CMO Smart emcee Steven Handmaker: Create winning experiences and make people happy

Steven Handmaker, Chief Marketing Officer of Assurance, will emcee AMA Chicago’s CMO Smart at the Loyola University Chicago Quinlan School of Business on August 29, 2018.

CMO Smart will feature a first-hand look of the new CMO Survey from its Founder and Managing Director, Christine Moorman. Event emcee Steven Handmaker calls the study valuable because “It’s always telling to get a sense of what’s trending within the industry, relating to everything from spend and focus to the impact on the bottom line and hiring trends.

“For marketers, especially at the C-level, the more ammo we have, the better. This information is always very useful for building the case for the directions we want to go.”

Here are some more thoughts from Handmaker on the event, the Survey, and the challenges facing today’s marketing leaders.

Owning the overall brand experience

“CMO Smart is all about data-driven information that marketing leaders can use to make big-picture decisions,” says Handmaker.

Some of the data from the CMO Survey that will be shared at the event, as it happens, describes a shift in the roles played by people called “marketing leaders.”

“It’s gratifying to see marketers making their way into C-suites and boardrooms—that’s a trend that’s on the increase,” says Handmaker.  “We’re starting to see more length in tenure, too—the CMO position used to be among the shortest, two years and you were gone.

“Marketers are also gaining a bigger hand in technology spend. We’re being looked at for roles beyond just new biz acquisition, and asked to really own the overall brand experience of prospects and clients as well. Our sphere continues to grow. It’s a moving target in terms of new challenges.”

The marketer as salesperson

Those new challenges include functions that used to fall exclusively to teams outside the marketing department.

“There’s an entire purchase channel that is being erased,” says Handmaker, describing the change he’s seen since his early days in B2B marketing. “We were effective to a point; then we had to rely on the sales force to make connections and bring customers over the goal line. That’s not the way much of the world works today.

“Today’s B2B marketers are being asked, how can you assist the process all the way through the customer cycle? It’s incredibly experiential. Creativity and focusing on brand are part and parcel of the process throughout.

“We’ve gone from the marketer being responsible for getting the customer from A to B, to the marketer being the salesperson. Our sphere is growing bigger, and all of it is important.”

“An incredibly non-tech person”

“For all the technology in the world, I remain an incredibly non-tech person in believing that a great interactive experience is still the way to win hearts and minds,” says Handmaker. “My stories of successes that make you loyal forever didn’t happen because of tech, but because of something human.

“Our job is to create and systematize those experiences.”

He describes an experience at a famous New York hotel where an associate’s thoughtful gesture more than overcame the hotel’s physical shortcomings.

“The quality of the room didn’t matter—our experience went from a 5 to a 12, and it cost them $20 and five minutes.

“That is the opportunity that exists for marketers to look comprehensively at areas where they can make an impact. It’s empowering people with the autonomy to create winning experiences and make people happy.”

AMA Chicago presents CMO Smart—August 29, 2018

Steven Handmaker is our emcee at CMO Smart on August 29, with keynote speaker Christine Moorman sharing results and insights from the August 2019 CMO Survey. Join us.

AMA Chicago invites you to CMO Smart for an exclusive first-hand look at new data from The CMO Survey, the leading-edge survey of national marketing trends. Join top Chicagoland CMOs in a conversation with Christine Moorman of Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the lead researcher on the study.

Reserve your seat now!

Why marketing analytics hasn’t lived up to its promise

By: Carl F. Medina and Christine Moorman

We see a paradox in two important analytics trends. The most recent results from The CMO Survey conducted by Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and sponsored by Deloitte LLP and the American Marketing Association reports that the percentage of marketing budgets companies plan to allocate to analytics over the next three years will increase from 5.8% to 17.3%—a whopping 198% increase. These increases are expected despite the fact that top marketers report that the effect of analytics on company-wide performance remains modest, with an average performance score of 4.1 on a seven-point scale, where 1=not at all effective and 7=highly effective. More importantly, this performance impact has shown little increase over the last five years, when it was rated 3.8 on the same scale.

How can it be that firms have not seen any increase in how analytics contribute to company performance, but are nonetheless planning to increase spending so dramatically? Based on our work with member companies at the Marketing Science Institute, two competing forces explain this discrepancy—the data used in analytics and the analyst talent producing it. We discuss how each force has inhibited organizations from realizing the full potential of marketing analytics and offer specific prescriptions to better align analytics outcomes with increased spending.

Christine Moorman is our keynote speaker at CMO Smart on August 29. She’ll be sharing results and insights from the August 2019 CMO Survey. Join us to hear from her.

The Data Challenge

Data are becoming ubiquitous, so at first blush it would appear that analytics should be able to deliver on its promise of value creation. However, data grows on its own terms, and this growth is often driven by IT investments, rather than by coherent marketing goals. As a result, data libraries often look like the proverbial cluttered closet, where it is hard to separate the insights from the junk.

In most companies, data is not integrated. Data collected by different systems is disjointed, lacking variables to match the data, and using different coding schemes. For example, data from mobile devices and data from PCs might indicate similar browsing paths, but if the consumer data and the data on pages browsed cannot be matched, it is hard to determine browsing behavior. That’s why understanding how data will ultimately be integrated and measured should be considered prior to collecting the data, precisely because it will lower the cost of matching.

