The latest from GO2
What the office is up to, looking into and blogging about.
Employee-Owner Spotlight: Pete Rubin

As an employee-owned agency, what moves one of us moves us all. So each month, we’re turning the spotlight on one of our many awesome owners to find out more about the unique personalities that shape GO2.

This month, we’ll get to know one of the people who started it all — co-founder, managing partner and intrepid adventurer Pete Rubin.

What are you most passionate about at work?

This one is a piece of cake. The people, the culture and the finances — in that order.

Seeing our employees develop their careers and helping them succeed is the reason I come to work every day. We have a talented, passionate team and I see the potential and believe in every one of them. The second priority for me is creating a positive environment that allows that success to happen. This has to be a place where people feel valued, supported and inspired to do great work. Last are the finances. From the beginning, it has never been our goal to maximize profit at all cost. We look for a reasonable return on our investment to keep us going and to continue growing. Money isn’t my primary passion, but I have to make sure our company is financially healthy, or those other goals wouldn’t be possible.

What are you most passionate about outside of work?

I love to travel. Experiencing culture, people and perspectives from around the world is always an amazing adventure. I especially love to get out and experience nature. Whether it’s skiing, diving or going on a safari, it’s rewarding to be a part of environments that are both beautiful and challenging. I wouldn’t call myself an adrenaline junkie, I just like to keep moving and to never be bored.

Spending time with family and close friends is also very important to me. Not that I ever sit still, but I love to take them to a game, a show or to just hang out.

One more thing I’d say is a passion of mine is animal conservation. I believe we have an obligation to preserve the natural world and the incredible creatures that inhabit it.

What are some favorites you’d like to share?

Movies: Miracle, the movie about the U.S. hockey team that won the gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics.

Also action movies like Rocky, Rambo and anything with Clint Eastwood.

TV: House of Cards, any good political or police dramas.

Musician: Eric Clapton. I think I’ve seen him perform live in every decade since the ‘70s!

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My mother always tells me that when I was little, I wanted to grow up to be a tractor. Also, as a Jewish kid growing up in New York, I was obligated to want to be a doctor and probably a lawyer. When I went off to college, I had no idea what I wanted to be; I just wanted to get a degree in anything where you didn’t have to learn a language. I think I learned more Swahili while preparing for a trip to Africa than I did Spanish in college.

What is the weirdest food you’ve ever eaten?

I ate guinea pig in Peru; it’s actually not uncommon there. I had something called black chicken in China that was very strange. Black feathers, black skin, black meat, even black bones. I’ve eaten lionfish, rattlesnake and even some chocolate-covered grasshopper — that one was right here at the Cleveland Metroparks.

What would you like to be famous for?

You know, I’ve actually never thought about this. I think I’d like to be famous for animal conservation efforts. Maybe doing work to preserve gorillas and other major primates.

What is something people might be surprised to know about you?

I think people would be surprised to know I love Star Trek. I am a fan of the Original Series mostly, but I also love everything that came after, except Deep Space 9. Did you know Spock’s “live long and prosper” hand gesture is a symbol from ancient Jewish history? It was something Leonard Nimoy, who was a Jew, remembered from an Orthodox Jewish synagogue service he attended as a child.

The Importance of Agency Culture

The vision of an agency is powered by the energy of its people. Marrying the passion and talent of employees with the goals of the agency as a whole is the role of its culture.

Your culture is part of who you are and how you present yourself to the world. It’s your heart and it’s your vibe. As part of what drives people to do great work, a culture is both descriptive and prescriptive — defining where you are now and where you want to be. Leadership leads the culture not by dictating it but by living it. A healthy culture develops organically from within, but that does not mean that it should grow unattended. It needs to be carefully cultivated and nurtured. Everyone needs to be on the same page, working toward the same goal, or segments of the agency will start to grow in divergent directions.

Since the idea of culture is based on nebulous concepts like feelings and motivations, it may seem hard to nail down, especially if you are used to working with more concrete ideas like profit margins and other analytics that fit neatly into a spreadsheet. Agency culture includes the values, beliefs and behaviors that shape our relationships (internal and external), our work (type, quality and process) and our environment (physical and psychological). Values are at the core. They are what your organization considers most important. The values are reinforced by the agency environment. Anyone should begin to understand your culture the moment they walk in the door because the office reflects it and the people embody it.

