We’re the Purple Squirrel You’ve Been Seeking

by Francine Carb, President

Before I begin, I must apologize to those executive search firms who use the term purple squirrel in a negative sense, and also sincerely thank those of you looking for employment who have been accused of not being the perfect purple squirrel and who have inspired this article.

First some context: According to Harvard Business Review,

…“Purple Squirrel” is a term recruiters and hiring managers use to define the rarest of candidates, almost mythical in nature. These candidates are nearly impossible to find in an ultra-competitive industry and possess the perfect mix of skills, education and experience.

With the economy mostly humming along, CEOs can and should be more selective when interviewing for key positions. What we’ve noticed; however, is the requirement to have it all. In the case of a CMO or VP Marketing—our areas of expertise—that means:

  • Relevant industry background
  • Leadership, mentoring, and hiring capabilities to grow the department
  • Sales experience (in the industry)
  • Background in most marketing disciplines (here’s where it gets a little tricky) including: website development, marketing and technical writing, PR, metrics & analytics, lead generation, trade show support, brand and creative expertise, content development, website and digital communications design
  • Experience with onboard marketing automation software and gain value from it in less than six months, the ability to find and qualify a lead, help the sales organization turn it into real business, and nurture the client throughout the sales cycle
  • Think and act strategically and then execute all the above items in accordance with the business plan, which the marketing lead would have helped develop

I see all your heads bobbing a unified YES! And I hate to curb your enthusiasm; however, I need to ask you a few questions: Does this sound like one person to you? And also, do you think that if one person had all of these qualities, they would drop everything and come to work for your company? If the answer is yes, and yes, please stop reading.

The reality is that while these qualities and requirements are hugely desirable, it takes a well-orchestrated team, directed by a superstar, to make this happen. Here’s where Markitects comes in to save the day.

This is who we are and what we do. If you have some or most of your requirements in house, we’ll work with that team; if not, we’ll be that team—at a fraction of the cost of an entire department. And you’ll get all the ROI, expertise, and enthusiasm you desire.

In a nutshell, let’s talk.

What Will My Actual Website Look Like?

by Francine Carb, President

We all look at a multitude of websites throughout the day; however, when we’re involved with creating a new website design or any significant upgrade for our own company, many of us take on a quizzical look, and ask “what will my actual website look like?”

Platforms like WordPress and others certainly make it easier to build a website, yet we creative types still go through the process of design, showing the client, revise, repeat, and approve—prior to programming. This process has not changed much since the previous 10-20 years when we created mostly print materials. So how can we make it easier for the client to imagine their site prior to programming?

We at Markitects are in the process of changing what we show clients and how we show it, on multiple levels.

Let’s start with brand identity and logo development. In the old, old days, we would develop logo options in black and white and once approved, we would go through a series of color exercises until the final was selected. This often caused us to go back to square one, when the client wanted to see previous versions or those logos not selected in different colors. This process was certain to cause a headache, at best.

Then in the old days, we developed logo options in colors pertinent to the client’s industry or similar to their old logo to capitalize on brand equity (in the case of existing companies modernizing their brand). What we noticed were a lot of questions about how it would look on their signage in front of the building, or on a T-shirt, or coffee mug. Basically visual brand could not be approved until the client actually saw it where they were accustomed to using the brand—so, not on letterhead, or even on their website. This aha moment made us change our process. Now when showing logo choices, we take the initiative to demonstrate how it will look on common applications. The results: more comfort with the choice, fewer if any changes once approved, and higher pass around value—meaning they are eager to share it with their colleague and employees—before the official launch.

The same happens to be true for websites—especially with parallax or hybrid designs. So now when we show a website design, it’s still in a PDF format; however, we also show what likely will be seen ‘above the fold’, which really means on a typically sized desktop screen. (Let’s assume that everything we’re developing at Markitects is responsive design, so phone and tablet formatting are already taken care of.) We are now embracing two new best practices to address this ‘how will my website look’ issue.