What’s more, most companies have huge amounts of data, making it hard to process in a timely manner. Merging data across a vast number of customers and interactions involves “translating” code, systems, and dictionaries. Once cohered, vast amounts of information can overwhelm processing power and algorithms. Many approaches exist to scale analytics, but collecting data that cannot be analyzed is inefficient.

An irony of having too much data is that you often have too little information. The more data and fields collected, the less they overlap, creating “holes” in the data. For example, two customers with the same level of transactions could have very different shares of wallet. While one represents a selling opportunity, the other might offer little potential gain. Data should be designed with an eye towards imputation — so the holes in the data can filled as needed to drive strategy.

Perhaps worst of all, data is often not causal. For example, while it is true that search advertising can be correlated with purchase because customers are in a motivated state to buy, it does not follow that ads caused sales. Even if the firm did not advertise, consumers are motivated to buy, so how does one know whether the ads were effective? Worse, as data grows, these problems compound. Without the right analytic approach, no amount of investment will translate to insights.

Companies should do two things to harness the power of analytics in their marketing functions. First, rather than create data and then decide what to do with it, firms should decide what to do first, and then which data they need to do it. This means better integrating marketing and IT, and developing systems around the information needs of the senior management team instead of creating a culture of “capture data and pray.”

Second, companies should create an integrated 360-degree view of the customer that considers every customer behavior from the time the alarm rings in the morning until they go to bed in the evening. Every potential engagement point, for both communication and purchase, should be captured. Only then can firms completely understand their customers via analytics, and develop customized experiences to delight them. The CMO Survey we referenced above shows that firms’ performance on this type of integration has not improved over the last five years, challenging companies’ ability to answer the most important questions about their customers.

The Data Analyst Challenge

The CMO Survey also found that only 1.9% of marketing leaders reported that their companies have the right talent to leverage marketing analytics. Good data analysts, like good data, are hard to find. Sadly, the overall rating on a seven-point scale, where 1 is “does not have the right talent” and 7 is “has the right talent,” has not changed between the first time the question was asked in 2013 (Mean 3.4, SD =1.7) and 2017 (Mean 3.7, SD =1.7).

The gap between the promise and the reality of analytics points to a disconnect that needs resolution. Companies need to better align their data strategy and data analyst talent to realize the potential that analytics can bring to marketing managers. In the absence of talent, even great data can lie fallow and prevent a firm from harnessing the full potential of the data. What are some of the characteristics that companies should look for in good data scientists? They should:

Clearly define the business problem. Managers who rely on data scientists to know what might be possible to do with the data often find great value in simply having that person help define the problem. For example, a marketer coming to a data analyst asking questions about driving conversions might not realize that there’s also data at the top of the purchase funnel that might be even more germane to driving long-term sales. Rather than taking requests as they are stated, data analysts should take requests as they should be asked, integrating advice tightly with the needs of the company. For example, a request to assess how marketing promotions affect sales should also account for the effect of promotions on brand equity.

Understand how algorithms and data map to business problems. Companies will see more effective data analytics if teams are clear on firm objectives, informed of the strategy, sensitive to organizational structure, and exposed to customers. To enable this understanding, data analysts should spend physical time outside of data analytics, perhaps visiting customers to give them an understanding of market requirements, attending market planning meetings to better appreciate the company’s goals, and helping to ensure data (IT), data analytics, and marketing are all aligned.

Understand the company’s goals. Data analytics is beset by multiple requests, like a waiter serving too many customers. A clear recognition of a firm’s goals enables data analysts to prioritize projects and allocate time to those that are the most important (those that have the highest marginal value to a firm). Requests should be centralized, and then prioritized by a) whether the findings have the potential to change the way things are done and b) the economic consequences of such changes. Several companies develop standardized forms to ensure requests are assessed on an equal footing. An attendant benefit of this process is that it mitigates the potential for opportunistic research clients to approach analysts asking them to conduct a study to support a preconceived strategy for political reasons, instead of deciding between strategies that are in the best interests of the firm.

Communicate insights, not facts. Communication theory tells us that the transmitter and receiver of information must share a common domain of knowledge for information to be transmitted. This means analysts need to understand what the firm’s managers can understand. Small font sizes, complex figures and equations, the use of jargon, and an emphasis on the modeling process instead of insights and explanations are common errors when presenting analyses. Why should one use a complicated model to present information when a simple infographic would suffice? Presentations should be organized around insights, rather than analytic approaches. This is another reason it is critical for analysts to connect externally with customers and internally with the managers using their work. Plus, instead of reporting a “parameter estimate,” an analyst should communicate how results point to tangible strategic actions. This requires analysts to structure their analysis in a decision framework that helps managers assess best and worst case scenarios.

Develop an instinct for mapping the variation in the data to the business questions. That means two things. First, analysts need a comprehensive understanding of all the relevant drivers (e.g., marketing and environmental factors) and outcomes (e.g., purchase funnel metrics). For example, to ascertain the effect of advertising on sales, one would need to recognize that concurrent changes in product design can affect sales, lest one misattribute the effect of product changes to the advertising that announces them. Second, analysts must have a means to ensure that drivers lead to outcomes instead of outcomes leading to drivers. Once again, this requires the analyst to understand the nature of the markets being analyzed. Regarding the latter, no complicated model that purports to control for missing information can ever compensate fully for lack of causal variation. Likes drive sales and sales drive likes. However, disentangling the two means having some factor that can independently manipulate one and not the other. 

