Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Trade organizations. What's the point?"

Why some don't join, and why most should.

Many professionals know the importance of being active in a trade organization, and the creative and marketing industry has no shortage of options. Are you active with AMA, IABC, AIGA, MDMA, MIMA, SME, DAL, MNWIFT, MWMC, ADFED or PRSA? If I lost you at AMA (American Marketing Association), then there's a good chance you are not. Because time is so valuable--and there is no shortage of options--what's a marketer to do? Do your best to be proactive.

Here are two common reasons why marketers do NOT join a trade organization:
  • I just don't have time. Many creative and marketing professionals are busy with their full-time jobs, and they have a life outside of work. However, involvement with a trade organization is a career-development decision, not a convenience option. Time and time again, professionals find themselves engrossed with their jobs--and they do little to network with others, or research emerging trends or technologies that are impacting their professions. When do they finally find time? When they get laid off, or find themselves without work. Then they freak out, try to have coffee with everyone they can, and finally become involved with a trade organization.
  • The individuals that attend are not at my level. Instead of being a naysayer on how things should be structured or which events are lame, and complaining about junior-level attendees, take the opportunity to volunteer, get involved and make it into something worthwhile. If you are senior level, then find a way to give back to the local creative and marketing community by volunteering your time to help others. Be a speaker. Be a panelist. Be a mentor. Never forget that the individuals running these organizations are almost all volunteers, so cut them some slack and be a proponent.
Creatis is highly involved, and we both attend and sponsor creative and marketing trade organizations in Minnesota and Texas. We believe that these organizations are the foundation to building localized strength in talent and innovation. An important focus in each of these markets is to retain the talent in both Minnesota and Texas, and develop growing hotbeds for creativity and marketing innovation.

Find the time now, and build your network. If you are a creative or marketing professional, and you are not investing the time to attend meetings and make connections, you may find yourself in panic-mode. There is such a great variety of organizations from which to choose--so find the one that fits your career path best and get involved.

"A man who does not plan long ahead will find trouble at his door."
- Confucius


Thursday, September 23, 2010

Use caution when hiring freelancers.

You may be at risk with your freelancer.

A shortcut solution to tackling a pile of creative projects sometimes involves calling in your freelancer. To some, a freelancer, or independent contractor (IC), is a flexible solution to not being able to hire. Leveraging freelancers is a traditional solution for both creative and marketing agencies and departments--and future trends shows consistent growth in the need for temporary support as companies resist hiring.
But buyers beware--the Obama administration has funded a program to investigate companies that have co-employment issues, or are misclassifying employees with the use of freelancers or ICs. Most of the missteps are taken in how companies manage and engage with their freelancers. You may be at risk!

Here are three ways to minimize your risks as you consider calling in your freelancer:
  • Determine whether you are treating your freelancer like an employee. According to Pepper Hamilton LLP, (www.pepperlaw.com), "The tests used to determine whether a worker is an independent contractor (IC) or an employee are complex, subjective, and differ from law to law. Some federal and state agencies list as many as two dozen factors that may indicate whether or not the hiring party has such control." Do your research, get some help and gain an understanding of whether you are at risk--and to what level.
  • Hire your freelancer, or set strict boundaries. Once you understand the state and federal laws, consider converting your freelancer to an employee, or set up the proper boundaries to maintain a company-to-company relationship--which usually means extra steps and costs for your freelancer. According to Pepper Hamilton LLP, "More and more companies are receiving notices from state unemployment agencies that question whether a former worker classified as a freelancer or IC should be reclassified as an employee, opening the risk of liability for any prior misclassification."
  • Strongly consider staffing alternatives. Using a staffing agency is your best recourse. According to Pepper Hamilton LLP, "The use of a responsible staffing organization can dramatically reduce the risk of such liability as well as the likelihood of a lawsuit challenging the classification of a group of workers paid on a 1099 basis." When a staffing agency provides their employees on a contract basis, the agency withholds income taxes, makes Medicare and Social Security contributions, pays workers compensation and unemployment insurance premiums, and also can provide benefits including health insurance. A staffing alternative cannot eliminate all liability for misclassification, but it can greatly reduce risk.
Creatis is the alternative to your freelancers and ICs. Because we provide benefits for our employees, we manage the taxes, workers compensation and unemployment insurance, employment and management issues so you can focus on your business. Please consider us before you call your next freelancer. We can be your short-term and long-term solution, when hiring is just not an option.