One, we show what the website will actually look like on a screen, or very close to what it will look like on a typical sized monitor. Secondly, we show our designs along side a second computer screen with a similarly behaving website. So if designing a mega-dropdown, the client can see how that might look; and when the menu covers up some of the visuals, how it still works well within the context of the website. Another example is a hybrid site with the characteristics of both a parallax and traditional style site. It’s hard to imagine a sticky navigation bar, or how the header and footers look on landing or tertiary pages; however, when placed side by side, the brain takes over and makes that connection.

To address these dilemmas, we have seen some agencies move to programming, before they show their work to clients; however, this approach is wrought with danger. Using this approach makes it seem as if the programming piece is so simple that anything can be changed. While somewhat true, certainly the change piece, it just introduces another level of choice for the client. And too many choices result in delayed projects that are rarely, if ever, improved. We have found it best to take responsibility for walking the client through a proven process, rather than giving that responsibility, and too many options, to the client. Programming first can also result in ‘back to square one’ scenarios, which often lead to long delays and dissatisfied clients. Providing the design mock-up as a PDF allows the client to evaluate the design, without the confusion of why the website is not yet fully functional with active links and responsive design.

While we realize that our new best practices are not perfect, we know that they have improved the process for our clients…and for us. We are open to hearing from you regarding how you demonstrate website design and functionality.

 

Learn more about Markitect’s Website Design and Development capabilities, as well as our Digital Upgrades!

Markitects to Sponsor Vistage Executive Summit

by Francine Carb, President

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Vistage, it is a nationwide organization comprised of senior executives and business owners who come together to learn from each other, gain insights through coaching, and develop long-term business relationships. The organization has been around since 1957 and is organized regionally by Vistage Chairs, who are the executive coaches who build and develop each peer advisory group. In the Philadelphia region, there are currently 16 chairs. From my experience, members range from mid-market commercial and industrial enterprises, to multi-generation family owned businesses, to entrepreneurs looking to grow their businesses.

A few years ago, I went through the process of becoming a vetted Vistage speaker, which means that chairs can bring me into a group to present my topic, which happens to be “The Great Divide Between Sales and Marketing”. My presentation is about building bridges between these two important functions—via technology (like CRMs), by implementing campaigns that leverage sales activities, and through elevation of marketing as an enabler of the sales process.

In today’s world, the marketing function has to work harder than ever and be accountable for generating leads and growing the business. Furthermore, it’s a multi-faceted role that includes—ongoing brand development, content creation, digital outreach, awareness creation, social media, trade show support, email marketing, website metrics, and more. These functions cannot possibly be the responsibility of one person, nor can they be ignored or pushed into the sales role. My Vistage presentation covers how to build a great sales and marketing organization that is aligned with the business goals.

Each year, Vistage holds an Executive Summit—this year’s topic being “Shifting Perspectives through The Power of Peers”. The Philadelphia region event will take place on April 12th at the Convention Center and Markitects is proud to be a silver sponsor. From my past experience, the speakers are terrific—incredibly energetic, inspiring, and action oriented. If you are Vistage member or guest attending at Summit, please stop by our booth to talk about your sales and marketing challenges. We look forward to seeing you there.

This Year’s Number One Marketing Strategy Revealed

by Francine Carb, President

When you think about the most popular or effective marketing strategy for 2016, your mind immediately turns to the digital landscape. While hugely important in delivering your company’s message, nothing tops the list as positively affecting sales more than in-person attendance at trade shows and conferences. Compared to the annual Las Vegas junket of days past, these are primarily regional and niche conferences where colleagues discuss issues, experts speak about trends, and thought leaders chart the future of a particular business segment in which they are experts.

Why? Pressing the flesh and open dialog forums are the most effective way to meet like-minded individuals who are expanding their base of knowledge as a predecessor (and requirement) to making an informed decision. If this sounds logical, that’s because it is. When a major institution, company or organization is ready to take on a major initiative, they investigate, discuss, and then make a sound decision. And the most efficient way to do so is to ask and speak with those in the know.

Which Conferences Are Trending?

There are a number of top-notch events on the calendar over the next few months. Take a look at where some of our clients are spending their time, dollars, and brainpower.