Identify the best tool for the problem. On the analytics side, it goes without saying that years of training and practice are necessary. One cannot play an instrument without learning it, and the same is true for analysts. Most important is knowing which tool, of the many available, is best for which problem. At a very granular level, experimental methods are especially adept at assessing causality; supervised machine learning excels at prediction where non-supervised machine learning can decompose non-numerical stimuli into tags or attributes for further analysis. Economics and psychology afford deep insights into the nature of consumer behavior, and statistics can help us excel at inference. A strong understanding of marketing grounds all of these tools and disciplines in the business context necessary to produce effective advice.

Span skill boundaries. Some marketing analysts excel at math and coding, and some excel at framing issues, developing explanations, and connecting to business implications. A far smaller set excel at both. Companies either need to wrap these variegated skills into one person through training and accumulating different types of experiences, or, more likely, assemble a team that is sufficiently facile with the techniques that they can interact productively, ensuring that there is some mechanism to match the approach (and the analyst) to the problem. This match requires senior talent, with the breadth of perspective to align analytical resources and business problems.

In light of the exponential growth in customer, competitor, and marketplace information, companies face an unprecedented opportunity to delight their customers by delivering the right products and services to the right people at the right time and the right format, location, devices, and channels. Realizing that potential, however, requires a proactive and strategic approach to marketing analytics. Companies need to invest in the right mix of data, systems, and people to realize these gains.


Carl F. Mela is the T. Austin Finch Foundation Professor of Marketing at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Executive Director at the Marketing Science Institute.


Christine Moorman is the T. Austin Finch, Sr. Professor of Business Administration at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business and the Editor-in-Chief designate of the Journal of Marketing.


Originally posted in Harvard Business Review, May 2018.

Is your brand keeping up with the platform world?

By: Vivaldi

Last month, Vivaldi, the growth, innovation and brand strategy consultancy, hosted on October 4th the first “Breakfast of (Brand) Champions,” a workshop series specially organized for the Branding Special Interest Group of AMA Chicago. We focused the inaugural workshop on how to build strong brands in today’s rapidly changing world. With platforms seemingly poised to take over our business landscape, we discussed how platform thinking can benefit even incumbent brands as they evaluate their own path forward.

The workshop kicked off by defining platform thinking as the ultimate source of value creation for modern business success – where value is created not by means of optimizing production and traditional value chains but by facilitating interactions and linking data sources for greater impact.  Platform companies attract a wide range of participants, and involve them in the creation of products, services, and experiences that help solve real problems and meet real goals, and that enable the participants to collaborate and interact with each other, and thus increase the value of the products and create exponential growth.

Using Vivaldi client LEGO as a case study, we explored how the modern advantage of facilitating interactions could be adopted by other brands – and how a thoughtful approach to understanding how to create value could leverage the global infrastructure of connectivity and collaboration, shifting power instead of struggling to control it.

We had a fantastic time and participants left the workshop energized by the conversation and the new thinking that emerged. For those of you who weren’t able to attend, here are three questions that were asked of participants, as they identified the best platform approach for their own brand and gathered into breakout groups where the Vivaldi team helped outline key steps that brands can take to navigate today’s world of platforms.

1. What is your brand’s source of strength?

As an incumbent player, two of your key advantages in building a platform are your existing customer base and an established network of suppliers, partners and intermediaries. You can begin the business of building a platform with a selected set of existing customers, and then grow the platform from there. But in order to do so, there needs to be some basis for which existing customers would want to bet on you. And that’s where your brand comes into play. It’s important to understand your brand’s source of strength as it will influence what type of platform you can most easily and credibly build and how to communicate the value it brings to participants.

2. What enabling processes and technologies can you take advantage of?

Are you, like John Deere whose sophisticated tractors can be equipped with sensors to collect and communicate data, able to bring the IoT to each of your products in order to offer a new data infrastructure to partners? Do you, like Amazon who put its warehousing and fulfillment capabilities at the service of small businesses globally, excel at certain activities along the value chain and can you offer these to participants in exchange for gathering data about participants on the platform? Or are you, like GoPro who has become a media powerhouse, at the center of user generated content that can be shared and amplified, leading to network effects?

There are many ways to build the processes and technologies that will enable your platform, but before you plan a new digital transformation project, take a look at the initiatives already in place within your organization. You may be surprised at how forward-thinking they are when looked at in the right light.

3. What interactions can you facilitate?

The final question that we addressed in the workshop was that of knowing how to uniquely respond to the market’s needs. Using a series of probes, we explored the long list of possible stakeholders who could interact on our platforms, the goals they were pursuing, the data each of them would need to meet their goals, but also what data they had or could generate easily for others to meet their goals. This led to some insightful ideas regarding how some of the companies present could create new connections between stakeholders, play a different role than today, and create value in the process.

We wrapped up the workshop by discussing how this platform exploration could help expand a brand’s vision, shared some examples and introduced our next session. Join us in Q1 of 2018 for the second “Breakfast of (Brand) Champions.” We’re partnering with Barry Calpino, VP Innovation at ConAgra to talk about brand innovations and share some tips and tools to consider as you look ahead to 2020.

