Have you embraced The Cloud?

cloud computing, network, online, work flow, digitalCloud computing has become more than just a place to store information; it’s an essential part of daily business operations.


Having moved the mobile workforce beyond merely ‘working from home’, the cloud provides a location-agnostic environment where collaboration can effectively be conducted regardless of your physical location or local time zone.


What is the cloud?

Simply put, the cloud is a network of servers that either provides an online service or stores data. You can then can access your info from virtually anywhere using a computer, tablet, smartphone, etc., as long as you have an internet connection.


What can be saved to the cloud?

Any digital file — documents, pictures, video, contact information, calendars, maps — can be stored on the cloud on both public and private networks. Common business services available via cloud computing include email, digital editing, design and publishing and some collaborative software.*


How can the cloud work for you?

Generally, businesses use the cloud to save money, as its more cost efficient for three main reasons.


  • First, it’s scalable—Businesses don’t have to spend money on limited hard drive storage. Cloud service providers only charge for storage used, with an almost unlimited amount of storage available. Businesses have the option to upgrade and expand or downsize their storage needs whenever they desire with no financial backlash.


  • Next, it’s flexible—The cloud can be accessed from any device connected to the internet. This means two things: employees and clients can collaborate from anywhere on the planet and files can be opened in any operating system, regardless of the word processing applications that are installed.


  • Finally, it’s eco-friendly—In society’s attempt to be paperless, the cloud reduces paper and ink requirements. From editing to filing, all of it can be done electronically and more efficiently on the cloud.


Another business benefit is enhanced disaster recovery, since cloud companies back up your data off site, and the data will be immediately available via the internet no matter the catastrophe.


For existing as well as up-and-coming businesses, cloud storage is a natural progression towards a modern business model that focuses on cost efficiencies and global collaboration. Check out this list of things to consider before employing a cloud-based environment.


*It is important to keep in mind that, as with any digital environment, precautions need to be taken to properly secure personal or sensitive business information.


All You Need to Know about TED Talks

ted talk, better presentation, engaging audience, engaging presentationOver the past several months, we’ve heard people saying: ‘did you hear so and so give a TED talk about such and such’ or ‘did you catch that TED talk last week about blah-did-e-blah’.

At first, all I kept picturing was a cuddly, foul-mouthed brown bear, smoking a cigarette and hanging out with Mark Wahlberg. I couldn’t help myself…those were the visions that came to mind.

Obviously, I knew this was not what people meant, but it was certainly funny thinking about a stuffed bear standing up on a stage giving a riveting talk about the hazards of smoking as he’s puffing away on a cigarette and drinking a beer….

So for those of you who don’t know what a TED talk is, it’s pretty straight forward and simple. TED is an acronym for Technology, Entertainment and Design. TED began at a conference in 1984 when those three topics converged. The talks are usually short, powerful and last no longer than 18 minutes. And according to its website, TED is a non-profit, global community devoted to spreading ideas and free knowledge from the world’s most inspired thinkers.

What intrigued me is that when you listen to one of these talks, you’re captivated. Honestly, you want to sit and listen to what the speaker has to say. Their presentations are so well done, you feel like they’re over in a blink of an eye. Don’t we all wish we could give presentations like that?

So it got me to thinking. What makes a good talk, presentation or speech?

Let’s face it, we’ve all been there…a speaker droning on and on and your mind wanders to the 10 other things you would like to be doing at the moment. Basically all you hear is ‘wha, wha, wha, wha’, like the teacher from the Peanuts. You don’t want to be ‘that speaker’. But how do you avoid that?

Know your audience and why you’re giving that talk. These two key factors will make speech writing and delivering much easier.

  • Hook ‘em in the beginning and involve the audience. People tend to be more interested if they feel they are being included in what you are saying.
  • Keep it real. Tell a story from personal experience or use real life examples that the audience can relate to. This helps you work the crowd.
  • Be sure to allow for questions throughout the presentation. Don’t wait until the end.
  • Show, don’t tell. Use interesting visuals, not slides that you are reading from that the audience can read at the same time. Nothing’s worse than being ‘read to’. The audience isn’t full of preschoolers, so don’t treat them that way.
  • Always remember less is more…be brief. Say what you have to say and then STOP!
  • Practice…you know the saying, practice makes perfect. So be sure to practice, practice, practice.
  • End powerfully. Make your ending as powerful as your beginning.

With that said, I hope I kept you engaged…

Check out this PDF for more do’s and don’ts of public speaking as well as a checklist to get you ready for your next presentation.

You can also check out the TED Talk website for more information.

