Develop a content calendar for supercharged campaign management

By: Ryan Gould

A fully-comprehensive content strategy is a living, breathing entity that must be sustained through vigorous attention and daily monitoring. This is difficult without the proper resources to keep your strategy organized – there are so many moving parts, that it would be easy to let one slip, which could then cause an avalanche of destruction as all the other variable parts of your strategy fall to pieces around you, which is the wrong way to do things.

The right way—develop a content calendar, where the sum of your strategy’s parts are all neatly contained for your convenience.

A skilled marketer can devise a content calendar that tells marketing managers, content writers and developers, as well as distributors, exactly what content to create, how to disseminate it, and when. The best part is, you don’t have to have years of experience to create a content schedule to behold. You only need to know a few tricks of the trade.

This is the easy way to devise a content calendar your team can be proud of, and one that supercharges your campaign for more reach, conversions, and higher ROI.

Not So Fast – What’s Your Strategy?

A fully-developed content calendar is actually the second step in a process that will have your marketing department running like a finely-tuned machine. The first step is to devise your content strategy, and it’s especially important because 70% of marketers lack a consistent or integrated strategy. Don’t be one of those, instead, devise a strategy that gives your campaign its fuel to rocket forward.

Your strategy is the purpose of your campaign—It’s the why, as well as the who, and where. Put simply, the entire process of your campaign should be laid out from start to finish, including the platforms you are targeting, the individuals you are aiming at, and the types of content and information you plan to distribute far and wide.

You must get tactical with your lead generation or else your content calendar will quickly seem like a mess of tasks with no clear direction. Instead, set SMART goals for your campaign. These are Specific,

Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound.

For instance, you hope to increase your web traffic by 50% in the next six-months by guest blogging for four to five major brands. Now that is a plan that can be inputted into your content calendar for simple follow-through.

Your content strategy should not only include your goals for the next six months to a year, but you should know everyone’s roles, who is involved in the content approval process, and who will be measuring stats and monitoring reports. There should also be information regarding how to tweak the campaign if those numbers and reports dictate a need for it.

Calendar Creation Made Simple

The platform you use to host your calendar depends on your preferences. Some use Google Calendar, while others might use a template. As long as you can track your content and where it will be published, you should be okay. You can even write your calendar on a print-out that is posted beside your desk.

On the other hand, Google Docs and similar platforms have the benefit of keeping your team on the same page. This includes your writers, marketers, salespeople, managers, and anyone else involved. When everyone is working off the same synced-up document, if changes are made, the team will know about those changes in real time. Keep that in mind as you choose your ideal calendar layout.

What Goes In?

Your calendar should include blog posts, social media posts, email newsletters, ebooks and white papers, infographics, videos, podcasts, webinars, and any other type of content you or your team will be creating as your campaign progresses.

If you think you need to constantly reinvent the wheel, don’t, as 29% of marketers reuse and repurpose content. As your calendar comes together, look for ways you can retool your content to fit another medium or audience segment.

Content Calendar Points to Consider

Your content calendar can be as detailed as you need it to be. Here are some elements you may want to include in your calendar for a boost in effectiveness.

  • Content Goal: Each piece of content should have a specific goal, and each should fall in line with your overall content strategy. For instance, a white paper may be used to increase email subscribers by 50% in six months.
  • Pillar Topic: Google reportedly awards topic-based content. Therefore, do your best to create content that falls under the umbrella of pillar topics. Your pillar topic is the main problem your customers will turn to you for, such as having to do their accounting on their own.
  • Subtopic: A content subtopic further whittles down your pillar topic. If we are using the above example, a subtopic might be finding easy and affordable help with Quicken accounting software.
  • Content Type: This is where you will specify if the content is a blog post, video, infographic or Facebook ad.
  • Author(s) or Creator(s): This is where you will list the developers of the content so that someone can be easily contacted in case the content needs to be tweaked or altered in any way.
  • Accompanying Media: Blog posts, white papers, and other pieces of content typically have images associated with them, or blog posts that should be linked to. You should have a place to list these elements so that they’re easy to retrieve at any time.
  • Links: Keeping the link handy once the piece goes live allows you to easily link to that content with other elements from within your content calendar.
  • Important Dates: Your content calendar should include the date the content was created, when it is scheduled to be distributed.
  • Distribution Location: Your blog posts might be published on your website and then submitted as PDFs to SlideShare. Record this in your content calendar so that no steps are missed.
  • Metrics: Leave a space on your content calendar to record important metrics, such as visitors, shares, downloads, and subscribers. Then, every few months or so, revisit your content calendar, examine your metrics, and tweak your goals and strategy accordingly.

Going Deeper

Of course, your content calendar can be made extra meticulous by including such distilled details as targeted keywords, headlines, and synopses. Whatever you need to envision your content strategy as a whole at a single glance, that’s how you should build your content calendar. Don’t worry if you don’t have a lot of details to start. As your strategy matures and grows, you can add more details along the way to supercharge your campaigns even further.

Give Your Team Leeway

Remember that sometimes plans get muddled, especially when real life gets in the way. Therefore, ensure you give your team a slight amount of leeway so that if one deadline is missed or an infographic needs a tweak before it can go live, your entire calendar isn’t thrown out of the loop.

Keep Tabs on Your Progress

Ideally speaking, one person should be involved with the monitoring and tweaking of the calendar. But the entire team should be consulted regularly so that if things need to be changed, everyone can be involved in those changes to help create an evolving content strategy that always hits its mark.