Expert Tips and Key Takeaways From MarketingTech Smart 2017

By Brittany Tepper

Over 100 marketing professionals attended MarketingTech Smart on September 27, 2017 at the Loyola University Chicago Quinlan School of Business. Through multiple sessions with industry experts, attendees were able to learn how to navigate the crossroads of marketing and technology, and network with other engaged marketers in the community.

Here are a few tips from our experts and takeaways from our American Marketing Association Chicago members:

Expert Tip #1: “Reporting isn’t analysis” – Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director at Orbit Media

We all know that data analytics are an important part of the marketing technology stack. However, too often marketers solely report on key metrics (click through rates, bounce rate, etc.) and don’t use data to inform their marketing strategy. Andy Crestodina, Strategic Director of Orbit Media, discussed several quick and easy ways marketers can use Google Analytics to create data-driven business decisions.

Before jumping into the session, Andy emphasized that the two most important factors for your website are traffic and conversion rate — Traffic X Conversion Rate = Money/Success. Anything that doesn’t support either of these two factors is irrelevant.

While there are hundreds of different ways to optimize for increased traffic and conversions, and you can find many of them on Andy’s blog, these two tips stood out:

A. How to understand the likelihood of a conversion based on referral traffic.

Knowing where your audience was before they got to your website is important, but knowing how likely they are to convert based on where they came from is even more valuable. To see your website’s sources of referral traffic with its corresponding conversion rates in Google Analytics go to Acquisition > All Traffic > Channels.

*If you don’t already have your Google Analytics set up, here is a great article from Orbit Media.

B. How to look at your on-site search queries to understand your audience and their needs.

Congratulations, you have gotten a great lead to your website! But they can’t seem to find what they’re looking for. Hopefully, they will search directly on your website without going elsewhere. Your internal search queries tell you a lot about your audience’s needs and your website’s content gaps. To view your search queries in Google Analytics go to: Behavior> Site Search>Search Terms. Here is another great article on how to set this up from Orbit Media.

Key Takeaways from AMA Chicago Members:

“I got the most out of Andy’s session on data analytics. I do a lot of B2B marketing, and being able to translate data into something that is truly functional, goes beyond reporting, and offers profitable solutions gives our clients, and my agency an advantage.” – Amanda Zidel, Account Executive at Plan B Advertising.

Expert Tip #2: “Brands need to be just as human as you and me.” – Kim Brown, Head of Global Product Marketing at GE Renewable Energy Digital

In the age of the ever-evolving newsfeed, creating authentic human-based connections with customers has never been more important. Kim Brown, Head of Global Product Marketing at GE Renewable Energy Digital, discussed the importance of building out brands as human as their customers.

Kim encouraged attendees to think about today’s top brands. The most successful brands have taken a “360-degree approach” to their own personas, along with their customers. By knowing both themselves and their customers, these brands present themselves as authentic, simple and highly transparent. These brands are also able to develop more impactful value propositions and create powerful content that is valuable for both parties.

Key Takeaways from AMA Chicago Members:

“Kim’s presentation on content marketing provided valuable insights into how brands can be more authentic in their content creation. There is nothing worse than clicking on an article, and instead of finding a solution, finding a sales pitch. I’ll be applying a lot of these “human- based” methods to my own content marketing.”

Expert Tip #3: “Marketing automation is a journey, not a destination.” – Kim Dazey, Marketing Manager at Morningstar and Emilie Kraft, Marketing Manager at Morningstar

Implementing marketing automation into a business can be a long and cumbersome process. Kim Dazey and Emilie Kraft, Marketing Managers at Morningstar, walked attendees through the three-year long process of implementing Eloqua into their organization. They compared the process to building a house through the analogy of involving multiple stakeholders within their organization to contractors. Their largest piece of advice was that everyone must be involved throughout the whole process in order to produce a quality finished product.

Key Takeaways from AMA Chicago Members:

“The marketing automation case study helped reinforce the process. We have struggled to get some of our technology to work together, and hearing others say it’s doable helps us reevaluate some of our current processes. – Marcel Manzano, E-Commerce Manager at Ryerson.

While conference-goers may have attended different sessions, their key takeaways all followed a common theme — implementing what they learned to advance their company and career. For more information on future events or AMA Membership, visit https://amachicago.org/join-ama

Using Google Analytics in a Few Clicks

On March 22nd, Chicago AMA members and guests gathered at 1871 to hear from Google Analytics expert, Andy Crestodina. In addition to being the Co-Founder and Strategic Director at Orbit Media, he also serves as a mentor at 1871, an Adjunct Professor at Loyola; and was named in the “Top 10 Online Experts I’m Following in 2015” by Forbes Magazine. The night’s topic was “Applied Google Analytics: Insights and Actions,” a presentation that he will be giving as a keynote speaker at an upcoming conference–and we were lucky enough to hear it first!

A well-seasoned speaker, Crestodina breezed through his slides with the ease of a professor teaching his most passionate subject. In fact, he joked that if his soon-to-be-born child could learn one thing, he hoped it would be Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). His over-arching statement is this: Traffic times your Conversion Rate is what will equal success for your website.

Let’s take a look at how he illustrated this throughout the evening. The broad topics covered were:

  • Reporting vs. Analysis: How most marketers get Analytics wrong
  • Turning ideas into questions
  • Analytics Insights
  • Audience Insights: WHO is visiting?
  • Acquisition Insights: WHERE are they coming from?
  • Behavior Insights: WHAT are they doing here?
  • Conversion Insights: WHICH pieces of content are successful?