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.

B2B CMOs – and Those Who Work with Them – Need to Change with the Times and with the Technologies

The role of the Chief Marketing Officer in the B2B world is increasing significantly in recent times. With that expanded role come new challenges and responsibilities for the CMO and those whom he or she directs. Much of the evolution that must take place is driven by the dizzying pace of technological development and the resulting digital world we all live in.


Today’s CMOs will have to accomplish more in less time and sometimes with less resources… either human or financial. A successful CMO will focus on his company’s critical business issues, place strategy development above tactical issues and effectively pursue collaborative opportunities wherever possible.

Forrester Research B2B CMOs Must Evolve Or Move On

Figure from Forrester Research “B2B CMOs Must Evolve Or Move On” showing the increased relationship between CMOs and IT.


And because so much of what matters in today’s business environment  is, in fact, a product of the digital world, the successful CMO will do well to build strong relationships with his or her CIO and other key IT personnel.


After all, it is the IT function that can link a company’s marketing objectives to its customer base. According to a 2013 survey, the key collaboration of the marketing future, if not the present,  just may be the relationship between marketing and  IT.


For the actual results of that survey and more detailed insight into the evolving role of the CMO, you can download the report here (simple registration required).

Improving the Care and Feeding of Your Field Sales Forces

Marketing folks, in our desire to reach and influence our customers and prospects, sometimes overlook what may be their most essential audience….the sales and distribution channels.

With all of our well-intentioned efforts to reach those customers and prospects, we sometimes overlook, in our master communications plan, our direct sales people, our manufacturers reps and our distributors.

Sales forceThis is a huge missed opportunity. Treating the various field sales forces as a critical target audience can pay huge dividends…and with very little cost.

If you don’t have a strategy for communicating with the field on a regular basis, you would do well to create one. There are lots of ways to do this, but for most companies, one of the most effective ways is to develop and implement a monthly newsletter to the field sales people.

While this may seem to be an easy, almost effortless tactic, it can prove to be tricky and troublesome. The discipline needed to write, edit, produce and distribute a meaningful newsletter on a truly regular basis is quite considerable.

But, once you get the rhythm going, it can take on a momentum of its own… and the rewards can be substantial.

What to Write About
OK, so you’ve decided you really do want to communicate more frequently and meaningfully with your reps, your distributors, even your direct sales people and regional sales managers.

What are you going to say to them? Well, put yourselves in their shoes…what would YOU want to hear about?  The most important thing to sales folks is, of course, sales.

What is your company doing to help support and enhance their sales efforts? Probably plenty. And ironically, it’s mostly coming from the marketing department.

  • Do your sales people know the investment you are making in advertising to all their key target markets?
  • Do they know about the new product news releases you are pumping out to the key editors in their target markets?
  • Do they have any idea how much you are spending to send info-packed e-letters to customers and prospects?

It’s amazing how much some companies do for their sales folks without telling their sales folks about those efforts.

That’s just for starters…keep your field sales forces abreast of all your marketing communications and other corporate activities…advertising, PR, direct mail, website enhancements, social media activities (yes, social media!), trade shows, special promotions, new hires, new facilities, new partnerships, new customers in new markets…new anything that can help the field sell more product!

Every company has plenty of good news stories and these need to be shared with the field sales forces to inform, energize, encourage and motivate them. Get a newsletter going, but make sure that once you do, you really keep it going.

Otherwise it’ll lose impact just like an ad or campaign that ends before it should. Continuity is key. Treat your sales forces as an essential, critical target audience and watch the difference in what they can do for you!

So, You Just Got a Sales Lead! Now What?

Lead management funnel


You spend a lot of money to get the word out about your company, products and services to your prospects.

If you’re like most of us in this fascinating B2B marketing business, your intent is to build brand and, along the way, develop sales leads that just might turn into real sales.

Sadly, recent market figures indicate that less than 20% of sales leads result in actual sales. That’s a pretty crummy return on investment.

If you’re a CMO, a sales or marketing manager or a marcom specialist, and your leads-to-sales ratio is this low, this figure should frighten you.

It indicates that your return on your marketing investment just isn’t what it should – and could – be!

So…why is it so low across the board (no, you are NOT alone). There is a possibility that the products or service you’re marketing don’t have that much interest.

However, it’s more likely that either you’ve chosen the wrong media to get your message out, the wrong message for the market you’ve chosen…or…be honest now…you simply have no foolproof means of tracking your sales leads and determining which ones are worthy of follow-up and, in terms of lead generation, which media are delivering the best bang for the buck.