Ryan Gould
Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services
Elevation Marketing
Linkedin | Twitter


A strategic marketing and branding expert, Ryan helps Elevation’s clients solve their problems and achieve their business goals through integrated marketing solutions distinguished by research, storytelling, engagement and conversion. With a proven track record of energizing brands and having worked with a variety of Fortune 500 companies, Ryan is a respected expert in achieving consistent results through creative design, thought-provoking narratives and innovative problem solving.

Brand Smart 2018 Recap

By: Elina Yufa

When I’m walking across the street, I trust that that taxi won’t run me over (well, sometimes). When I ask Alexa to set a reminder, I trust that she’ll have a better memory than I do. When I make a purchase, I trust that it’ll go through without a hitch. We put a lot of trust into brands and how the world operates on a daily basis.

At Brand Smart 2018, futurists, researchers, branding leaders and agency experts came together and shared new ways to build, enhance and energize brands against the challenges of technological disruption. Behind all of this, I believe something much larger was revealed – the importance of trust.

Jens Ulrik Hansen of Future Associates laid the groundwork with the shocking understanding that we are currently going through a megashift and brands cannot think linearly anymore. There has been a steady decline in trust in media and a loss in confidence in search and social. With everything you do, your brand is really dealing with trust and upholding it.

We got a very real glimpse of this with industry analyst and AI expert, Susan Etlinger, as she shared with us the power of new interaction models and information asymmetry. AI was designed to mimic our way of life, thus involuntarily amplifying bias. With interactive programs like ALEX and Watson, JellyVision CMO Bob Armour and IBM program director and product strategist David Haucke are optimistic. These technologies have streamlined time-consuming processes and even brought fun (with chicken sounds) into once mundane tasks. AI saves us time to create more value.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed with this surge, you’re not alone. From their recent report on AI, Carolyn Baird, Global Research Leader of IBM Institute for Business Value shared with us that 74% of marketing professionals believe AI will fundamentally change how they approach customer experience and how customers view their brands, yet only 41% of them have an AI strategy.

Although AI is becoming increasingly relevant, branding can also be simplified. Let’s be honest – we can’t all afford to create a sophisticated interactive program that does our laundry for us. Craft brands like Vital Proteins and Spikeball go back to the fundamentals of branding – supporting the people behind your brand and letting them set the narrative. They are perfect examples of how we can do so much more with less. As Nicholas Gonzales, Marketing Director of Spikeball beautifully put, “Smaller budgets make you sharper.”

Once you harness that community, how do you personalize the experience? As a digital marketer, the session that really struck a chord with me was about “seg-ME-tation” and understanding why customers buy brands. Surprisingly, 80% of people write lists, but 20% of those lists include brand names. Did you ever think about whether you wrote cookies or Oreos? How do you get your brand on the list? Our panel of leaders, including Elizabeth Ehrhardt of IRI, Carrie Bienkowski of Peapod, Michon Ellis of LimeGreen Moroch, and Sanjiv Gajiwala of Mike’s Hard Lemonade Co, suggested going beyond demographics and creating personas that incorporate attitudes and purchasing behavior, based on transaction data. Think precision over reach and find the values that you share with your audience to help guide the conversation.

In addition to understanding the customer journey, it’s important to keep in mind your growth model – what do you need to grow, and how do you want to grow? That’s not an easy question to answer and may require some big thinking. Margo Kahnrose of SpotHero and Erin Huizenga of Borough & Block guided us through the practice of design thinking – what we would normally call “the creative process.” Think about it like insurance for good ideas. Design thinking gets you ideas faster, puts boundaries around a scope, and provides a safe way to take risks.

When implementing your ideas, how often do you think about the security of the customer experience? How are you earning the trust of your users? The latest buzz-word is “blockchain.” Melvin Petties of explained this tech innovation better than I ever could, but The Economist called it “The Trust Machine.” It’s a shared and public ledger that everyone can inspect, yet no one has the ability to alter. In this case, trust is about finding where the data broke, not about pervasion of privacy.

Last, but certainly not least, Erich Joachimsthaler of Vivaldi inspired us to move from a “world of walls” to a “world of webs.” Meaning, instead of solely comparing and defending ourselves from the competition, we must define our brand in creating trust and embed it into the lives of our consumers.

In summary, lack of trust is a blindspot, so here’s how to win it back:

  • Deeply understand where your customers stand on issues and find the values you both share.
  • Don’t be enamored by technology, but keep your eye on the purpose behind it.
  • AI has to be inclusive of everyone so bring diversity into your teams to take every angle into account. Be very careful of sensitive topics and interactions.
  • Stay ahead of the consumer and give them solutions they weren’t expecting.
  • Support the people behind your brand and get them to participate in value creation.

Elina Yufa believes in creating unique and valuable moments for people. She is the Associate Digital Manager at Hollister Incorporated with experience in marketing automation, content writing, and digital strategy. She has a BA degree in Communication from Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, IL. She has been a loyal member and volunteer of the AMA for six years, transitioning from President of the Lake Forest College collegiate chapter to Associate Director of our Higher Ed & Collegiate Relations committee.

Does brand awareness impact organic search rankings?

By: Chris Hickman

In search engine rankings, everyone wants to be number one. And the best way to do so is by catering to metrics that search engines use in determining what result is most relevant to specific searches.

You can have traffic driven to your website from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. And referrals (through hyperlinks) from other reputable websites can boost your ranking too. And if you are a well-known brand, your organic search results are likely to be higher than others.