Phorum Philly—April 14, 2016

Now in it’s 5th year, Phorum keeps attracting the créme de la créme of technology firms primarily spanning NY to DC, and this year’s keynote speaker will not disappoint. None other than Paul DePodesta, a focal point of best-selling book and Oscar-nominated film, “Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game”, will be speaking on a data driven approach to winning – basically big data and predictive analytics in professional sports – what could be more fascinating! Furthermore, Phorum is stepping up the cool factor by holding this year’s conference at the new hot spot, the Fillmore Philadelphia. Look to the Demo Pit and Expo areas to see truly innovative companies showing their stuff.


Angel Venture Fair—April 26, 2016

The Angel Venture Fair brings together the largest gathering of Angel Investors and Entrepreneurs in the Mid-Atlantic region. This will event will be held at the Union League in Philadelphia.


INTERPHEX—April 26-28, 2016

The premier pharma, biotech, and medical device conference now in it’s 37th year, is not just the place to see the latest in technology and scientific innovations. It’s also where industry panelists come together to debate the latest trends, like facilities of the future that are modern, sterile, and compliant, but also flexible enough to accommodate small dose manufacturing and other innovations. Other topics include: cell therapy commercialization, plant retrofits, and 3D system innovations. Just hop on the Amtrak and take a cab to the Javitz Center in NYC.


PACT Enterprise Awards—May 12, 2016

The 23rd annual Enterprise Awards are a celebration of our region’s technology and life sciences companies, leaders, and entrepreneurs. This event will be held at the PA Convention Center in Philadelphia.


DVAPPA—Throughout the year

For those of you involved with or selling to Higher Ed, no other organization holds more clout than APPA. Furthermore they have a regional chapter right here, the Delaware Valley APPA, or DVAPPA. With events throughout the year and usually taking place at a local university, there are a variety of topic choices. Just be aware that they only accept a certain number of service providers, so you cannot just show up for a meeting. It really is an exclusive organization for those in Higher Ed; hence, it’s beauty and value!


SMPS Philadelphia—Throughout the year

This organization holds events and education opportunities for architectural, engineering and construction marketing professionals.

It’s Your Year To Take It On

by Francine Carb, President

Never got to that new website project? Need to get your email campaigns on the right track? Does your brand look a little dated? Did you sign up for that conference, but don’t yet have a plan to capture your leads?

There’s no need to delay your marketing any longer when you can work with a trusted partner, like Markitects. We have the creativity, talent, and skill sets to make viable recommendations and execute actionable programs based on your priorities.

When you select Markitects, you get the counsel of an extensive team of experts, skilled in all facets of marketing communications. Let the professionals at Markitects show you how to achieve marketing excellence without high overhead costs and with an increase in quality.

Whether you are filling a talent gap, improving your focus, or just stepping up your game, Markitects can quickly get up to speed on the tightest of schedules. Just say, “Run with it” and start focusing on your other priorities.

Want to learn more? Check out our new website to see what we have achieved for other companies, like yours.

All About Branding

Join the SEMPO Education Committees
on the next Chat with Industry Experts, Featuring Francine Carb

All About Branding
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
11 AM PST, 1 PM CST, 2 PM EST, 7 PM GMT, 8 PM CET

In this informative session, presented by the SEMPO Education Committee, we will discuss the latest strategies and trends of branding.

Join our SEMPO Education Committee & Industry Expert Guest Speakers as they cover these topics, and more, in an open question-and-answer format. You can join on-air or just watch live and submit questions on Google+ or on twitter at #SEMPOChat.

Francine has over 25 years of experience in branding, launching and promoting technology and engineering products, nationally and globally. Her expertise extends from strategic market planning through sales and distribution channel development. She is an award-winning member of the business community and has been recognized by the region, state, and internationally as a top tier professional. Francine also has professional ties to the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and Villanova University as an adjunct professor. Francine has a B.A. in Economics from Lafayette College and an M.B.A. in Marketing from St. Joseph’s University.

SEMPO: an Event to Remember

by Brooke Meyer, Graphic Designer

This Tuesday, Markitects was a proud co-sponsor of SEMPO Cities Philadelphia: Up Your Digital Marketing Tempo in collaboration with local WSI affiliate, Vinkler Internet Enterprise. This event was part of SEMPO’s outreach initiative for local networking and learning. As one of only 20 cities around the world to be included the first-ever SEMPO Cities Month, it was truly an honor for Philadelphia to be chosen. Taking place at The Pyramid Club, one of the finest venues in Philadelphia, the entire morning was fast-paced, engaging, and incredibly insightful for all who attended.