Before diving into the tips and tricks of Google Analytics, Crestodina ensured that the group was on the same playing field by quizzing the audience on the difference between data (pages of reports) and analytics (words written about those reports).

Analytics are KEY to your business, and he likened them to being the driving wheel of your company–you wouldn’t just hand that over to anyone, would you? He encouraged each of us to take the driver’s wheel and learn to run these reports, perform the analytics and cautioned against outsourcing the analytics 100% to an outside firm.

Additionally, once you have the analytics in front of you, he encouraged the asking of questions, putting the answers into actionable tasks and performing a series of tests to ensure the path taken was helpful, fruitful and profitable to your company.

The reports sections included and discussed in his presentation were: Audience, Aquisition, Behavior and Conversion. These four sections of Google Analytics contain reports that can unlock the mystery of who is visiting your website, where they are coming from, what they are doing once they are there, and which content is getting them to stay. Let’s take a look at a small sample of the reports discussed.

Audience & Acquisition – Mobile vs Not

Within three clicks in Google Analytics, you can discover what percentage of your website traffic is fed from mobile devices. That’s interesting. Take it a step further. Combine Traffic data with a CRO analysis and you can find out if your mobile audience is less or more engaged than your non-mobile audience. Now you have somewhere to start, questions to ask and answers to test.

Behavior – “The Report of Broken Dreams”

Again, with just a few clicks within Google Analytics, you can see the terms that users searched for and then the amount of people that left your website because they couldn’t find what they were searching for. The insight? Write about that topic! Crestodina says to think about your website as if it were a city.  Put your “Billboards” where your “Traffic” is. Know your most popular road (or paths, on your site) and load it up with your best and most searched for content.

Towards the end of his presentation, Crestodina quoted Barry Feldman: “Your website is a mouse trap, your content is the cheese.” He asked the audience: “Are you writing content that your audience desires?” And added, “Strong websites have a conversion rate of 1-3%. Below that, you aren’t going to make any money; over that, you’re going to be a millionaire.”

The message was clear: Traffic times Conversion Rate equals success. Crestodina provided clear steps on how to run a good set of reports that any business owner can start with to help he or she analyze why a piece or a side of that formula is not working for his or her business. The presentation ended a joyful applause and a few whispers of “I wish I could go work on these reports right NOW!”

About the Author

Ms. Ramsey is the owner of Besty Bash, LLC, a creative social media & digital marketing firm in Chicago. In her free time, she enjoys listening to live music and chatting about it on her blog, www.LaurenIgnited.com.

Twitter: @TweetsByBetsy / @LaurenIgnited
LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/laureneramsey

Connecting Ideas to Drive Results: A Brandsmart Recap

By Jessica Schaeffer, Director of Marketing, LaSalle Network

A clear theme emerged at 22 West Washington Street on April 28th as some of the biggest minds in marketing gathered to share insights around the brands they manage. The theme: the new wave of marketing: the power of storytelling to build relationships and trust with your consumers and clients.

Chicago American Marketing Associaton’s BrandSmart offered a smattering of perspectives from not-for-profits, ad agencies, big brands and up and coming brands.

Here’s a peek at the day in case you missed it, or just want to compare notes.

Session 1: Marketing for Tomorrow Starting Today – First Session

The day kicked off with a tag team effort by Ron Bess of Havas Worldwide and Zain Raj of Shapiro + Raj. Their message? Great brands (both your personal brand and an organization’s brand) build enduring bonds by fulfilling relationship expectations and sharing brand control.

Raj highlighted eight actionable relationships a consumer has with a brand – the best being a devoted relationship and the worst being a passable relationship. While every brand should strive to achieve devoted relationships with their customers, a mere 12% of customers say they have a devoted relationship with a brand.

So how do you deepen attachment and improve the experience? Raj shared five tips:

  1. Create a new focus: Begin with your most devoted customers to convert your most attractive prospects. Stop going after customers who don’t LOVE your brand.
  2. Try a new approach: Treat customers with respect, trust and loyalty
  3. Adopt a new mindset: Brands need to be perpetually evolving and try to improve
  4. Build a new model: Every company needs to be focused on cutting costs and producing faster
  5. Solve a new equation: Values x Authenticity: The strongest brands know they have to have commendable values, and LIVE those values

Bess closed out the session by drawing parallels between Raj’s presentation and personal branding. Just like a company’s brand, your personal brand is tied to the results you produce and the relationships you build. As a professional, you need to be focused on building trust, respect and loyalty.

Session 2: Transforming the Cubs Brand

Director of Marketing at the Chicago Cubs, Allison Miller, gave attendees a glimpse into the challenges the Cubs’ brand has faced during her tenure. Chief among them understanding and honing in on their target market.

Miller joined the Cubs and realized quickly they were selling a bad product. The Cubs had an aging team, the third highest payroll in the league and amenities that were deteriorating. They had a large, diverse fan base, and yet they knew nothing about them. They were marketing to everyone, without a clear focus of who would really move the needle for the brand.

Miller began the process by segmenting their customers and creating a fan and brand promise. The Cubs took time to understand the different brand personas and talk with these customers. Then, they worked to develop a brand message, campaigns and experiences they wanted these customers to have.