Do the work; reap the benefits. Agencies with strong cultures:

talent

Attract the right talent.
People understand their value and want to work at a place that will nurture their talents and allow them to express themselves creatively. Good people want to be at a place that takes care of them and that aligns with their own ideals and goals. You want to hire talented and insightful people who will help your business grow and these employees will be attracted to a place with a strong personality. They can’t know if they are going to fit in with your culture if you haven’t worked to define what that culture is. You will expect more of them but they will also expect more from you.

partnering

Partner with the right clients.
Culture is also part of what we are selling to a client. A brand will want to work with an agency where people are invested in doing a great job. Because the relationship between an agency and a client is a partnership, it is important to have a strong culture in place to ensure that an agency/client match is a good one. When an agency is upfront and communicates clearly about the type of work that they do and the culture that is in place to support that work, it helps establish from the beginning what clients will work well with the agency and makes for a more stable relationship.
 

standout

Stand out in the crowd.
Culture helps an agency make its mark on the world. Many companies have similar capabilities, so culture can help you stand apart and give you something to be known for to attract future clients. A competitor may have the same products, services or processes, but they can’t duplicate your personality. Are you all about ROI or do you want to be known for innovative, out-of-the-box thinking? Your agency culture should reflect the answer to these types of questions and give you an edge.

teamwork

Promote teamwork.
Not only does your culture help to set expectations for how people are going to work together, it also gives your team members a sense of working toward a common purpose. In order for a team to function properly, there has to be an element of bonding that happens between its members so that they come to trust each other. To be a real “team” and not just a bunch of people working in a group, team members must feel comfortable sharing skills, knowledge, ideas and projects and be secure in the knowledge that everyone is working toward the same vision built on a foundation of shared values and positive relationships.

creativity

Encourage creativity and innovation.
If employees are happy to be a part of your culture and are motivated by its values, they will feel freer to express themselves creatively and to take creative risks. Creating an intellectual and emotional environment that nurtures individuality and unique perspectives will help move your business forward, while an agency that doesn’t take the time to ensure their culture is one of trust and teamwork risks breeding complacency and a toxic devotion to the status quo. In this scenario, people may believe they don’t have a voice or that they may face consequences for dissent. Or they could simply be afraid to shake things up. This is a deadly environment for an agency where innovation and keeping up with a changing world are the keys to doing successful, impactful work.

 
Innovation is change and sometimes change is messy, so it is also essential to create an environment where team members feel comfortable expressing doubt, are empowered to ask questions and are willing to make mistakes. Passionate people have a need to satisfy their curiosity and a desire to learn and improve. Promoting this type of culture is a benefit to everyone and helps the company grow.

A strong culture is a wise investment. Not only does it provide many rewards, it is also becoming a “must-have” in the eyes of the emerging workforce.

The psychology of color and your brand

Colors have a profound effect on the way we experience the world. They have the power to affect our emotions, our behavior and even our physiology. So, it’s no surprise that choosing the right colors is one of the most important decisions you can make about your brand. There are many decisions to make regarding what colors will look best together, but you also must evaluate what message is being sent by your choices and how consumers will react.

Common associations:

Red:

Red is a bold, assertive color that suggests excitement and passion. It is great for creating a sense of urgency and grabbing attention, which is why sales and clearance materials are almost always red. It is also known to elevate heart rate and increase appetite, making it a common choice for fast food restaurants. Our eyes are naturally drawn to red due to its long wavelength and its prevalent use on things that need our immediate attention like fire trucks and stop lights. This makes it a tempting choice for advertising, but too much red will seem pushy and aggressive.

 

Blue:

Blue is a cool, dependable color associated with tranquility and maturity. Shown time and again to be the most popular “favorite color” around the world, blue is a good bet for brands looking to promote trust and simplicity. Strong blues will stimulate clear thought while soft blues will calm the mind and can aid concentration. While blue might seem like a safe choice, there is a risk that it will seem cold, aloof or too conservative.

 

Yellow and Orange:

These are bright, warm colors that evoke optimism and cheer. Used carefully, they can lift spirits, inspire confidence and be great positive attention grabbers. These are fun colors that can be used to create a friendly brand image; however, their vibrancy merits caution. Overuse or the wrong tone can cause anxiety and a feeling of overstimulation.

 

Green:

Green is a gentle, peaceful color connected with nature, growth and health. Green is reassuring on a primitive level, its presence indicating nearby water and plentiful vegetation. Its association with environmental friendliness is so strong, the two have become synonymous. Its relationship with nature also gives it a sense of power, making it a good choice for brands that want to seem strong like John Deere and Land Rover.