"There is a great difference between knowing a thing and understanding it."
- Charles F. Kettering

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

"Is your email marketing missing the mark?"

Four reasons no one is reading your email newsletter.

"Like almost everyone who uses email, I receive a ton of spam every day. Much of it offers to help me get out of debt or get rich quick. It would be funny if it weren't so exciting." - Bill Gates

A continuously growing trend is the use of email marketing--a cost-effective, measurable, adaptable resource to create awareness and brand promotion in the marketplace.

As a marketer, if email marketing is in your toolbox and you've worked hard to establish an email newsletter, you've probably scratched your head in wonder as to why no one is responding. Although there are quite a few assumptions as to why you may be unsuccessful, Sean D'Souza from Copyblogger.com states that "most of the reasons have the same common problem-readers just don't like it."

Here are four possible mistakes that you are making with your email newsletter:
  • Too much self-promotion. Readers sign up for newsletters expecting to receive ideas on topics they are interested in. They want to be informed with something fresh, something trendy-but if they receive a whole bunch of promotional stuff, you'll lose them. If you push and promote your product or service via email newsletter, you better have a compelling, one-time offer because it is most likely the last time they will read it. Delete!

  • You're boring. Sorry. If you have something of interest to say about your industry or about your market, say it with vigor and energy, and stick to your voice from newsletter to newsletter. Make sure your personality and your tone shines through. Simply stating facts and figures with the hopes of being compelling is not going to cut it. If you believe that your content is hot and relevant, then don't be bashful about it.

  • Too much mind-numbing data. Tell stories and make it real. Many think their newsletter has to be a structured article with facts and figures; however, most of us personally relate to stories and experiences. We enjoy learning through others and their experiences, and we engage because we want to relate. Be open to informing your reader about what you've discovered or experienced, and elicit a response. You may be surprised.

  • Your call to action is not (a call to action). Most believe that customers will simply know what to do to respond-but usually they don't. This is simple-if you want your customer to respond, ask them to! However, make sure your call to action is clear and obvious. Should they click a link? Hit reply? Pick up the phone? Be specific in how you want them to respond.

    For example, if you think this article is helpful and useful, click reply and respond with "BRILLIANT!" (Was my call to action compelling enough? At least it was clear.)
If you feel you are missing the mark, assess your current email campaign or newsletter. Successful email newsletters require a solid strategy and a manageable plan for implementation. Some organizations like to manage their newsletter internally, while others prefer to find an outside partner. At Creatis, we see a growing number of customers reallocating resources to email marketing, and newsletters tend to be a popular way to stay in front of customers with a relevant message.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

"Are you measuring marketing effectiveness?"

Marketing--more science than art.

"Half my advertising is wasted; I just don't know which half." - Joseph Wanamaker

If you haven't noticed, marketing is swiftly transforming through the technical advancements in communication mediums. Measurement is continuing to make a major impact in how marketers affirm success, or admit failure. Additionally, marketing departments have been squeezed to defend budgets and establish clarity as to what value they bring to the company--and measurement holds the key to some of the answers to these challenges.

Mark Carr, partner at CMG Partners states in a recent Marketing Management article, "Advancements in measurement techniques, CRM, database systems and marketing analytics, not to mention the advent of the Internet and all of its tracking capabilities--have dramatically improved the ability to measure marketing effectiveness or ROI." All the answers are in the detail, but the volume of information can be overwhelming and cumbersome. So we ask ourselves: what is a marketer to do?