As a graphic designer at Markitects, I was fortunate enough to participate in SEMPO’s outreach event. I had never attended something of this scale, and was pleasantly surprised as to how the day unfolded. Located at the very top floor of the BNY Mellon Center building, the guests were treated to a fantastic view of the cityscape as they greeted each other and signed in at the desk. Before the event started, it seemed more like a reunion than a meeting: attendees giving each other hugs and warm handshakes and talking about their marketing experiences over mugs of coffee and breakfast.

The keynote speaker was Dan Monaghan, Co-Founder of WSI, one of CIO Magazine’s 20 Most Promising Digital Marketing Solution Providers. His presentation, entitled “Harnessing Digital”, was an eye-opening experience for both marketing novices and veterans alike. He fully engaged the audience by speaking to them as business peers, offering insightful advice, tips and facts on marketing strategies that many would not have considered.

It was a surprise even to me to learn that 65% of web developers have never tested anything–that it’s based entirely on the approval of the client without testing. Or that when driving web traffic, using SEO is obvious, but most people don’t know it can be downright dangerous to the business. If SEO is not done correctly, it can potentially cost a company hundreds of thousands of dollars to undo the damage. SEO can be manipulated (or “hacked”) to shoot through the rankings, but can crash shortly after when Google nails you. Instead of coding tricks and buzzwords, using relevant and meaningful content for gradual SEO growth is better in the long-term.

Monaghan then delved into Facebook and other social media, explaining that it can be rendered useless if the audience is not determined to make it succeed. He raised the question if a company’s social media property is even controlled by the company, or is the page being maintained by a former employee—ouch! If that person leaves and a login migration plan is not in effect, the social media presence essentially leaves the hands of the business, too. Monaghan also stressed the importance of content consistency across all properties–even something as minor as an address discrepancy can affect rankings in search engines.

Following Dan’s presentation was the “Digital Marketing in Action” panel, which was a refreshing interactive segment facilitates by our very own Francine Carb, President & CEO. Joining here were Justin Pizzi, Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Saxbys Coffee, Kevin Crowly, Sales Performance Analyst at Tozour Energy Systems, and Chris Schalleur, Partner at Christo IT Services who offered insights into how marketing strategies work for them in their own businesses. The beauty of digital marketing is how adaptive and responsive it can be for each individual company. What works for one business may not necessarily work for someone else. However, the underlying elements remain the same: client engagement is crucial and is the root of digital marketing for businesses. Justin Pizzi says that one should always be open to working with marketing agencies and new methods to reach your audience. He also urged that a strong website is the foundation of a business presence; all other materials can be created around it. Kevin Crowley added that for his company, email campaigns and brand consistency greatly helped increase the company’s presence and customer awareness. Chris Schalleur emphasized the importance of getting uncomfortable–as a reminder to engage in continuous improvements is you are to be successful and grown your business.

Next, one of our featured speakers, Julianne Gaudio, Agency Development Manager at Google, presented “Micro Moments, Creating and Capturing Demand with Google”. Did you know that the average person checks their phone 150 times per day and spends a 177 minutes using their smart phone? Many of these moments are spent searching for what we need or want at that moment—Google calls these micro-moments. For marketers, these moments are an open invitation to engage. This directly tied into the discussion panel earlier where client engagement was emphasized as crucial. After hearing Gaudio speak, it was fascinating to realize how many different companies, both large and small, have experienced such positive results from digital marketing.

The SEMPO Cities Philadelphia event was truly a success for everyone involved. I was so grateful to be a part of this and will continue to utilize what I learned at SEMPO for my future design and creative goals for Markitects and its clients. View more about our SEO capabilities here.