 

Purple:

Purple is a rich, creative color that suggests decadence and imagination. Located at the end of the visible spectrum of light, just before the wavelengths that are inaccessible to our eyes, it is often used to create a sense of mystery and imagination. Described as the color of royalty, it can be used to present an air of glamour. Its connection to flowers and the feminine also makes it a popular color for beauty products.

 

Black:

Black is a strong color associated with authority and decisiveness. Black can be used to portray intelligence, as with the New York Times and Wikipedia logos, or confident simplicity, like the Nike logo. Like purple, black can also be used to invoke a feeling of mystery.

 

White:

White is a clean color that evokes purity and sophistication. It promotes an image that is uncompromising or even sterile. It can be used with other colors to soften them up, or with black for a stark, no-nonsense contrast.

 

Gray:

Gray is a neutral color connected with balance and practicality. While some gray can lend an aura of timelessness to a brand, too much gray is boring and depressing.

 
Perceived appropriateness:
Doctor

We’re ready to see you now.

Do your color choices seem to fit the products or services you are selling? This perceived appropriateness is a strong indicator of how someone will react to your choice of brand color. Here are some examples of how this takes the common color associations one step further:

  • You want consumers to have warm, happy feelings about your brand, so you choose a nice, bright orange. This choice makes sense if you are selling a fun line of clothing, but not if you are a hospital, where a dependable blue would be more appropriate.
  • You want to grab the public’s attention, so you go with a bold red logo. This choice makes sense if you are a toymaker, but not if you are a wildlife preserve where a natural green would be more appropriate.
Cultural context:

Sometimes it is necessary to look beyond the ordinary color connections to make yourself stand out in the crowd. For example, while green has a strong association with the outdoors, our culture also associates it with money, making it an obvious choice for the financial management service Mint. Green also, as mentioned above, tends to have a calming effect, which is the last feeling you want to evoke if you are the makers of an energy drink. Yet, Monster Energy has successfully utilized the color in its logo by making it a glowing radioactive green that we would naturally associate with, well, monsters.

Knowing the emotions associated with your color choices and the reactions they are likely to evoke is important — whether you want to utilize these expectations or skillfully subvert them.

Embracing change: Three essential aspects of change management

We live in a time of constant change. The currents of technological advancement, economic uncertainty and shifting cultural paradigms wash around the business landscape, eroding the notion of a comfortable routine and making adaptability one of the strongest predictors of success. But “adapt” is just another word for “change” and change is hard. In fact, the success rate of major business-related change initiatives is only 54%1. The importance of these initiatives and the challenges they present make having effective change management strategies in place an essential part of growth and success. There are three steps to smart change management: Understand. Involve. Prepare.

Understand

Though some people, especially leaders, thrive on the challenge and novelty of change, most people are naturally resistant. Your new training program or your revamped sales process might be clearly superior on paper, but the motivation for human behavior goes well beyond a calculating assessment of the cold hard facts. There are many factors that might affect a person’s feelings toward major changes in their working life:

  • Emotion – The comfort of the familiar is a powerful draw. Anxiety and fear are very common reactions people have when faced with uncertainty in any situation. The workplace, of course, is no different.
  • Experience – From health and financial situation to education and work experience, each person will evaluate the upcoming change within a context that is unique to their lives.
  • Environment – Along with personal context, there is also organizational context. If there have been many recent changes, change fatigue is a common result. If a business has failed at implementing a major initiative in the past, that will weigh heavily on an employee’s willingness to engage.

Understanding and accepting that a person’s reaction to change will be a result of both rationality/logic and instinct/emotion will help inform your change management process so that the focus is on empowering employees to make a change rather than forcing them to do it.

For an example of the application of this concept, imagine that you want someone to change their eating habits to be healthier. Trying to impose a diet plan will theoretically be met with significant resistance, but improving their access to fruits and vegetables and teaching them to cook healthy meals will enable them to make good choices on their own. The same holds true for organizational change: change processes that are cooperative, tactical, nondisruptive and easy to imagine will be met with much less resistance than change processes that are drastic, direct and confrontational.

Involve

collaboration
In order to be empowered, people must be involved. A person will be much more invested in the success of a change they helped devise.