Here are steps marketers are taking to advance with the times, and measure their worth:
  • New media tools--tracking your efforts!
    Marketers are reassessing what marketing vehicles they focus their budgets on, and the tools that provide tracking capabilities and marketing analytics are gaining attention.
  • Alignment--top to bottom!
    Marketers are aligning marketing activities to the overall business objectives of their company. Mapping strategic objectives down to key marketing performance measures will link marketing activities with business success indicators.
  • Alignment--side-to-side! Marketers are aligning performance measurements and results with other functions of the company, including finance, operations, new product development, sales and, of course, customer service.
  • Partner up--and take action!
    Marketers are partnering with outside marketing specialists to gain deeper insights into their existing data and results. The goal is to distill and synthesize the information, so marketing activities can be adjusted and budgets reallocated as necessary. As companies partner with outside specialists, they acquire the necessary skills and strategies for enhancing their future marketing strategies.
 As measurement continues to develop as a key component of marketing, companies will continue to enhance and integrate the results with all functions of the business. Companies that measure and adjust to the market will be more responsive and flex to the needs of their customers. As you measure your efforts and state your worth, consider alternative solutions and outside specialists to help you gain knowledge and maintain flexibility.

"Great wisdom not applied to action and behavior is meaningless data." - Peter Drucker


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Need an alternative to your agency?

I've recently utilized the following content for an eblast to the Texas market. We continue to hear about how companies are having a hard time with their agencies and the three most prominent themes that we hear about are that they are too expensive, they don't listen/or understand, and those actually working on their account tend to be at a junior level in capabilities/experience.


Need an alternative to your agency?

Does your agency actually understand your business?

Why is it, when an agency is pitching for your business they send the flashy pitch team, and when the deal is done, they quietly usher in the "B" team to deliver?

The result: you spend a majority of your precious time managing them and in the end, you see the creative and gasp, "they just don't get my business."

There is a different way - an ideal way - to manage creative and marketing initiatives. With Creatis as the alternative to your agency, you will discover creativity in alignment with your business goals - at a fraction of the cost. Seriously.

Ready to manage your business, not your agency?
Call 877.558.3233 or e-mail: info@creatis.com

With Creatis as your creative partner, your ideal day starts today.


I'm curious to hear your reactions to this approach.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Have we weathered the storm?"

Is it time to start spending on marketing again?

A February 2010 CMO Survey (www.cmosurvey.org) based on a nationwide poll of 600 top marketers conducted in partnership with the American Marketing Association and the Fuqua School of Business, projects an optimistic future that may put some wind in your sails as we navigate through the rest of this year and into 2011. Finally a forecast that gives us hope and encouragement!

The CMO Survey highlighted:
  • Increase in Marketing Spend. Marketing budgets have taken a beating the past few years, and the winds should change and set us back on course. Marketing budgets are anticipated to rise by over 5% within the next year. Of course, the area that will see the largest allocations are expenditures for Internet marketing. Also, branding and customer management will receive significant increases, as well as allocations for social media - even in the B-to-B companies. Social media is going to stick around for awhile as companies continue to refine how it fits into their overall strategy.
  • Increase in Hiring. This is what we've been waiting for. Over half the companies polled are planning on hiring new marketers within the next six months, which is an increase of 8% over last year. However, marketing executives will seek marketers that have skills specific to Internet marketing, customer relationship and brand management. B-to-B product companies are projected to lead the pack in hiring, followed by B-to-B service companies.
  • Increase in Outsourcing. Currently over 72% of firms outsource components of their marketing programs, and over 40 percent are planning on increasing outsourcing. Companies need to continue to stay flexible and focus on the strategy of their products and services. By engaging with key outsourcing partners, companies can maintain control of brand and strategy while focusing on what is important --the needs of their customer.

 What does this mean?

Even though marketing executives are optimistic about the future, it may not be smooth sailing yet. New standards and accountabilities have been set, and metrics need to be met in order to sustain the increase in spending and hiring.

