, publishing houses, printing companies and papermakers where shaking in their boots, with good cause. Digital was cheaper, faster and more efficient, a perfect combination in an age of tightening budgets.

But a funny thing has happened over the past decade.

It’s true that many catalogs, datasheets, direct mailers and even ads and magazines have been digitized—available at your prospects’ fingertips with the click of a mouse, but at the end of that chain of cyberspace data are still human recipients. And the question is always, “How do we make them take notice?”

A Digital Deluge

Email now floods inboxes, just as direct mailers used to flood mailboxes. Subject lines are critical to successful open rates, or that same simple one click will land you in the trash folder.

Catalogs and datasheets can be viewed online or printed directly from a company’s website…but you still need to get your prospect there.

Certainly there are low cost online instruments to help in the effort: Google AdWords; SEO integrated into your website, and even some banner ads can effectively source clickthroughs depending on the campaign.   But how else can you make them take notice?

Paper as a Premium?

In some ways, the printed piece has come full circle and can be used to a company’s advantage if done correctly. No longer merely lose in cyberspace, a printed mailer that comes across a prospect’s desk can make them stop and a second look.

The two elements that are critical here are graphic design and content—it still needs to catch your eye and give solid information.

And let’s not forget our options: from a flat 5”x7” mailer or personal letter addressed to prospects up to a die cut piece or a full scale 3D package.

  • Will it take a little more time? Yes.
  • Will it take a little more money? Yes.
  • Will it make your prospect take notice? Absolutely!

Is it right for every campaign…not really. But for your next major product launch, think about how you can shake things up to stand out from the digital crowd. You might just find that everything old is new again.

Take a look at these Direct Mail Considerations before your next campaign.

Let’s Take a Walk…

walking meeting, productivity, businessWhile perusing Facebook one night a few weeks back, I took note of a video that an old college friend of mine had posted. It was a talk given by corporate director and author Nilofer Merchant to an auditorium full of people about ‘walking meetings’. A topic that seemed so simple to me, yet so ingenious. I remember actually thinking to myself, ‘why the heck didn’t I think of that?!?’

We’ve all been there. It’s mid to late afternoon, your colleague wants to review that latest proposal and all of a sudden you get a case of the sleepies. You know what I am talking about….that 3 PM slump. You’re expected to come to the meeting fresh and ready to participate with great ideas, but you can barely keep your eyelids open.

The thought of sitting in a hot, stuffy conference room or an office with the door closed sends visions of counting sheep through your head.

Take that meeting outside. Yup, you read that right, take that meeting outside and start walking.

Walk the perimeter of your building, around the parking lot, heck, if you work in the city walk up and down the sidewalks with your colleagues. But take that meeting outside and just start talking. Being out in the fresh air will not only wake you up, but get the creative juices flowing.

Walking meetings promote a creative, productive and healthy work environment. Confidentiality is also another benefit, as no one else, other than those walking with you can hear your discussions. And you tend to be more relaxed. People feel that they can share ideas more freely out in the open air, making for an overall more productive discussion.

Walking meetings can be held any time of the day. First thing in the morning is a great time as well as it gets the body moving and the blood pumping.

Let’s face it, some of the best business deals and ideas happen when you least expect it, like on golf courses or while playing tennis, so why can’t the same be done when you get out and go for a walk?

Listen to Nilofer Merchant’s talk here.

Is your Marketing The Beach Boys or The Four Seasons?

integrated marketing, harmonization, collaborationWhen we talk integrated marketing, we’re really talking about harmonization. And if there’s a lesson to be learned from the varied vocal styles of two of the greatest quartets of all time, this synchronization can be created in a number of different ways.

 

Take the Beach Boys—they used the similarities in their three or four part harmonies to seamlessly blend into a rich, full sound—kind of like the sum of the parts becoming greater than the whole—which keeps you humming long after it has stopped playing.

 

The Four Seasons, on the other hand, were masters at pulling together disparate vocal pieces into one utterly engaging melody, with Frankie Valli’s falsetto delivering that unforgettable punch, making sure Sherry Baby is on your lips for hours to come.

 

So, which is your marketing program more tuned to?

Is there one consistent element that carries throughout every piece of collateral, on your website, even down to your eblasts? This common thread could be visual in nature or could be a tagline, or maybe a stylized logo supporting your company’s overall objectives. Something that when people see it they know who it’s from.

 

Or is it more a collaboration of different elements that support a larger message (think Geico here)? The elements don’t need to be exactly the same—stuffed into the confines of one graphical treatment or a key phrase that doesn’t exactly fit a datasheet the same way it does an ad—but they work together and still support the main objective.

 

Regardless of how it is done, it’s integrated, and as we’ve learned from music icons of the past, harmony in your marketing program can work different ways and still be music to our customers’ ears.

 

And if you’re thinking, “Hey, what about the Beatles? They did harmony, too!”…well, let’s save them for a post on taking the world by storm…in relation to integrated marketing, of course.

Industry Insight: Medical Device Manufacturing

medical device manufacturing, medicine, healthcareWith the initiation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) last year, which placed a 2.3% additional revenue-based tax burden on medical device manufacturers, the landscape of medical equipment has changed. Already competing with price pressures in a global market and increasing regulatory demands, this market has quite the road ahead of it.