The findings helped the Cubs narrow their marketing, target their messaging around changes within the organization and bridge what the community wanted to do with the stadium with what the Cubs needed to do to advance the organization.

Session 3: Redefining a brand through a cause partnership

Chuck Gitkin, SVP of Brand Marketing at Smithfield Foods gave attendees a glimpse into a strategic partnership with Operation Homefront. Operation Homefront assists military families during difficult financial times by providing food assistance, moving assistance and financial assistance among other things.

If you aren’t familiar with Smithfield Foods, Gitkin says you probably aren’t alone….packaged meats isn’t the sexiest or most well-known industry, and that’s one of the primary reasons behind partnering with Operation Homefront. Not only does Smithfield Foods believe in giving back and supporting those and their families who protect our country, but the partnership helps bring visibility to both organizations.

Gitkin explained that cause marketing has allowed the company, which has a limited marketing budget, to create more exposure for less. They’ve brought in spokespeople to help champion Operation Homefront, and by default, Smithfield Foods. They’ve also created special packaging that a portion of the proceeds is donated directly to Operation Homefront.

Session 4: Panel Discussion: Getting Creative with the B2C agency of the future

Maybe you’ve seen this commercial. What you may not know is that Wrigley and ad agency, Energy BBDO worked collaboratively to create it. The two companies, which have been working together for years, gave us a glimpse into their relationship with John Starkey, VP, Gum, Mints and Media at Wrigley talking with Lianne Sinclair and Andres Ordonez of Energy BBDO.

The trio shared how their relationship has evolved over the years – emphasizing the fact that Energy BBDO is an extension of the Wrigley team, and explaining that now Energy BBDO is brought in earlier in Wrigley’s process. Wrigley is also exposed to Energy BBDO’s “unfinished product” to gauge their temperature and get their input on a project before it’s nearly complete.

Session 5: Hear the Brand: The Rise of Audio Branding: How to get the Most from Your Sound

Colleen Fahey sang, hummed and tapped her way to her main message on Thursday: leave an earprint with every piece of brand communication.

Fahey runs Sixieme Son, an audio branding company that strives to express brand values through sound. The audio brand of a company, Fahey explained, is everything from its on-hold music, to its app sounds, TV and radio spots and sales presentations.

Fahey argued a few key reasons why every company needs to consider its audio DNA.

  1. Music is a language that is universally understood
  2. Music moves behavior
  3. Sounds lead to sales
  4. Sounds speeds search
  5. Audio branding builds brand value

Not convinced? Check out these great examples of audio branding successes Fahey shared: Samsung, Tropicana, and Michelin.

Session 6: Insurance Agents are Rock Stars

Assurance Agency has been recognized by Fortune Magazine as one of the Top 100 Places to Work in the Country. This is one of dozens of awards the company has won throughout its tenure, and VP of Marketing, Steve Handmaker argues it’s been good for business, too….but it hasn’t always been this way.

Assurance wasn’t always a great place to work. In fact, staff was disengaged and profits were suffering as a result. In 1998, Assurance brought on new leadership to right the ship. They decided to focus on people.

Their philosophy was simple. Happy employees = happy clients. Handmaker borrowed from fellow marketer Seth Godin’s theory of purple cows, explaining that Assurance’s culture was their purple cow, the one thing that makes them truly remarkable and sets them apart from competitors in the insurance industry.

Since that decision, not only has Assurance invested in staff to build an incredible culture, they’ve also effectively marketed employee engagement programs to ensure the country knows they are a purple cow.

“Our culture doesn’t automatically mean we win, but its’ getting us to the finish line and helping make us a part of the conversation.” – Steve Handmaker

Session 7: Brand Building and Data Driven Demand Generation

Data paralysis.

Ad resistant.

Craig Greenfield, COO of Performics explained that in today’s world, marketers are overwhelmed by data, and consumers are resistant to our messages and skeptical of our ads.

How do we overcome this? We have to better understand our customers and what they want. We have to identify customer intent before they want express it. As marketers, we can do this by measuring time on site, bounce rates, coupon downloads, the list goes on and on….any piece of content that captures data about our audience.

If you don’t have the data you want, Greenfield says to identify needed data, then create audiences, design experiences and then plan, launch, test and learn.

Session 8: The Impact of Content Creativity with Always on Brands

In typical Leo Burnett fashion, Vincent Geraghty, EVP and Head of Production at Leo Burnett, wowed us showing some incredible campaigns, with one of the most poignant being the Runlikeagirl campaign created for Always.

This was about as conventional as it got though, as Geraghty discussed how his greenhouse team is changing the way Leo Burnett does business. The greenhouse content team is run like a newroom. They’ve adopted a “maker mentality,” where concepting is no longer good enough. They are executers, doers, creators.

This team has allowed Leo Burnett to streamline the approval process, execute on trending ideas quickly and efficiently.

The Greenhouse team is focused on telling great stories that are finely crafted full of human insights. Their goal is to deliver content that entertains, resonates, and weaves the brand into the insight and story.

Session 9: Panel: Getting Creative with the B2B Agency of the Future

According to Linda McGovern, SVP Global Marketing at USG, and Mike Hensley, President at Gyro, the B2B agency of the future is one that understands how to curate brand touchpoints, one that is able to expand and shrink based on the needs of its client, and one that is insanely focused on user experience and content creation.