Where are they from?
Today, with more lead generating sources at our disposal than ever before…online and print…it’s more important than ever to find out which sources are hitting the mark for you.

How can you possibly do this without an effective, comprehensive and CLOSED-LOOP inquiry management system? Not having this will ensure that you are squandering an unknown portion of your all too precious marcom dollars.

Having it will give you a sure-fire way of maximizing the impact of your marketing plan and proving to others higher up in the marcom food chain that you are doing the best job possible for your company.

In its simplest terms, a closed loop inquiry management system tracks each and every lead by going back to the field for the data needed to characterize if a lead is hot, warm or dead. It asks the sales manager, salespeople, regional sales managers or whoever is in charge of inquiries (and sales!!) a few critical questions about each lead they are sent.

What was the action?
Did they contact the prospect…was the requested information delivered via print or online…is there a valid application for the product or service…if a sample was requested, was it delivered and how did it work…is this inquiry worth an additional follow-up effort, even an in-person sales call? If so, what is the mechanism for ensuring follow-up and investigating the results of that effort? If the lead is not really applicable to your division, could another division in your company pursue it?

Today’s online inquiries frequently have a ton of data associated with them. The best inquiry management system will effectively log, process and utilize that data.

On the other hand, some of the hottest leads come with no data, no clue. The telephone call! (Remember telephones??) If someone is interested enough to actually pick up the phone and call your company, the first thing you want to know is what prompted the call: An ad? A PR item? A buyer’s guide listing? A blog? What? Where? When?

The hottest leads still frequently come from the telephone and we are missing the boat big time if we don’t find out what source generated that call!

The first step to set up your inquiry management system is to evaluate your sales process. Once the review is completed, an effective system path should start to emerge from the strengths and weaknesses you found in your sales process evaluation. This is key if you ever hope to turn more of your marketing communications dollars into sales dollars, which in turn will fuel an ever-growing marcom budget!

Maintaining the Brand…in Good Times and Bad

Aries Electronics: a Marketing Communications Success Story

Frank Folmsbee, Aries Electronics

Frank Folmsbee, Aries Electronics

Aries Electronics does a lot of things very well.  One is the way they design and manufacture interconnect components and assemblies for the electronic original equipment manufacturers market.  Another is the way they market their products and technologies. Adhering to an age old, time-proven adage, and guided by their close and long-term relationship with The Simon Group, they do it with consistency…in good times and bad.  And, as a result, have had very few “bad years”…even during economic downturns, such as the last one.

Aries was founded in 1972 by Bill Sinclair who remains at the company’s helm today, both as chief executive officer and chief new product designer.  The company has had only two marcom agencies in its 41-year history. Aries reluctantly moved on from its first agency, recognizing that they had outgrown what that agency could provide.  Several of the area’s leading media reps had talked to The Simon Group about Aries…and  to Aries about The Simon Group.  And, in 1991, Aries president Bill Sinclair and sales and marketing manager Frank Folmsbee made a visit to The Simon Group farmhouse.  The rest, as they say, is history.  We’ll let Frank tell the story…

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The Agony and Ecstasy of Losing a Great Account

By Marty Simon – CEO

One thing’s for sure in the marketing communications business: nothing is forever. Not even the very best accounts. Here at The Simon Group, we’ve been privileged to work with dozens of great and near-great companies in our first 24 years of business. And, before that, I had the pleasure of working with a bunch more for 19 years at my previous agency. A lot of those clients came with me when I started The Simon Group. One of them was with me for almost 40 years…not a bad run…we helped each other grow and prosper for sure before we shook hands and moved on.

This story is about the accounts we’ve lost over the years because we simply did too good a job for them. Well, that’s not quite true…we did the job they asked us to do: we made them very profitable and very famous in their markets and they went and got bought out by much bigger companies! Not that we begrudge them that…after all, that’s kind of what they hired us to do.

So, while it is painful to lose a successful and profitable account, it’s not always a losing proposition. First, there’s the extreme satisfaction from knowing that you just helped some of your colleagues score the biggest sale they may ever see in their careers. We’ve had lots of thanks and praise and “you guys have made my career!!” kind of responses from our now-sold clients.

And it doesn’t even always end there. Sometimes, our primary contacts, for one reason or another, move on to a new company and they don’t forget the job we did for them at their previous company. Frequently, The Simon Group has been transferred from one great client to another because our key contact moved on and insisted on our moving with him. As long as there’s no conflict of interest, we’re delighted to do just that!   It’s quite a compliment and certainly an acknowledgement of the success we had for that client.

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