In addition to business pressures, patients and medical professional alike are increasing the expectations of this equipment and what functions they are expected to perform. While medical data is certainly available to facilitate diagnoses and improve patient care, this can only be done through the electronic equipment that serve this industry.

A far cry from the humble stethoscope, modern medical equipment is expected to adapt to a patient’s physiology, talk to other interconnected pieces of equipment and share information in real time, while accurately monitoring a patient to help determine the correct treatment, ailment or cause of a medical situation.

Medical electronics need to be rugged and reliable, while being mobile and money-saving. Even MRI machines, the behemoth of medical equipment, are now placed on trailers and driven to facilities to perform scans of patients. Conversely, patient-wearable diagnostic equipment, such as a surgically-placed defibrillator, is constantly subjected to the daily rigors of the patient who touts is around.

A major aspect that has fueled these advancements within the medical device industry is ruggedized electronics with denser functionality, and this trend is set to continue. The trick will be to balance innovation and growth with function and cost, keeping product development on track, while providing a good return on investment.

For more insights on technology and healthcare, check out this article: http://www.technologyreview.com/news/518871/we-need-a-moores-law-for-medicine/

 

Video for B2B… As If There Were Any Doubts…

Business to business video marketing tipsIf you haven’t jumped on the video bandwagon yet, now’s the time to do it!

However, if you’re still contemplating the power of video as an effective communications tool for B2B, consider some compelling facts:

  1. Advances in smartphones and tablets makes video viewing simpler, raising the users expectations of content delivery on a mobile device.
  2. YouTube is the second largest search engine in the world with more than 1 billion unique users visit YouTube each month (stats per YouTube, mind you, but we don’t doubt it.)
  3. Google offers AdWords for video, applying the same PPC principles as a text-only program-you decide where, and when, your video ad shows up…and who sees them.

Now, if you’re ready to start the cameras rolling, keep these tips in mind:

  • High quality production of video is still important, but ‘shot on-site’ footage also offers a captivating, real-world feel with which viewers can connect.
  • Brand your channel-it is an extension of your marketing portfolio.
  • That said, integrate videos with other marketing tactics-they are most effective when brought into the fold. You know the drill, sum of the parts and all…
  • As is true for any online content piece, keywords are critical to traffic generation and rankings.
  • Keep is short & sweet—two to three minutes is an ideal length, but shorter pieces are effective as well. If you have to go as long as five minutes, make sure there’s enough compelling information to keep viewers engaged.

So, why is video so powerful. Images help retention, and in today’s fast-paced business environment, being able to make that lasting impression is critical to success. The viewer will retain the information longer with a video.

What better way for people to ‘get it,’ than tying a visual image in with your technical data. If more info is needed, they’ll find all they need, neatly organized on your easy to navigate website, of course…right? But get them interested visually first.

Given all these attributes, it’s no wonder that video has emerged as a B2B superstar…and it appears that it’s still rising in usefulness. For some more details, read this article by PR News that explains the benefits of using YouTube…and why it shouldn’t just be a “nice to have” thing. And this great video infographic demonstrates additional insights into why so many marketers are using video and why you should be, too!

Strengthen Your Marketing through Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law

Canada anti-spam lawCanada’s recent legislation cracking down hard on email traffic within its borders is being touted as the most stringent anti-spam policy instituted to date.

While there are definitely regulations that need to be adhered to and compliance issue to be met for sending Canadian residents and businesses electronic communications, there’s also an opportunity to strengthen your marketing program.

Regardless of a recipient’s location, doesn’t every business want its messaging to be received by a receptive, willing and interested audience? Email has made it too easy to overload prospects and customers with irrelevant, frivolous and uninteresting content…because, well…it is too easy…

Once a name is put on your list, what happens next?

Is that person assigned a caretaker that interacts with them and gets to know their business or merely left to fend for themselves in the sea of emails they will receive from companies just like yours spouting their latest and greatest achievements, as well.

So, when verifying the ‘opt-in’ status of your Canadian customers, ask yourself:

“When was the last time I asked each person on my list what they want to receive, and how often?”

If you are crafting a request to your Canadian contacts asking for permission to send them emails, why not use this as a chance to find out what they really want to receive. And then extend that offer to the rest of your list.

After all, email has made it easy to send out information to the masses…

And, for those of you who still need to review the specifics about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), visit http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/casl-lcap.htm. All of us should remember there are fine points in the language that can be applied in a broader sense to make your direct marketing programs the best they can be.

And if you need some help on how to be the caretaker of your sales leads, this recent post may lend some insight: So, You Just Got a Sales Lead, Now What?

The Simon Group Wins a Neographics Franklin Award of Excellence

The Simon Group and The Standard Group recently won a Franklin Award of Excellence for Announcements & Invitations (4+ Colors) for the Ingersoll Rand “Magic Window Mailer”. Graphic Arts Association Neographics Franklin Award winner

 

The Graphic Arts Association hosts the Neographics awards each year, one of the nation’s largest regional graphic communications contests in which graphic arts, packaging, converting, design and publishing excellence is selected and showcased.