Here are some ways to engage:

  • Hold workshops – Provide a place where people can share ideas and develop a collective understanding.
  • Send surveys – Understand where your organization is at the moment and where its members want to be in the future. Give everyone a voice.
  • Be transparent – Disclosure is essential to engendering the trust that will be necessary for success. A person can’t begin to manage a change they don’t know about.
Prepare

Change is a process. In order to implement change that is realistic, achievable and measurable, a thorough and thoughtful plan should be laid out. There are several change management models for companies to take advantage of, but the one that we prefer is ADKAR from Prosci2. Its common sense approach has proven to be simple, effective, and even inspiring. ADKAR stands for the five stages in your implementation plan that are essential for both initial and ongoing success:

  • Awareness – An employee must be made aware of the need for change.
  • Desire – An employee must be willing to participate in the change; they will want to know, “what’s in it for me?”
  • Knowledge – An employee needs the necessary training and knowledge to make the change.
  • Ability – An employee should have the opportunity to put that knowledge into practice.
  • Reinforcement – It is easy to revert to old habits; an employee should be empowered to sustain the change.

There are many benefits to adopting an existing change management model. Having a framework for your implementation keeps your efforts organized and informs your tactical approach. Instead of starting at zero, saying, “I know something needs to change; now what?”, you can start planning your awareness campaign. Instead of declaring a premature victory directly after implementation, you can see that the reinforcement stage might need to include a rewards program or other incentive. A model can make the daunting task of a major change initiative into a structured and intuitive process.

It also offers a chance to more accurately measure your successes. If employees have a great response at the knowledge stage, you’ll know what tactics to repeat. If your effort begins to fall apart, you’ll be able to pinpoint where it happened with specific checkpoints to evaluate.

The pace of progress isn’t promising to slow, so the need for effective change strategies will only become more urgent. Invest the time now to understand the human aspect of company changes.

Sources
  1. http://www.strategy-business.com/article/rr00006?gko=643d0
  2. https://www.prosci.com/adkar/adkar-model
A whole new world: the changing landscape of VR and AR advertising

You inch down a dim corridor, shakily aiming a pistol while following an ominous trail of blood. A low groan makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up and you spin to see a zombie shuffle around the corner. The gunshots ring in your ears as the creature falls at your feet. You are in a virtual reality world.
Walking down the familiar sidewalks of your community, you check the map on your phone and see your avatar strolling through a cheerful green analog of the real world — except instead of a squirrel in your neighbor’s tree, you see a monster. And with a few taps on your phone, you can even catch it. You are in an augmented reality world.
An alternative to reality

A page from an early ’90s marketing campaign for a Virtuality arcade game system.
Photo credit: Dr. Waldern/Virtuality Group

Though both are experiencing a significant surge in public interest, VR and AR are not new tech. VR as we know it started gaining buzz in the ’80s, with video game consoles achieving widespread in-home adoption and sci-fi movies like “Tron” sparking interest. Then, in 1991, the VR company Virtuality released its VR pods to the world (well, to arcades and movie theaters, anyway). Users, however, quickly abandoned these always awkward, frequently nauseating machines with their bulky hardware and clunky graphics, and VR tech has been stumbling its way toward usability ever since. Augmented reality — the enhanced image created by putting a computer generated display over a real-time view of one’s surroundings — is newer, with the first see-through AR coming to cell phones in 2004.

These technologies have both been enjoying something of a renaissance lately. Modern VR headsets are vast improvements over their early ’90s counterparts, offering a better experience in every way, from the graphics and motion detection to the sleekness of the hardware itself. And AR has, perhaps, finally had its breakthrough moment. Let’s take a look at what’s driving the adoption of reality-altering tech and what that could mean for businesses who want to take advantage of the advertising opportunities they offer.

VR

Several companies are trying to stay ahead of the VR hype and investing in the technology as an advertising medium. And it’s easy to see why it can seem so appealing. Not only does it offer a memorable experience, immersive visuals and boundless worlds, it is the definition of a captive audience. Strap a VR viewer to the user’s face and they are instantly free of any distractions from the world that you create. Want to send potential customers on a journey through a world where everyone is happily using your product vs. a bleak world where no one is? VR is the way to do it. The potential for drama and storytelling is vast and exciting.