When it comes to ranking in search results, good brands help companies more than many people realize. It gives them a competitive edge and give consumers the peace of mind they need to try new products. And when it comes to ranking in searches, awareness of your brand can help that, too.

Brand Awareness and Search Rankings

In 2016, UK-based SEO services company Stickyeyes performed an experiment to determine if brand awareness impacted organic search rankings. While the company refrained from conclusively stating that yes, brand awareness increases organic search rankings, they acknowledge there is some correlation.

Whether brand awareness significantly impacts search rankings or slightly elevates them, one thing is true: You need to use as many marketing strategies—both digital and print—that make sense for your company to promote your brand.

Offline Strategies

Consider these strategies to promote your brand outside the digital space.

Industry Publications

Industry publications are a great way for brands in niche industries to connect with an already engaged audience. You can take out a one- or two-page ad for your product or services and easily target your specific consumers. But one other way you can promote your brand is through a guest article. Think of it as guest blogging in print. By writing an article in an acclaimed industry publication, you can showcase your expertise in the field and draw awareness to your brand.

Print Advertising

Print advertising comes in multiples forms, so it’s important to determine what types work best for your company. Local businesses like restaurants and boutiques will likely find more success with outdoor advertising (benches, banners, billboards), newspaper ads, locally circulated magazines, or phone books.

Public Speaking

By taking the opportunity to interact with your audience in person, you are going to exponentially increase your brand awareness offline, which will likely lead to increased searches for your brand. You’ll already be speaking to an engaged audience, and you have a chance to strengthen your brand through speech and one-on-one interaction. Additionally, Adficient is a PPC management company, which can take advantage of public speaking opportunities to target the attendees with follow-up ads.

Online Strategies

Use these tried and true strategies to market your brand online.

Content Marketing

Content is one of Google’s two highest factors for ranking, so having a strong content marketing strategy is crucial, regardless of what industry you are in. One of the best aspects of content marketing is that it is expansive. There are various types of content you can create. Each has unique benefits, but all work toward increasing your brand awareness. Some types of content to consider include:

  • Blog posts
  • Infographics
  • Videos
  • White papers
  • eBooks
  • Downloads (checklists, etc.)

You can create whatever content works best for your company and budget.

Social Media

If there’s one place your customers interact, it is likely social media. From Facebook to LinkedIn, you’ll find your audience often frequents at least one of these platforms (if not multiple). And with the option to pay for sponsored posts and advertisements, social media is a great way to target new, potential customers. You’ll also want to make sure that you regularly post at least a few times a day. If you do not have the time or resources to do so, post no less than once per day each week.

It’s also important to respond to your customers: This not only builds your brand (shows you are responsive, honest, etc.) but increases brand awareness (friends and acquaintances will see you have responded). Also, like with public speaking, if you have a social media audience you can identify it makes it easy for a PPC management agency to target them with ads.

Guest Blogging

Take advantage of the large audience of another website by guest blogging. Showcase your expertise (and do some link building) by crafting content for a website in your industry. It’s a win-win situation. The website gets fresh content, and you put your brand in front of an interested audience while linking back to your website (which helps your search ranking).

Bolster Your Brand Awareness

To generate the most brand awareness, you need to use both print and digital tactics in your marketing strategy. Doing so will give you the best chance of reaching your current and potential customers, wherever they may be. And when they need a product or service like yours, they will know exactly where to go.

Chris Hickman is the Founder and CEO at Adficient with 15 years of experience in search marketing and conversion optimization. Since 2006, he founded, helping businesses and websites suspended in Adwords to Get Back on Google.

Free events! Your membership just got better.

By: Bonnie Massa, AMA Chicago President

Earlier this year, we promised changes to your AMA Chicago benefits to ensure that your membership is the best ticket to your career success. Since July, you’ve enjoyed free registration for Connex, our bi-monthly networking events, as well as each of our Shared Interest Groups (SIGs).

It’s always been the Board’s top priority to gain ongoing feedback for how we are providing value to the Chicago marketing community. We do our best to connect with you at our events, and you may have noticed that we occasionally reach out over the phone, via email and even through traditional mail to find out how we’re doing. We make adjustments and improvements so that your membership continues to make a positive, significant difference for your career.

In case you haven’t heard it already, today’s message is: We hear you.

It is my pleasure to announce that, as an AMA Chicago member, you now receive FREE access to all of our monthly events! Your registration fees are waived for our Sunrise Executive Series and our Evening with an Expert. (By the way, our next Evening with and Expert event is on May 3, and the next Sunrise is on June 7.)

By making these events free, your AMA Chicago membership comes with an added value of more than $600 each year. This change is made possible through our growing network of amazing sponsors. (OK, and maybe a little help from unicorns and rainbows.) Our sponsorship team, board of directors and members like you have made lasting connections across our community to underwrite our events. It’s with pride that we can pass along the value directly to you.

Now more than ever before, your AMA membership is an all-inclusive ticket to the cutting-edge programming, resources and networking with the largest community of marketers in Chicagoland. In fact, are you aware that in addition to Chicago events, your AMA membership gives you access to 100 webcasts and podcasts, a job board, discounts, and member-only tools, templates and forms that help you do your job? We’re working on developing even more ways to engage, so make sure you subscribe to our newsletter to stay tuned to what’s on the horizon.

So if it’s been a while since you mingled with your peers or rubbed shoulders with senior leaders in the industry, check out our events at a glance. I can speak for the Board with confidence that we would love for you to find one of us at our next event and let us know how we are doing!

Our ability to make these events free is another step toward making it crystal clear how much we value your membership.