 

Neographics is a contest dedicated to recognizing and rewarding the quality and service that is provided by the graphic communications, packaging and converting industries to their worldwide customers.

 

For the category of Announcements & Invitations (4+ Colors), The Simon Group won a Franklin Award for creating the Magic Window mailer, designed for client Ingersoll Rand’s product launch of their new ARO pumps in summer 2013.

 

Judging occurs over several days by teams of judges. The judges examine the finished products as well as how the job was performed. The number of colors, press size and printing process are used in determining the winners.
Overall design, successful completion, prepress preparation, printing and finishing are examined closely. Within each category, the judges present Franklin Awards for Excellence. Kudos to our wonderful design team!

Today’s Push/Pull Marketing Doesn’t Have to Be a Tug-o-War

Business men pulling ropeThe Internet has brought the term ‘savvy consumer’ to a whole new level, especially in the realm of product marketing.

 

Today’s B2B audiences are real-time researchers with the ability to quickly ascertain data on a product as well as a company to make very informed decisions based on:

 

-Comparative data (think side-by-side datasheets from you and your competitor)

-Community insight (such as online reviews and comments in user forums)

-Corporate support (when others within an organization back a decision)

 

Traditional B2B marketing has always employed a hybrid ‘Push/Pull’ strategy that integrates the needs and requirements of an end user with the objectives of a company.  But in today’s digital world, where fragmentation has split once-broad audiences into very niche communities, some marketers may be struggling with getting a firm grip on the rope.  Smart marketers will recognize that the larger change is in the overall messaging, with only tweaks needed to the tactics themselves.

 

The anchor position:  The web makes it easy to consume content, but can also make gathering information an overwhelming proposition.  To get it right, keep your message clear and focused on how you benefitting the user.

 
The muscle: Users now chose the environment in which they obtain information.  There is something to be said for strength in numbers, so make sure you deliver your message throughout multiple channels (analog & digital) to ensure you’re hitting your audience at the appropriate stage and within the correct medium.  A modern B2B marketing strategy not only uses the familiar tactics where audiences consume information—company website, trade publications, eblasts–but also areas where engagement and communities are growing, such as LinkedIn or Pinterest, which are currently building out some good marketing avenues.

 

Today’s Push/Pull marketing doesn’t need to keep the tension on the rope.  To fully integrate this B2B marketing strategy, alter your messaging to match what your audience is looking for—make it concise and informative.

 

Then, look at the different channels your audiences are using to obtain their information and start to bring your messaging to them through those channels.

Simon Group-designed Tradeshow Booth Wins at Tractor Supply Show

Ingersoll Rand tradeshow booth win, Simon Group designIn the beginning of 2014, Ingersoll Rand tasked The Simon Group to develop the graphics for a new tradeshow booth.

 

Developed to showcase Ingersoll Rand’s compressors and tools in “Out Here USA”, the booth was introduced at Tractor Supply Co.’s annual sales meeting…and won the Best Vendor Booth!

 

Congratulations to Ingersoll Rand and The Simon Group’s graphics department for the design!

Ingersoll Rand tradeshow booth win, Simon Group design

 

Social Media Metrics…A Tricky but Critical Pursuit in Determining ROI

Measuring Social Media ROIThere’s a saying in the engineering world that goes something like this: in order to control something, you have to be able to measure it. The same could well apply to measuring social media impact on the overall marketing effort.

 

If you can’t measure its effect, you really can’t be sure you’re getting the optimum return on your social media investment. So let’s talk about social media metrics and how they help you understand how well your social media efforts are paying off.

 

As a prelude, here are some quick stats on just how important social media has become…and it is still in its ascendancy!

 

  • 72% of U.S. adults use some form of social media…and 42% use two or more!
  • Worldwide, more than 1.8 billion people access social networks (projected to reach 2.55 billion in the next three years!)
  • Social media users are increasingly mobile: 76% of twitter users and almost 900 million Facebook users are mobile.

Keeping Score…Yesterday and Today

In the past, we counted the progression of fans, likes, clicks and other responses. But this didn’t accurately translate to ROI. We needed to go beyond those basic numbers. And going beyond pays off handsomely. Becoming more sophisticated in determining ROI has huge advantages…according to recent studies, advantages like these:

 

  • 9% more revenues on average
  • 27% more profitability than the competition
  • 12% more market valuation

OK, it clearly makes sense to develop a more mature approach to social media metrics. So, how do you join that sophisticated social media group. Four steps to get you started:

  1. Determine KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)  used to track performance against business objectives
  2. Correlate social KPIs with business KPIs
  3. Access current state and determine desired state
  4. Identify resources and build a roadmap

For details on specific ways to go about achieving each of these objectives, check out this link: Measuring Social Media ROI in the Enterprise: Myths and Facts

 

Social media can do a lot more than increasing business for your group or division…it can improve your internal divisional relationships, and help build business for other parts of your company, as well. In particular, it can strengthen necessary and very critical bonds between marketing and IT.

A solid social media strategy can make both groups look like superstars…all the while contributing to corporate growth and profitability. Not a bad combination.