Setting an example

Coke’s sleigh ride

While this potential is far from fully realized, one company is leading the way in the VR advertising space: Coca-Cola. Last Christmas, Coca-Cola created a virtual reality sleigh ride. Using Oculus Rift, thousands of people in Poland got to play Santa for a day — flying all over the country and into different villages, like a roller coaster in the sky. Coke has also sponsored a VR World Cup experience where participants first entered a replica of the locker room at Brazil’s Maracana Stadium. Then, after putting on VR Oculus Rift goggles, they made a grand entrance onto the playing field to play a game in front of a huge virtual crowd. View here. More recently, Coke has been shipping its 12-packs in cardboard packages that can be folded into VR goggles for your smartphone.

cokesoccer

Coke’s VR mimics the user’s motions within the game.

With these efforts, Coke may be offering a peek at what future VR advertising success might look like: sponsoring experiences rather than just promoting products. As Matt Wolf, Coca-Cola’s head of global gaming, said, “there’s branding within the experience, but the more valuable aspect is that viewers are getting access to something that wouldn’t otherwise be possible…Thanks to Coke.”1

Trapped with cheese

Boursin’s cheese roller coaster

There are a few advertisers who have had some success luring people to try their independent VR experiences, from Volvo’s virtual test drives to Boursin’s (a French soft cheese maker) VR tour through a fridge full of its chilled treats. But, aside from Coke’s cardboard goggles, these efforts all took a significant investment and could only reach a limited audience for one key reason: most people don’t yet own a VR headset, so they need to be supplied by the advertiser. The reality is that games, not ads, will be driving the adoption of VR hardware because, as marketer Nicholas Manluccia wrote in Advertising Age, “There is nothing inherently compelling about being trapped in a refrigerator with spreadable cheese.”2

The real turning point in VR advertising will come when people start purchasing personal VR headsets for their homes on a large scale. With several of these headsets nearing their widespread public release dates, that time is fast approaching. About 14 million VR devices are expected to sell worldwide this year, according to market researcher TrendForce, which projects VR app, software and device sales will soar to $70 billion by 2020.2 Because of this, VR titles were popular games to demo at this year’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo). From Star Trek to Minecraft to the ever-present zombie shooters, it seemed like every developer wanted a piece of the VR pie, and they expected that pie to be full of fruit. Clearly, to many in the industry, VR is no longer the future of gaming, but a significant part of its present.

Virtual shopping and beyond

Modern VR could take you from the Amazon Jungle to Amazon.com

So, people will be buying these things, and they’ll be buying them specifically to play games. Assuming that most consumers continue to try to avoid, rather than actively seek out, advertising experiences, how else does a company who wants to advertise get in on that VR action? One way might be through virtual shopping. People actually seem pretty excited about the prospect. In a survey last year, researcher Ericsson ConsumerLab asked which feature of VR seemed the most enticing. The top response — more even than movies or video games — was the ability to “see items in real size and form when I shop online.”2 I recently could have used a “see how this overly complicated sectional will really fit in my living room” VR experience, so I understand the appeal.

Beyond virtual shopping and sponsored experiences, the future of VR advertising will likely involve taking advantage of the virtual worlds created by entertainment companies and telling your story to the people who are already there. “All that software and design work focused on making your hand look like it naturally wraps around a gun and being able to pick up objects with two hands — that nuance can be applied to a vacation simulator where you’re on a beach and want to pick up a seashell,” notes James Iliff, cofounder of L.A.-based VR tech company Survios. “One can easily imagine that scenario for Norwegian Cruise Lines’ The Sea is Calling campaign, which shows people in TV ads picking up shells to hear the voice of the sea in them.”1 The ad industry has to figure out the virtual space — a completely new form of storytelling where you don’t just have a printed picture or frame of a video to work with, but a whole world. The learning curve will be steep, but the possibilities are virtually endless.

AR

Augmented reality has largely been an example of a technology that has not lived up to its hype. Om Malik of The New Yorker describes it as, “the ‘boy who cried wolf’ of the post-Internet world — it’s long been promised but has rarely been delivered in a satisfying way… none of [the apps] have gone mainstream, even those developed by Ikea and Lego.”3 Until now.

Monster success

An AR game that could be a game changer

Faster to the top than Candy Crush, more profitable than Clash of Clans, able to steal more of your time than Facebook, it’s Pokémon GO! On July 6, Niantic Labs released an AR experience that instantly captured the hearts, minds, and GPS locations of millions of people around the world. I don’t need to explain Pokémon GO to you because by now, only a few weeks after its release date, it is absolutely everywhere (but just in case, click here for a brief primer). People are also playing it everywhere. From downtown shopping centers to parks, you can hardly be outside in public without seeing someone catching Pokémon.