Like speakers before them, McGovern and Hensley echoed the need to create experiences, not just compelling messages. They touched on the importance emotion plays in the decision making process, and how marketing today needs to connect with the customer.

Session 10: Think Differently: Opportunity Identification or Breakthrough Ideas

After Lindsay Avner stepped off the stage, there may not have been a dry eye in the house. Avner, who founded BrightPink, shared her story of undergoing a risk reducing double mastectomy at the age of 22 to help prevent a future seemingly inevitable diagnosis of breast and ovarian cancer.

As Avner shared her passion for education and getting one step ahead of cancer, it was clear that her powerful message was reaching the right audience because of unique marketing tactics.

Avner explained that she borrows the equity and brand recognition of powerful partners like Arie and Paul Mitchell to communicate BrightPink’s message. The not-for-profit has created highly visible campaigns around Mother’s Day, with the most recent being the #goaskyourmother campaign which urged young women to talk about family history of breast and ovarian cancer.

BrightPink created an online assessment that allows women to assess their risk of breast and ovarian cancer quickly and easily.

Avner’s philosophy is: awareness doesn’t save lives, action does…and all of BrightPink’s marketing efforts are judged based on that simple premise. Has our content, our partnerships caused people to make a change?

Session 11: LUV Lessons: Building a Brand from the Inside Out

He may be retired, but Dave Ridley definitely still has it….the former head of marketing at Southwest Airlines reminded the audience of our biggest brand advocates, our employees.

A few key quotes from his speech sum up his message:

  • “The business of business is people” –Herb Kelleher
  • To develop a great brand, start from the inside out.
  • “I still bleed canyon blue” – as marketers we need more of that diehard marketing. That commitment and dedication to our brands
  • It is a privilege to lead people – you get to invest in the hearts and minds of people
  • Everyone is a CEO…a chief encouragement officer, that’s the number one way to make a difference in people’s lives

Social Media Rules! How Can Higher Ed Marketers Reach Prospective Students?

When trying to reach Generation Z or Millennials, SnapChat, Instagram and Twitter are the “it” social media platforms. Print still serves a purpose — mainly driving the recipient to your digital presence – but social media is the place where engagement and conversion happens. That was the message Michael Mullarkey, chief executive officer of Chicago-based Brickfish, delivered at the Higher Ed SIG gathering that took place April 6.

The SIG meeting, which was held at Troquet North, was a discussion about how to optimize social media for colleges and universities. In keeping with our new format for these gatherings, the meeting was more of a moderated conversation as opposed to a presentation.  It was a huge success!

Brickfish, whose slogan is “Engagement is Everything,” manages the content and social media of large brands like Neiman Marcus and Hertz.  Relevant, fresh content along with a quick response to visitors’ queries is essential to the success of any enterprise. Generation Z and Millennials expect instance responses. Mullarkey believes Facebook is still important, but these cohorts spend most of their time exchanging rapid-fire communiqués with their friends on SnapChat and WhatsApp. Marketers need to become a relevant part of these exchanges.

Mullarkey also spoke about the shrinking reach of Facebook and Instagram. Once brands established their presence on these platforms, these firms monetized their sites.  You now have to boost your post to expand your reach and that requires paying for it. He offered some advice about how to get around having to pay, which includes unique, relevant content, engagement and short video.

Bottom line: For us higher education communicators, it’s new a world. We just need to fasten our seat belts and enjoy the ride.

Betsy Butterworth Dean Petrulakis

Betsy Butterworth and Dean Petrulakis

Co-Chairs, Chicago AMA Higher Education Special Interest Group

10 SEO Strategies for Your Website

You know the value of search ranking in search engines, but what factors do Google, Bing, and Yahoo use in their algorithms to rank these websites? Whether your website is a business or personal hobby, there are many tactics and strategies to achieve search engine optimization that require marketing and technological skills. Depending on your goals, an individual or multiple teams can implement these activities. But Even in a collaboration effort, it’s important to know the features search engines look for to rank your website. While the algorithms of search engines are constantly changing, and it can be overwhelming to keep up with them, the most important thing to keep in mind is the search engine’s goal is to provide users the precise information they’re looking for. As long as SEO teams keep the reader in mind when writing content and setting up their webpages, that’s the biggest step to achieving high ranking.

With that mindset, here’s 10 SEO activities to optimize your website organized in four areas: Technical Set Up, HTML Coding, Content, and Off-Websites Influences.

Technical Set Up


1. Ensure your website is mobile-friendly

Earlier this year, Google and Bing began labeling search results as “mobile-friendly” (see Figure 1). Websites built for a mobile experience are given a boost in mobile search results, but does not impact rankings on a desktop device. But know that content rules. So a clear winner in content will rank higher than just being mobile optimized. Still, a website not optimized for mobile will underperform.

Good tool to help you test if you’re mobile friendly: https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/

10 SEO website strategies 1

2.  Ensure your webpages have fast loading times

Search engines use this measurement in its algorithm for search ranking. A fast page loading time not only pleases the search engines but gives your visitor a much better experience too. There are a few measures you can take, including uploading images as close to the right size as needed so it doesn’t bog down your page. And careful of embedding too many YouTube videos. Other technical aspects, such as excess HTML coding, can slow it down too.