Embrace the Nausea… and Other Tips for Public Speaking

by Francine Carb, President

I’ve been lucky enough (or unlucky enough, to some) to have had the opportunity to give public presentations for over twenty five years—ranging from lectures for college students, to speaking to over 500 resellers at an IT conference, to most recently facilitating a panel for the SEMPO Philadelphia event for just under 100 attendees. In addition, in my everyday life, I frequently give more intimate presentations to prospective customers who are considering working with my marketing firm.

First, let me admit that I enjoy this. I like to see the faces of people who are reacting to my words and many times ‘getting it’ (meaning the information or insights I’m sharing) for the first time. And I think I’m pretty good at it. Some would say I’m ‘a natural’; however, I was not born a public speaker. In fact, I too, struggled with my public speaking way back in a course at Lafayette College.

I recently attended a conference where a ‘professional’ public speaker gave tips on this topic. I didn’t exactly agree with those tips for public speaking, so I thought to offer you my top ones, beginning with:

  1. Embrace the Nausea: It’s normal to feel nervous. In fact, I’ve come to feel very comfortable with that rumbling in my stomach and light headache. It means I’m ready. If I weren’t slightly nervous, I’d worry. It would mean that I didn’t care about my topic or audience. It’s the passion for the topic and yes, the fear that I won’t be understood, that causes this. So, 25+ years of nausea…it’s the best.
  2. Focus on the Audience: In cases where you cannot see the audience (such as being on a stage in front of 500 or more people in an auditorium), it’s more difficult. Thankfully, most of you won’t encounter that situation. When you can see the audience, don’t just focus on one person or a person you know. Change your focus, as well as your body direction, to take in various individuals during a presentation. That’s why I like panels, because you, as the moderator, can focus on your panelists, and then see the reaction of audience participants when someone else is speaking. That way you can sense the pulse of the room and direct questions accordingly. Panels are really the ideal speaking situation.
  3. Face the Elephant in the Room: In a smaller setting, there’s usually at least one naysayer or an individual with folded arms (insisting they don’t want to be ‘sold’). What to do? These are two entirely different situations, but both require some skill. For the naysayer or person trying to control the conversation, first let them speak and then immediately direct the conversation to someone else in the room, asking them what they think. So basically, address the topic or concern but have others weigh in. Then move on. For the folded arm individual, you’ll have to do some guessing regarding why they have this physical barrier, especially if that person is important. Here’s where you should take a risk. Float the topic that you think is on their mind to the group. If you’ve hit their concern, you’ll immediately get a reaction from this person…in less than 3 seconds. Really!

I hope that my various experiences, and physical discomfort, will help you prepare for and give your next presentation. I’d love to know how it goes. For feedback on this article and other topics, please email me. I’d love to hear your tips for public speaking, as well.

Marketing for Engineering Firms

You would think that creating and implementing marketing programs for engineering firms would be easy. In addition to being detail-oriented and well organized, engineers understand the advantages of innovation, creativity, and design.

Well, for many, this is not entirely true and here’s why:

Not everyone is like us.
Engineering firms tend to think that because they are typically providing their services to another engineer, they speak a common language. The reality is that their buying audience is getting younger and more diverse. In addition, committees with varying priorities often make the decision on which firm to hire. What’s needed for effective marketing is a better understanding of the project objectives from the viewpoint of every single constituent. This will drive the marketing message, as well as the medium. Think digital, responsive design, mobile, and analytics.

Not all buyers are created equal.
I’ll be the first one to harp about consistent messaging; however the content—and delivery method—should be tweaked, depending on the audience. For instance, an ROI message might be suited to the owner; while the fewer headaches message is best for the PM or facilities manager. In addition, the owner might only be receptive at high-level conferences and panels, while those overworked, under-appreciated doers might prefer the efficiency and convenience of educational webinars, followed by a Q&A session.

We’re moving quickly, so our marketing should too.
There’s no avoiding it—marketing is an art and a science. The “answer” in terms of marketing may take some time and refining to work its magic. Many times, our engineering clients have put off their marketing efforts and are now in a hurry; however, the fastest method may not be the best. That’s not to say, overthinking is the answer, but thinking through a solution definitely helps, even if it takes a little time.