This perception of ubiquity is backed by the numbers. Pokémon GO’s estimated 75 million downloads and $1.6 million in daily revenue has sent Niantic’s worth soaring, now valued at around $3.65 billion and on track to make $740 million in revenue this year.4 And, it’s not just downloads where Pokémon GO numbers are impressive, app engagement is unbelievably high. With over 20 million in the U.S. engaging daily for an average of 33 minutes per day, Pokémon GO has left even Twitter in the dust.

An AR-based game that has the power to not only grab consumers’ attention but significantly change their habits is something that should make advertisers take note. This experience is drawing users to both digital and physical spaces.5

Mainstream AR, at last

It really can be this simple
Photo credit: L’inizio Pizza Bar

AR has finally gone mainstream and, as will likely be the case with VR, its incredible rise was driven by a game. So, what does this mean for advertisers? For one thing, many of the players belong to that coveted, stubbornly advertising-resistant demographic: Millennials. This development could mean a big opportunity to capture their interest and marketers are already champing at the bit. Brandon Berger, Ogilvy Worldwide’s chief digital officer has already begun briefing his creative teams, brainstorming ideas on how brands might capitalize on Pokémon GO. “There’s no reason that advertisers would have to work directly with Pokémon GO in the near term.” He notes. “Why couldn’t brands participate at a gym location? If you’re a beverage brand or a retailer or even a real gym, why don’t you find gyms and put your brand right around that, put experiences around that?”

Some businesses were lucky enough to have their physical locations associated with in-game locations right from the start. As players began flooding in, they realized the connection to this virtual world could mean actual profit. Some have installed extra phone charging stations to accommodate these potential new customers, others are advertising their connections to the game, and some are even using the game’s own mechanics to their advantage. Sales at New York pizzeria L’inizio Pizza Bar went up 75 percent over the weekend after the owner spent $10 on “lure modules.”

To allow companies and advertisers to take advantage of the interest in an official capacity, Niantic has announced that they will soon add a “sponsored locations” program, where businesses can pay to have their physical locations associated with the game.

The virtual future

The Pokémon GO phenomenon provides us with a valuable example of what advertising could look like in a virtual future:

  1. It will be centered around gamers and gaming. With total revenues for the industry hitting $23.5 billion in the U.S. alone for 2015, this is a huge market.
  2. It will be experience-based, offering people something that otherwise wouldn’t be possible.
  3. It will largely exist in the worlds created by entertainment developers.

For now, businesses and advertisers are still wrapping their heads around what this all means — throwing stuff at the wall to see what sticks. And why not? Those who are brave enough to jump in now might just help a whole new world take shape.


Sources

  1. http://adage.com/article/digital/virtual-reality-advertising-s-big-thing/294328/
  2. http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-virtual-reality-advertisements-wp-20160310-story.html
  3. http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/pokemon-go-will-make-you-crave-augmented-reality
  4. http://qz.com/741117/the-company-that-created-pokemon-go-is-now-worth-over-3-billion/
  5. https://techcrunch.com/2016/07/13/pokemon-go-tops-twitters-daily-users-sees-more-engagement-than-facebook/
The Craft of Advertising

A patron approaches an item, excitedly. They inquire about its creation, curiously. They ask about the price, cautiously. They walk away, sadly. If you have any experience as either visitor or vendor at a craft or art show, you have probably witnessed this familiar scene. Handmade items can be enchanting and inspiring. But, they can also be very expensive.

Articles occasionally make the social media rounds, patiently explaining to a society raised on mass production exactly what it takes to make that wire woven necklace or that carefully carved flute. It’s not just time, labor, materials and overhead, but also education, skill, dedication and passion that contribute to both the quality of the work and its cost. One such plea that recently came across my feed got me thinking about my own craft. Though our team here at GO2 doesn’t sew dresses or knit scarves; we make strategies, brands and advertising tactics. And just like any craft, there’s much more to it than meets the eye.

Take sending a marketing email, for example. The final email that the target receives is only the tip of a surprisingly deep iceberg. To send a personal email, you pop open an email client and type away. But to send an advertisement that has any hope of being successful, there are many steps to complete before even a single word is typed and a dedicated team of specialists to help it on its way. It starts with…

The Strategists

ohyeahdata width=The account planners live data and breathe research. The Internet is a sea of noise, and without the strategists, your ad is doomed to drown in it. They study demographics, market trends, competitor data and more to determine the who, what, where, when and why of your email—everything from the targeted recipients to the time of day.