Google tool to help measure speed: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/

3. Create clear URL structures

URL wording is very important. Having-a-clear-URL-structure-like-this clearly describes what your page is about as, well as giving you additional keyword credit when sharing this link on other webpages. Your webpage will have more credibility and trust to users when the clear and descriptive link.

Good: www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/oven-baked-salmon-recipe.html
Bad: http://litoschickenrecipes.com/public/pages/b82385d4-1d6a-4362

4. Make sure there’s no errors in search engines crawling your website

Search engine crawlers scan everything about your webpages so they can index, or categorize, your website. The robots.txt file on your server will tell search engine crawlers (like the Googlebot) which pages can or cannot be crawled. Use tools like Google Webmaster to tell you if you’re there’s any errors in crawling or indexing your webpage.

Google Webmaster tool: https://www.google.com/intl/en/webmasters/

HTML Coding


5. Write page titles

One of the most important ingredients in SEO, this tells the search engines AND your audience what your page is all about. This will most likely be displayed on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) and be your audience’s FIRST impression of your website. Good writing strategies are to include primary and secondary keywords, and also your brand name.  See Figure 2.

6. Write meta descriptions

While meta descriptions do not factor into the search engine’s technical scanning of your website, they do influence your audience in a couple different ways. First, search engines bold any words in your description that are used in the search query. Secondly, once the user recognizes this and reads your description, this is your opportunity to convince them your page has what they’re looking for. Classic marketing. Best practices include writing a different description for each webpage.  See Figure 2.

10 SEO website strategies pic 2

Content


7. Use the Right Keywords and An Appropriate Amount

First, determine what your webpage is all about. What is the primary question it’s answering? Once you’ve addressed this, now you research terms for ideas on what words your audience uses on a topic. Google Keyword Planner is very helpful (see Figure 3). Remember, you’re writing this with the reader in mind, so make it readable and digestible for them. The better experience your readers have, the better you’ll rank.

Google Keyword Tool: Google Keyword Planner (must have login and an Adwords account)

Free tool if you’re not using Google Adwords: http://keywordtool.io/ and SEMrush. Grab semrush discount coupon here

10 SEO website strategies pic 3

8. Media Content: Images and videos

Media such as images and videos are important content types to engage your audience. For images, search engines scan these and appear in image search results. Google advises to use alt descriptions in your images and to help Google identify a quality image and site. For videos, one good technique is to use a good thumbnail for an appealing view to your audience as well as a compelling and descriptive title.

Off-Website Influences


9. Use social media as best you can

Create a social media plan and leverage these platforms. They have a dominating presence on search engines and can share links to your website. The more active and engaged you are on social media, and sharing your website content, the more traffic you’ll drive. There are many ways these platforms can help with SEO for your website.

10. Eliminate black hat SEO strategies

Gone are the days of putting your link everywhere you possibly can simple to drive traffic. Same with overstuffing your website with keywords just for SEO sake. Google can recognize this and will penalize you for it by dropping your website in search rankings. Any disingenuous traffic will be considered spam. Buy backlinks and All These are all referred to as black hat tactics. As mentioned before, think of your audience and you’ll be in good shape.

These strategies will position you for SEO success, but it’s critical to monitor your SEO performance, and adjust your activities accordingly. Always remember to keep your target audience in mind, and the more fresh and relevant your content can be using these tactics, the better your SEO performance will be.

 

Scott Green is a digital marketing specialist and co-owner of marketing consulting firm DS Marketing.  Scott works with clients on lead generation strategies through SEO, Email, and Social Media and has worked with the education, real estate, and health care industries.

Marketing Insights for the Digital Age: Steve Handmaker

Written by Wendy Lalli

Data. It’s not just about numbers – it’s about building customer relationships.

Steve Handmaker CEO, Assurance

Steve Handmaker
CEO, Assurance

Steve Handmaker, CEO of Assurance knows all about data. In this Chicago AMA leadership interview on the subject, he discusses the role data plays in building customer relationships that are vital to the success of every business.

As James Dodd observed in an article for Brandchannel, “marketing in the 21st Century is not about ROI anymore. It’s about the return on customer, maximizing the lifetime relationship with an individual. It’s about getting that one person who purchases your product once to purchase it again. … until they become something more than a customer. They become an advocate for your brand.”

But how does a marketer make this happen? According to Steve, data is the key. It gives us access to what customers really want and value. And that knowledge allows us to build stronger relationships with them through marketing. It also is essential for directing a company’s sales force on what to say and how to say it both to mass audiences and even to individual customers.

To listen to Steve’s enlightening and insightful interview just click here.

 

Wendy Lalli VP Creative, Crux Creative

Wendy Lalli
VP Creative, Crux Creative

Wendy Lalli is an award-winning writer and marketing strategist who has served clients in a wide range of industries and created communications in every format. She describes herself as “Peggy from ‘Madmen’ grownup.” She’s had her own company, Wendy Lalli, Ltd., since 1997 and is now a VP/Creative Director at Crux Creative, a creative and marketing agency in Milwaukee.

In addition to creating print, direct response and digital communications for clients like GE Healthcare and MB Financial, she has also written articles and blogs for organizations such as the BMA and the Professional Women’s Club of Chicago. Her interest in career development led her to write frequently on job search for the Chicago Tribune and other newspapers, contribute several chapters to college textbooks on marketing communications and facilitate career seminars at colleges, libraries and professional associations throughout Chicago.