Bonnie Massa is Founder and President of Chicago-based Massa & Company, Inc. She works with companies and nonprofit organizations to help attract new customers, find the best ways to segment and reach out to existing customers, analyze customer behavior to predict future behavior, and increase the value of their customer base. Bonnie has a BA degree from Lambuth University in Jackson, TN. She is a Market Motive Certified Practitioner in Web Analytics, Conversion Optimization and Social Media. She has achieved a Google Analytics Individual Qualification. Bonnie also volunteers her time as President of American Marketing Association Chicago.

A very special thanks to AMA Chicago sponsors:

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The Marketing Case for Legit Staff Bio Pages

By: Michelle Kaffko

We’ve all heard the saying, “put your best foot forward,” but I think that saying should be changed to, “put your best FACE forward.” In reality, many of our business contacts we meet virtually first or never meet in-person. Usually all we have to go by to see their face is their LinkedIn photo or a tiny Facebook profile pic. That’s why I’m going to give you a peek behind my camera lens and discuss why as marketing professionals we need to take a fresh look at your staff bio pages to determine what they are really conveying, to ensure they are working strategically for your brand. In addition, and maybe more importantly for every marketer’s mental health, I hope to help you combat the issue of receiving a fuzzy headshot from 10 years ago, because… just no.

It’s necessary to think about the importance of staff bio pages. If you check out your Google Analytics reporting, some of the most visited pages are normally “meet the team,” “about us,” “our staff,” etc. Potential customers, leads, and talent are interested in learning about the people who work at your organization, reading their stories and gathering information about what they do at the company. Because after all, people are the heartbeat of any organization. If your staff bio page is not putting its best face forward, you could be losing out on potential opportunities simply because your bio photos are not as professional as they could be.

My goal as you read this is to give you the tools and tips to strategically step up your organization’s headshot game.

First, let’s talk about your organization’s brand identity. We’ve all seen those websites that have a hodgepodge of headshots in the “meet our team” section. One dude has on a Hawaiian shirt while another is someone’s head that has clearly been cropped out of their wedding photos. This, undoubtedly is not what you expected to get when you asked everyone for their most recent headshot, and I’m sure it does not properly reflect your brand. However, don’t fret if this scenario describes your organization. This is 100% fixable!

On the subject of brand identity and cohesive headshots, the first thing as a marketing professional you need to do is decide what you want the look and feel of the headshots to be. Here are some starter words to get you thinking: stiff vs. relaxed, informal vs. formal, outdoorsy vs. office, biz casual vs. biz professional. Write out a three sentence statement that explains the feelings and emotions you would like the headshots to communicate when someone sees them.

Once you have decided on the look and feel for your organization’s headshots, let’s move onto clothing and posing, which should also match your brand! For example, if you have an auto repair shop, shoot your team in their natural environment and in their work clothes. This conveys industry authority and gives your target audience a look inside your team’s day-to-day. If you are planning headshots for a pharmaceutical company, a dermatologist, or financial sales rep, your clothing and poses will all be different. However, it’s important to come up with a plan. This will help the photoshoot day go smoothly and your co-workers will know what to expect, which puts everyone’s minds at ease. (For inspiration, check out some different poses, clothing and background options here.)

By this time you should have picked out a photographer you want to work with, communicated details on your brand identity and chosen dates to offer to your staff. Now that your prep work is complete, it’s time to schedule (cue the trumpets), staff picture day!

  • If staff picture day is going to send shivers down the spines of your employees, here are some ways you can put together a day that will put everyone’s minds at ease.
  • Send out all staff communications with all details for picture day, so nothing catches them off guard. Nothing freaks people out more than being told they’re going to have their photo taken and not knowing what to wear. Include details like the look and feel your organization has decided on, options for approved clothing, and makeup tips (e.g. don’t overdo it!).
  • Create an online sign-up form that enables your co-workers to pick a timeslot for their photo. There are lots of tools and apps you can use for this, like Doodle and Sign Up Genius.
  • Consider hiring a makeup artist and/or hair stylist to provide touch-ups before the shutter clicks. I promise ladies and gents will love this! It takes the pressure off everyone trying to look perfect, and they’ll be much more relaxed for their photo.
  • Let them know that the photographer will slightly retouch photos as needed. We don’t want anyone calling in sick that day because they woke up with a pimple.
  • Send reminders and updates as they become available, such as how early to arrive, where to meet and who to check in with. Remember, getting a photo taken is not most people’s favorite thing to do and they will need reminders to get it done.

Next up, it’s the big day! You’ve done your prep work, communicated details, and now it’s time to run the show. You’ll need to arrive early with your designated helpers to show the photographer where to set up. Make sure you get your headshot taken first to test the lighting and background, and to ensure the decided look and feel is achieved before proceeding. From there, it’s all about staying organized and staying on time! The last thing you want is someone waiting for 30-minutes past their scheduled time.

Ta-da, picture day is complete! Celebrate with a glass of champs, but the work is not over yet. Talk with your photographer about when you can expect photos and update your staff on the expected date. Once you receive all the files, organize them in a way that staff can easily find theirs on your company server, and send out directions on where to use their new photo, and most importantly, how to update their photo across all platforms. I know we’ve all run into that person who is not very tech-savvy and doesn’t know how to update their LinkedIn profile.

As a marketing professional, your job will then be to update all marketing mediums with the new headshots: think website, flyers/collateral, email, in office photos and more. Create a checklist of where all the headshots live, and start updating them.