Our competitors are doing it.
It seems that all industries, not just engineering, are guilty of wanting to blindly follow their competitors—especially when their competitors have a great idea. The problem with this is that a particular idea may become associated with another company, not yours. Bottom line: there is no substitute for original thinking, so try to work with your creative team, agency or consultant to brainstorm an approach that’s uniquely yours. Use those engineering minds to rise above your competitors. A better idea may be to “borrow” from another industry and tweak that idea appropriately for your firm.

Don’t stop getting to know your audience.
While your engineering knowledge is designed to solve a particular set of problems, your audience is constantly evolving. Whether due to familiarity with your service or other companies solving those same problems, the way to your audience responds to marketing is likely to change over time. Speak to them, meet them, attend their events and conferences, take their pulse through casual meetings and formal surveys, and just engage—however and whenever possible. What you learn will help inform your marketing, keep it relevant, and contribute to more and happier customers.

These five points are especially relevant for engineering and related-industry companies. If you’re ready to bounce your marketing ideas around, please give us a call.

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The Value of Market Research in Today’s Immediate Feedback Society

by Francine Carb, President

Many of today’s marketing tactics are focused on gaining immediate feedback—and with very good reason. We all want to know if: Our email marketing campaigns are being opened? Being read? Recipients are clicking to our websites? And to which page or pages? Believe me, I’m all in when it comes to metrics; however, most B2B companies are struggling with the real value of those metrics. Yes, they are numbers—just like GDP or the employment rate—but also like big numbers, we struggle to find relevance behind them, and furthermore, how to turn those numbers into actionable plans that can make a difference in our businesses.

Market Research, even the name, implies a lengthy drawn-out process, with questionable results. Research seems like something we had to do in college that took up an entire semester—and that we’re still trying to forget. I’d love to invent a new name for it, but in the meantime I’d like to speak out in favor of market research.

Done well, it can at minimum take the pulse of a particular audience relative to a particular product, service, or trend. At most, it can identify customer issues; find those willing to volunteer for a case study or testimonial; and help drive the future strategy of an organization. Let’s further investigate the ‘at most’ scenario.

The question you should be asking yourself is: Do I really know and understand my customers at a deep level?

Sure, I know my customers are tech, science, and engineering firms who launch new products and services, but that’s just a description. You may know that your customers are facilities managers at health care institutions, IT managers at large corporations, constructions companies in the mid west, or builders of pharmaceutical plants—to name a few; however, those are descriptions not personal characteristics, and certainly not buying criteria.

I’ve mentioned our strategic planning process, Markitecture™, many times in my blogs, but have not focused on the primary research portion for a while. Primary research, in this case, refers to one-on-one interviews with “ideal prospects and ideal clients”. It is only through the interview process with multiple companies that one can begin to hear a “voice of customer” emerge and therefore adequately describe an ideal client—real or imagined.

Let’s explore one set of results learned through primary research. As an example, my ideal clients:

  • Are referred to my business or are former clients from other companies
  • Have a long term marketing issue or lackluster performance they are actively trying to resolve
  • Launch new products and services somewhat regularly, but do not have a marketing process in place to support that
  • Use outside services, agencies, advisors, and other consultants in one or more capacities
  • May have internal resources, but either not at a senior level, or not well-versed their industry
  • Have some room to grow, so are either in a growing market, offer a product where there is increasing demand, or have a innovation with high potential
  • Have a sponsor of marketing issues who is an owner, investor, and/or executive
  • Are willing and able to spend money to solve their marketing issues

Our ideal sponsors (the person supporting and growing marketing):

  • Usually come from a business or sales background
  • Intimately understand their business, and the industry as a whole
  • Have a good handle on the competitive landscape
  • Want to put effort (thought, in addition to money) to solve their issue
  • Are problem solvers
  • Are colorful characters with big personalities

Now, I think you definitely have a picture developing in your mind. While those are quite a few criteria, they are truly the characteristics of our ideal clients.

In the world of market research, there are various methods to gain voice of customer knowledge. I’m going to explore these in my next blog. They include: surveying industry members (at conferences or via associations), taking customer feedback mechanisms to the next level, and purchasing ultra-qualified lists. I’ll also cover online surveys, telephone surveys, and focus groups as methods to conduct primary research, as well as best practices when combining several methods.

Markitects, Inc.

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