And, you have a vision for this email that includes everything from the message it should convey to the results it should provide. Your advocates in account service are here to nurture and guide that vision through every step of its creation. Catering to your needs and offering a conduit for your voice—they are always on call to service your brand, your ideas and, most importantly, you.

The Creatives

drinkingthatjuiceYou don’t just want someone to like your product; you want them to need it. It’s going to fill a hole in their lives they didn’t even know was there, provide a sense of well-being they crave, and allow them to be the person they always imagined they could. And that is why you need copywriters. A bulleted list of features is great, but in a world of myriad choice, potential customers should know not just why they need a toaster, but why they need your toaster.

But you’ve only got about half a second to convince them to actually read this thing, so it has to look good. No. Great. No. Amazing. The graphic artist has to understand expectations and then understand how to defy them. Deftly balancing form and function, they know how to draw your eye with dimension and convince you with color—ensuring that the message stands out in the crowd.

The Developers

youplusmeThis gorgeous, evocative email isn’t going anywhere without them. The designer can make it look good, but it needs developers to make it work right. Creating a piece that functions on all platforms and with all email clients is no small feat—but the dedicated developer will ensure that it is interactive and optimized. And the tracking codes they include will give the strategists all the juicy data they need to begin the process again.

The QC Specialists

qcallupinhereThey are the guardians of grammar and the sentinels of sentences. Nothing can undermine your message quite like a typo. Not only that, but someone has to make sure that all the hard work of the previous team members makes it into the final product. Was the integrity of the design preserved in translation? Did the copy points all make it in? Do the links link and the displays display? These gatekeepers make sure nothing gets through unchecked.

A great ad often requires a great investment of resources. But when you see it working for you, promoting awareness and generating sales, the payoff is clear. The only ad that’s too expensive is the one that doesn’t work.

B2B Content Marketing

You know it when you see it. It’s the stuff that tells a story. The stuff that achieves that coveted yet nebulous distinction of “going viral.” The stuff that lets people connect with not just what you sell, but who you are. It’s content marketing, and everybody’s doing it.

88% of B2B organizations say they use this type of marketing, but only 30% believe they do it well. Obviously, cutting through the clutter and creating engaging content in the B2B space poses unique challenges, so how can you make it work for your enterprise-focused business?

First, let’s pin down exactly what we’re talking about. The CMI (Content Marketing Institute) defines content marketing as “a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.” This simple definition provides an excellent starting point for defining the essential qualities of good content marketing. It must be: Valuable, Engaging, and Targeted.

Make it Valuable.

The bigger the purchase, the longer the sales cycle.

“The bigger the purchase, the longer the sales cycle.” B2B buyers are making a bigger investment and want to spend more time with your brand before they decide to commit. They want to feel comfortable with its personality and confident in its knowledge. Consistently offering valuable content allows them to begin forming this relationship immediately and also allows that relationship to be nurtured continually. Create pieces which establish your thought leadership and expertise. Even more importantly, create pieces that demonstrate your understanding of your potential and current customers. Show that you know both who they are now and who they want to become.

Here are just a few of the possible avenues:

  • Social Media Content
  • Videos/Video courses
  • Case Studies
  • eNewsletters
  • In-person Events
  • Blogs
  • Articles on Your Website
  • User guides
  • Illustrations/Photos
  • White Papers
  • Podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Webinars/Webcasts

Make it Engaging.

You must create meaningful content in order to evoke an emotional response. If your audience is not moved by what you are sharing, they will not be motivated to act. Applying this idea in a B2B context is especially challenging, since B2B product and service offerings tend to seem less exciting than with B2C. People are personally invested in their tech, but how do you elicit an emotional response when talking about your business software?

The content you share should be designed to make a human connection, not just a business one.

The first step is to keep in mind that, while the product or service you are offering exists to benefit a company, it is ultimately not a company who will be making the purchasing decision — it is a person. The content you share should be designed to make a human connection, not just a business one.

Similarly, this type of content can’t be too salesy. People have learned to tune out the overwhelming amount of traditional advertising they are exposed to and you simply can’t start a meaningful relationship with someone by asking them to open their wallets. So, resist the urge to plug your product in that carefully crafted infographic — that will make it seem less genuine and significantly less shareable.