Ok, before we wrap this up, let’s touch on the person who had the flu on picture day or how to get a photo of the newbie you hired three months later. Work with your photographer in advance to decide upon a solution for these scenarios. Options include writing into the contract that the photographer will return once a month or once a quarter to snap additional headshots as needed, or maybe the photographer can create the same look/feel in their studio and you can send your new hires there as needed. Whatever works best, just make sure it is worked out in advance so no one is scrambling later!

I hope you are now ready to strategically tackled your company bio and capture the best employee headshots! I promise it’s not as hard as it sounds, and it will be totally worth it for your company brand.

About Organic Headshots

Michelle Kaffko has been running Organic Headshots since 2005, taking corporate headshots and executive portraits for thousands of Chicago area professionals. Organic Headshots gets down to the root of why someone needs a headshot and for what purpose, enabling them to deliver the best product possible for all of their clients.

NonProfit Strategies from the AMA MarketingTech Smart Conference

By Monica Moore

Marketing technology (aka MarTech) selection can be overwhelming and this was certainly confirmed at the 2017 AMA Chicago MarketingTech Smart Conference as each presenter repeatedly pulled up the same graphic of 5,281 current MarTech solutions. This can be all the more challenging for nonprofits, which may have limited budgets, minimal staff, and which are often selling memberships and soliciting donations rather than tangible, high-demand products.

When David Dowgiello from Twitter shared his experience of helping Adidas provide a good customer experience when selling a small inventory of limited edition sneakers to an eager audience of millions, I know I wasn’t the only one in the room wondering, “but what if no one knows about or wants your sneakers? What then?”

Luckily, even if your organization is unable to do everything Adidas does—or else not as robustly—there are several scalable areas you can focus on to help stretch your marketing efforts.

Leverage Your Content or Focus on Content Creation

Though many of the MarketingTech Smart Conference presentations focused on the challenges of selecting the correct tools (and sometimes people) to ease the process of serving up content, disseminating messaging, measuring results, and optimizing for conversions, the underlying message was clear: having lots of (hopefully good) content is critical. And it is on the assumption that this content exists, is available, or can be solicited, that organizations would then make technology decisions.

During her keynote, Robin Kamen of NewsCred reminded the group that each day we’re competing for the attention of an audience that may want to watch funny cat videos rather than hear what is important to our organizations, so we must serve our message in the way that the audience wants it.

This is the crux of content marketing—drawing audiences in not with “sell” messages but by providing them with the valuable information they are already seeking, which in turn will build their trust in your brand and expertise, and ease the conversion process. If you don’t have good content, this is where your efforts should focus. Write blog posts, solicit articles, leverage existing content, engage volunteer writers, or employ content marketing services—do whatever is possible to generate content.

Automate Tasks and Processes Where Possible

Marketing automation can feel like a huge investment both in determining the processes and certainly in purchasing technology. But if you are already spending countless hours manually executing e-mail campaigns, toggling between social media accounts, and tracking user engagement across your website, you could use marketing automation to complete these tasks more efficiently. Adam Bianco of Tide Spin recommended MailChimp or AppBoy as a good place to start.

This does not mean, however, that any given tool or set of tools would significantly decrease your work. Though automation should decrease your manual efforts, it does take time and effort to both implement and maintain, and is only effective if you’re also generating a stream of good leads to respond to.

Analytics, Metrics, and Return on Investment (ROI)

Every marketing initiative should have a goal and a measure of success, and the blessing of digital marketing is that we’re almost always able to test, measure, and revise. Organizations should no longer be sending out various pieces and be unsure which had an effect. Instead, everything should be tied to measurements with the ultimate goal of conversions: click through rates, opens, impressions, engagement, etc. When you can not only hone in on your target audiences but also optimize for their engagement, it can be easier to focus efforts and draw back from areas with lower ROI.

If you are having trouble executing on certain initiatives, let alone testing and tweaking, the following are some of the tools Adam Bianco mentioned that may help:

The key, however, is to keep testing and tweaking. Building a landing page or setting up an ad campaign isn’t enough—with marketing, there is always room for improvement and many changing factors to account for!

Looking for additional support and ideas? Attend the November 7 AMA Chicago Nonprofit SIG meeting on the topic of social media – getting noticed (without breaking the bank).

Monica Moore is Senior Manager, Web and Digital Marketing at Association Management Center

CMO Smart Roundup Part 3: Takeaways from Two Marketing Experts

By John Lawrence

This is Part 3 of 3 of our CMO Smart recap blog series. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

We asked marketing executives who attended CMO Smart back in June 2107 to share some of their key takeaways with us. Here’s what Doug Davila, Senior Vice President Agency Strategy and Development at CBD Marketing, and Randy Wagner, Former Global Chief Marketing Officer of Orbitz and current owner of Trans4mation, Inc., told us.

Q: After attending CMO Smart, will you be reexamining your business strategy to better manage the speed of change?

Doug Davila: Coming away from CMO Smart, I see the need to keep everyone who is client-facing more up to date on market changes—it’s not a question of what but of how often do we introduce new things and then reinforce these learnings so that our teams, including junior-level people, can have substantive conversations about what’s new and how it might benefit the client. Sometimes these conversations in between the big meetings can be very beneficial.


Randy Wagner: I’ve effectively been working on strategic change initiatives for my entire career. Whether they’ve been labeled that – or usually: not (often, for reasons above!) What I’ve learned is most important is pretty simple to say, but hard to do: Figure out what’s important. With the deluge of change arriving daily, what’s really most relevant? FOCUS is the challenge for everyone in rapidly changing markets – particularly the C-suite. But it’s a continual process.

Q: The title for this event was “Managing at the Speed of Change.” But let’s be honest, people don’t like change. Matt Gonterman, one of our panelists from JLL, said that managers must be prepared for employees to question and challenge change. What’s the number one thing that you’ll take away from CMO Smart about managing and implementing change across your organization?

Randy Wagner: People will ask questions whether you serve up ‘change’ or ‘evolving’. You should hope they do! That’s an opportunity for engagement. It’s also an opportunity for marketing leadership, since our job is creating answers for internal as well as external audiences. Actually, I’ve found pro-active answering, even before questions get asked, can be the best way to engage everyone in any organization in strategic execution, which only helps achieving goals. The change that will impact your business is already happening somewhere! The key is being vigilant. Not as part of some separate initiative, but as part of your ongoing, collaborative work process.

Doug Davila: Honest communications. People can be jaded about change, especially when they don’t fully understand the organizational benefit. If change is truly going to take hold internally, you have to show your people the benefits, and incentivize them to accept the change. We’ve seen too many cases of change, or acquisitions not going well because of poor communications and no demonstration of true benefits to those who are not senior managers. A change that only benefits the C-suite and investors is not one that the rest of the organization can get behind.

John Lawrence is a marketing specialist at DeMarche Associates, an institutional investment consulting firm. He recently completed his MBA at Loyola University of Chicago. Marketing is actually his second career. John is a former journalist and television news producer. In addition to volunteering for the AMA, John is a member of the community advisory council for The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.


CMO Smart Round Roundup Part 2: How Leadership Manages at the Speed of Change, and How C-Suite Partners Resource Ideas

By John Lawrence

Marketing executives from some of Chicago’s most prestigious companies and non-profits joined moderator Kim Feil for two CMO Smart panel discussions. They shared their professional experiences and offered advice on managing a rapidly changing business landscape and fostering best practices for working across the C-Suite back in June 2017.

Innovation, solving problems for clients, and investing in digital marketing and analytics were some the key ideas that emerged from the first panel, which was titled “How C-Suite Partners Manage at the Speed of Change.” The panel featured Patrick Bernardi, CMO for Hu-Friedy, Jennifer GoodSmith, VP for The Morton Arboretum, and Jonathan Copulsky, Retired Principal and CMO for Deloitte.

Patrick Bernardi set the tempo by challenging the audience to tackle change head and seek new business developments and emerging trends. Bernardi’s firm, Hu-Friedy, is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of premium dental instruments. Bernardi noted, however, that his company has begun to see diminished returns from traditional advertising in dental journals. Instead, they’ve found that marketing can create value for a new generation of customers by allowing dental hygienists to connect with each other using the Salesforce Community Cloud. To stay competitive, his firm is also creating added value services such as a dental tool recycling and an infection control compliance program.

Jonathan Copulsky observed that during his time at Deloitte there has been significant blurring between traditional sectors. This creates what Copulsky called ‘adjacencies,’ business opportunities from new segments which an alert executive can use to create growth.  Added value services or allowing customers to connect with each other, as Hu-Friedy has done, are effective ways of exploiting these adjacencies.

Innovation and technology, of course, must serve to satisfy client needs. Copulsky cautioned that CMOs today must balance innovation with the tried and true and he challenged executives in the audience to put themselves in the shoes or their customers. “Most of us have never been a customer of the company for which we work,” he said. Jennifer GoodSmith, reminded audience members that branding is as important as ever. As VP for The Morton Arboretum, she faces the challenge of making scientific data interesting and relevant to a general audience. “Tell a story that people can relate to,” she advised.

Bernardi, GoodSmith and Copulsky all agreed that managing at the speed of change required investing in digital technology and analytics. From social media and geotargeted digital advertising to narrative science technologies powered by artificial intelligence, the panelists described how their firms are experimenting with technology to reach the right audience in the right place at the right time.

The second panel, “How C-Suite IT and CMO Partners Resource Ideas” featured Jones Lang LaSalle North America (JLL) executives Jill Kouri and Matt Gonterman. Kouri has been the CMO for three years while Gonterman became the new CIO in 2016. Kouri and Gonterman have been working on a transformation initiative for JLL North America, a major player in the commercial real estate services sector, that includes repositioning and rebranding. These two executives displayed a dynamic professional chemistry that other teams will be inspired to replicate.

They offered several key insights to help other executives coordinate their team’s efforts. Kouri was clear that to be successful, the CMO and CIO must be in lock step. Gonterman explained that he and Kouri have been able to work well together because they first ensured they were solving the same problem. They have focused on JLL’s business goals and how the firm makes money. Then they asked whether the company’s technology and marketing approach was helping the bottom line.

From this approach, you’ve probably detected an emphasis on strategy. Gonterman explained that this was intentional. Executives, Gonterman emphasized, must focus first on strategy, then structure, and finally on people. That’s not to diminish the importance of people, but rather to emphasis the plan and processes that will allow employees to succeed. Of course, change is never easy and Gonterman cautioned the audience to expect employees to question change. To address those concerns, Gonterman said, “Listen, acknowledge, move forward.”

John Lawrence is a marketing specialist at DeMarche Associates, an institutional investment consulting firm. He recently completed his MBA at Loyola University of Chicago. Marketing is actually his second career. John is a former journalist and television news producer. In addition to volunteering for the AMA, John is a member of the community advisory council for The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Read about Kim Feil’s powerful keynote presentation with our CMO Smart recap here.