Here are a few examples of inspiring B2B content:

  • HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing. As the creators of the term Inbound Marketing, you know they are doing something right. One of those things is offering tons of relevant, free content on their website in a way that shows both respect for their visitors and acknowledgement of their goals.
  • American Express Gives Business Owners an OPEN Forum. With titles like “5 Things Successful People Do That Others Don’t” and “3 Reasons Introverts Make Excellent Employees,” the credit card company understands that to make a personal connection, a good start is talking about everyone’s favorite subject: themselves!

Make it Targeted.

It seems obvious: If you want to create useful, meaningful content, you have to know who you are talking to. But, according to B2B sales and marketing analyst firm SiriusDecisions, the top challenge for B2B marketers is not creating good content, but a lack of persona-based insights. Investing time and resources into researching and developing audience personas (with consideration for their likely needs and interests) will help keep your content focused on the right topics and help your content creators remember that they aren’t just talking to buyers, companies or dollar signs, they are talking to people.

Buyer-centric (as opposed to product-centric) marketing isn’t the future — it’s the present. Entering this space with purpose and strategy will be well worth the effort.

Why does this sound weird?

Editing ideas beyond punctuation

You’ve convinced your verbs to agree with your subjects. You’ve sorted your theirs, theres, and they’res. You’ve crossed your T’s, dotted your I’s and semi-ed all the appropriate colons, but that pesky prose still doesn’t flow. When you’ve already tended to matters grammatical and lexical, adjusting your work with the following, often neglected, editing concepts in mind can help take your writing from sophomoric to sophisticated.

Brevity

All writers know the mantra “omit useless words,” but how do you decide which words are useless? The first step is to ask, “Does every word serve a purpose? Does every word contribute to the understanding of what I am trying to express?” Your reader is granting you valuable time and attention; be respectful by getting to the point.

The following are a few enemies of brevity to watch out for while giving your work an editing pass:

Intensifiers. Using words like “very” or “really” often signals that a more precise term would be appropriate. For example, instead of using “really tired,” try “weary” or “exhausted.”

Crutch words. There are some words that are useful in moderation, but often sneak in as fillers — adding little to comprehension while damaging style. The defining characteristic of a crutch word is that it can appear at almost any point in a sentence without affecting meaning. An example is the word “just.” The sentence, “If you just want to just have some cereal, just run downtown and just buy just some milk,” would express the same idea even with every instance of the word removed. Other examples are “that” and “right.”

Idiomatic phrases. Some phrases have become common, yet awkward and laborious, ways of expressing simple ideas. “Tomatoes that are squishy in nature,” could easily become, “squishy tomatoes.” Don’t use, “She comes across as strange,” when, “She seems strange,” will do. You should take it upon yourself to avoid these phrases,” would be better as, “You should avoid these phrases.”

Parallelism

Parallelism involves connecting a pair or series of ideas with similar grammatical structure.

Parallelism can be used to great effect:

Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.

Lack of parallelism can make your writing awkward and difficult to parse:

Ask not what your country can do for you, but what can you do to participate in government?

Using parallel structure becomes especially important in lists. Step one in creating a list with parallel balance is to make sure all items in the list follow from the setup.

Example setup:

“At RobotDragon, Inc., we ensure all customers are satisfied with…”

Example items that could follow from the setup:

“wing aesthetic”

“the responsiveness of the flame feature with regard to both direction and temperature”

“their ability to ride our product into battle”

Example items that COULD NOT follow from the setup:

“able to seat up to four adults”

“can be customized with Eastern (wingless) or Western (2 or 4 wings) themes and structures”

Once you have ensured that all of the items follow, step two is to check for parallel structure. Changing from an active to a passive verb, using different clause structures, and mixing gerunds with infinitive phrases are all ways of breaking parallelism.

Intact parallel: Previously, robot dragons were available only through mail order; now they are available online.

Broken parallel: Previously, robot dragons were available only through mail order, while now they are available online.

Intact parallel: wing aesthetic, scale durability, and jaw strength

Broken parallel: wing aesthetic, the scale durability, and jaws

As Proofing Department Manager at GO2, I am always looking for ways to help people get the most out of their words. Adhering to the principles of brevity and parallelism will help your writing do justice to your ideas and may save you from having to ask, “why does this sound weird?”