CMO Smart Round Roundup Part 1: Dynamic Market Forces Facing Today’s CMOs

By John Lawrence

In June 2017, Chicago AMA held its first CMO Smart forum, bringing together some of Chicago’s most dynamic marketing leaders to discuss the changing landscape while sharing best practices to collaborate across the C-Suite and tap into the resources needed to achieve growth. The event was moderated by Kim Feil, CEO of bizHive and CMO/CSO for Aspire Healthy Energy Drinks. Kim is also the President of the CMO Club Chicago and has been a retailer, general manager, consultant and e-commerce leader in marketing, sales and strategy with OfficeMax, Walgreens, Sara Lee, Kimberly-Clark, Information Resources Inc., Dr. Pepper/7UP and Frito-Lay.  Kim shared her unique insights on the strategies that marketing leaders need to adopt and master in order to thrive.  I’ve shared some highlights from her powerful keynote address:

Life is getting better for your customers. With just a mobile phone, your customers can shop online, arrange for an Uber, order and pay for Starbucks, and book a flight and Airbnb for an upcoming vacation. Technology is disrupting every industry from retail to transportation to food services and hospitality. And the speed of change is accelerating. In her CMO Smart keynote address, Kim Feil boldly declared that tech is going to drive everything that we as marketers do. While life keeps getting better for your customers, it’s only getting harder for chief marketing officers.

Amidst the peril of technological disruption, however, there’s also untold promise as new markets and unexpected opportunities emerge. CMOs need to do two things to prepare according to Feil: embrace technology and go back to the strategy drawing board to reevaluate how you do business. Now is the right time to do it because the economy is healthy and that means businesses have the opportunity to innovate and grow.

To illustrate her thesis, Feil surveyed a number of key industries that are experiencing profound change due to technology. Retail was first on the list. In no uncertain terms, Feil declared that retail is NOT dead but the future is complementary software design. To succeed, retailers must create a seamless experience for customers between online and offline shopping. Exactly how that will work is an area for experimentation and innovation. It’s clear, however, that retail is at a turning point and the strategies many retailers have been using simply no longer work.


Transportation is another major industry undergoing technological disruption. We all know about the impact of Uber and Lyft on the taxi business. That will pale compared to the impact of self-driving cars. Feil explained how the widespread adoption self-driving vehicles will disrupt hundreds of industries across the globe. Auto makers, car dealerships, gas stations, auto repair shops, parking garages, rental agencies, auto insurance, tire manufactures, and even ride-share firms like Uber will all have to transform the way they do business. Not all of these enterprises will successfully navigate the new transportation landscape. However, the firms that hone their strategies to embrace tech developments and exploit new opportunities are much more likely to survive and even thrive.

Along with adapting to the revolution in technology and the rapid evolution of consumer behavior, businesses need to look inward. C-suite executives must ensure that they have the workforce, corporate values, and company culture necessary to meet the challenges ahead. Feil pointed out that the increasing importance of technology has revealed a growing skills gap in many marketing teams. Digital marketing literacy and analytics proficiency are essential to your team’s success. Business leaders must also be aware of how implementing change will impact the culture and mission of their firms. Change management is a critical skill for executives.

Managing at the speed of change may seem daunting, but Feil suggested several ideas to help CMOs stay ahead of the curve:

  • Stage war games with cross-functional teams to test your response to changes in the marketing environment.
  • Study industries that are far from your own to gain new ideas. Shop your category with millennials.
  • Dedicate team time to debate the impact of external trends.
  • Create contingency plans to handle internal and external changes.
  • Identify potential support partners and resources that are needed to successfully pivot your strategy.
  • Finally, know where you need to build, buy, and ally to prepare yourself for the future.

As marketers, we’ve watched as technology has revolutionized the entertainment industry. We’re now seeing the profound impact it’s having on retail. No industry is immune. As Kim Feil made clear, technology is going to drive everything we do. Reinventing our approach to business means we’ve got some hard work ahead but the new markets and the new opportunities for success should keep us energized and ready for change.

John Lawrence is a marketing specialist at DeMarche Associates, an institutional investment consulting firm. He recently completed his MBA at Loyola University of Chicago. Marketing is actually his second career. John is a former journalist and television news producer. In addition to volunteering for the AMA, John is a member of the community advisory council for The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

Career Smart Roundup: ‘Full-Assing It’ to Drive Results

by Traci O’Brien 

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” (Albert Einstein).  If we do, we are slacking and I’ve got a hunch that Product Marketing Leader at Arity / Allstate’s Tiffani Saxton, and PrizeLogic’s SVP Aaron Lobliner, would be disappointed.  Tiffani challenges us to be thorough and not to “half-ass” anything.  Aaron chimes in and hilariously coins the phrase “full-ass it” which is giving a project your all… otherwise what’s the point?  Chicago was not built and then rebuilt by slackers who lacked vision.  After the fire in 1871, it was built bigger and stronger with Chicagoans blood, sweat, and tears.

What a brilliant bunch at Career Smart 2017!  In the panel referenced,“Tips to Delivering Results in Agency, Non-Profit and Start-Up Cultures,”we heard from head marketers at: Allstate, YMCA, PrizeLogic and Proxfinity.  This was a practical panel discussion spanning a diverse range of industries and breadth of knowledge.  What they all had in common was their ability to articulate fundamental truths that helped them navigate toward success in our ever-changing world.  Many powerful messages were relayed and here are some insightful nuggets of wisdom for you to chew on.

Wisdom Nuggets

Aaron Lobliner—PrizeLogic

  • If you want to be a good salesperson, be a good waiter.
    • I concur! Obviously, I’m an excellent sales manager at Windy City Limousine because I waitressed at the Cheesecake Factory and Cubby Bear.  Kidding aside, I understand his emphasis on being able to manage difficult situations on the spot. Being resourceful when chaos ensues and facing those customers in a calm yet heroic manner = major life skills!  Everyone should wait tables.
  • No matter where you work, give a damn. Care about things… that’s what I look for in job candidates – ones who are passionate and do things to show they care. 
    • He explained the significance today more than ever with interactions being more impersonal, the little things like writing a hand-written note or helping when it’s not required, goes a long way. With companies acting more intimate to evoke emotion and loyalty, why not make your brand be a person who gives a damn, has a purpose and full-asses it?  Lobliner explained that this translates into recognition and promotions.
  • Different strokes for different folks.
  • Be a student of the industry and ask people what they want, most people are willing to tell you.
    •  Observe, listen, and adapt in ways that makes sense to reach goals.
  • Need to know who you’re talking to, when the best time to send the message is, and which channel is appropriate.
    • Emphasis on understanding your audience, trends, and adapting strategy to new and significant data to help you improve effectiveness – work smarter!

Tiffani Saxton –Arity / Allstate

  • Don’t half-ass anything.
    • Hence the source from which I created this classy title, but you clicked on it didn’t you… of course because don’t we all want to “full-ass” our life, aka, have a purpose (an Ice Cube song comes to mind, “you can do it put your back into it…”). Maybe we must love what we do enough then… (“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…” Beatles). Tiffani succeeds with her work by being thorough and giving her best – it’s no mystery why she has been continuously promoted to higher ranks throughout her career.  She attributes much of her success to understanding people and learning not to take things personally.  I need to brush up on this and if you feel the same, she swears by the book “The Four Agreements.” Boom, just ordered the audiobook.
  • Learn to listen more than you speak.
    • She mentions that the guy in the meeting talking just to hear himself speak, is the one probably missing something mega important (while simultaneously irritating many). We all know this guy or gal.  Strive not to be them.
  • Marketing is not sexy. There is more math, writing and creating than people expect and its hard work.
    • She explains how many people (oh just say millennials) apply for marketing jobs and expect it to be all high-fives and taking shots… well the kind of shots she wants us to take are not of liquor (maybe on Friday, but it tastes better when you earn it) but more risks! She believes brands (personal ones included) need to stay brave and that risk taking/experimenting must become a lifestyle… now I must say, that could be sexy.
  • Leverage your employees to learn about how they are driving business.
    • She seems to take a beautiful stance that all viewpoints are useful and it is our duty to invite those conversations and choose to listen.

Christina Bradway –YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago

  • Know when you don’t give a damn and what you’re not good at.
    • No one likes a know-it-all. Be comfortable articulating your shortcomings – owning them and being transparent will allow you to improve or move forward.
  • Importance of mentorship.
    • A lost art in too many organizations. Yet we are still responsible for seeking out someone we admire and want to learn from.  It could change everything.
  • Marketing is not for making things look pretty. I’m here to help make sure the message you’re trying to relay is communicated effectively. 
  • Don’t say no, say how about…
    • Everyone has their own views and cultivating an environment that welcomes people to share theirs will make people feel valued and lead to more success.
  • Watch what other employees are doing
    • In a non-stalker kind of way, be observant and ask questions.
  • If you’re pushing a message, you don’t know your buyer well enough. Use data to solve problems.  Be brave enough to offer them solutions to problems they haven’t thought of yet.

Christine Hutchison—Proxfinity

  • Be a student of life. I keep my eyes open, and I study life.  Look around you and not so much down (on phones).  Be personable and a little bit vulnerable. 
    • Many nuggets here! Be aware of your surroundings and you’ll be ahead of those who are always on their phones. Keep interacting with people in real life… novel idea, eh? I’m excited for her smart badge to change the way we do this… before we forget how…
  • The start-up world challenges my employees to figure things out on their own and to be resourceful.
    • Being independent and able to take initiative are crucial traits to be successful in the start-up world.
  • Know what tools are out there and which ones belong in your toolbox.
  • We’re in an experiential economy. If you verbalize something to yourself, you’re much more likely to do it.  
    • Talk about your goals. Take calculated risks. Grow from them.


Per my observation, each of the four panelists demonstrated a high-level of awareness and emotional intelligence, which are key to success.  Overriding themes include “full-assing” everything you give a damn about.  Thus, give a damn about the place you work.  This starts with understanding yourself, your strengths/weaknesses and what you want to do.  Christine humbly mentions not being the smartest cookie nor having prior marketing experience before becoming CMO of a fast-growing smart badge technology company.  Despite not knowing everything, she is the perfect CMO for Proxfinity because of her vision; understanding the need it will fulfill, its power to transform everyday interactions, and how to take it to the next level.  To “full-ass” life, be adaptable, listen more than you speak, work on your Emotional Intelligence (EQ) score – everyone has areas for improvement, and maximize on your strengths.  How will you drive results and leave your mark?


Dual-master’s degree graduate focused on Promotions, Psychology, and Philosophy. Having lived in France for 1.5 years, Traci A. O’Brien is globally curious and highly adaptable. She’s a natural with people and her Marketing Research Teaching Assistantship at SIU helps her embrace the power of data. As Global Sales Manager of Windy City Limousine by day, Traci dabbles in the Music and Comedy scene by night. Contact Traci at