Marketing executives have been required to be more precise with their planning, discern how to get more impact and leverage with their budgets, and they've been required to establish effective resources for marketing analysis and return-on-investment.

As you experience calmer waters and you are given more resources to deploy, be careful not to fall back into old habits of over-hiring, overspending, or implementing initiatives that lack measurement or accountability. Consider alternative solutions - such as Creatis or other strategic partners - to maintain flexibility and effectiveness to weather the next storm.

"Never in my life before have I experienced such beauty, and fear at the same time. Ten icebergs so far today ..." - Ellen MacArthur


Monday, June 14, 2010

Top five influencers when marketers pick a new agency

According to the RSW/US 2010 New Business Report on "A Client's Perspective on Agencies", when marketers are deciding on a new agency, the follow factors are the top five in influencing their choice:
  1. Advice or recommendation from a colleague.
  2. Timely approach by an agency.
  3. Recommendation from a marketer from another company.
  4. Quality and content of agency websites.
  5. General, unattributable awareness.
So, obviously, creative firms and agencies need to continue to work on their referral programs to find new business. Most people are more open to working with someone they've discovered through a referral, which also reflects on the impact that social media is having on providing real reviews.

Another note, is timing. Call it luck, if you will. If firms can connect with marketers when there is a need, then the chances are much higher that an engagement will occur. So, as I've always believed, in order to be lucky, you have to at least be present to win!

So, how do agencies be "johnny-on-the-spot" and work the referral angles at the same time? Deliberately.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Thinking of hiring? Think again!

Embrace the new economy with a new labor model

There are inklings that the economy is coming back. Stocks are up -- slightly. Consumer spending is up -- a little. And, according to the American Staffing Association's (ASA) Staffing Index, temporary and contract job growth increased 25% from the beginning to the end of 2009. Growth in temporary/contract hiring typically indicates strengthening of the economy as it emerges from a recession, and employers generally begin hiring permanent employees soon thereafter. Which could have you thinking about beefing up your staff this quarter or next.

But wait! Before heading down that beaten path, you may want to consider how the business world has changed -- and how best to navigate hiring today.

Workforce flexibility is a success marker

In an article from Current Issues in Economics and Finance, two Federal Reserve Bank of New York economists noted, "Use of temporary or contract employees to smooth out labor needs has grown substantially ... Firms increasingly hire temporary help when they are busiest and then cut back when demand falls." This corresponds with the Bureau of Labor Statistics' projection that "Employment Services" (primarily staffing) will be the country's second-largest growth industry through 2016.

Looking deeper into the trend, a study published by Decision Sciences Journal back in 2001 (in the midst of our first recession this decade) found that companies that embrace workforce flexibility perform better. The study concluded, "Increased reliance on contingent (i.e., temporary and part-time) labor ... is associated with superior subsequent performance..."

But the good news is that flexibility benefits everyone: employees, employers and the economy at large. In a 2006 survey of staffing employees, the ASA found that a flexible work schedule was important to two thirds of respondents, and 88% would refer friends to work as temporary or contract employees. Below is a list of benefits the ASA has attributed to a flexible workforce:

Flexible Workforce Benefits
  • Flexible work schedule
  • Hiring flexibility
  • Labor market flexibility
  • Variety of employment opportunities
  • Access to specialized talent
  • Lower unemployment
  • Training; new skills development
  • Opportunity to try out a variety of candidates
  • Worker training
  • Bridge to permanent employment
  • Reduced trauma of layoffs
  • Enhanced productivity

The advantages of flexibility came home to me in particular last year. A client had converted a number of Creatis employees to full-time employees for their in-house agency -- when the economy was strong. When the recession hit, they laid-off most of them. If the client had kept the employees as contractors through Creatis, they would not have had to go through the pain and expense of layoffs, and Creatis would have had the opportunity to redeploy them to other clients.
So, as the economy gains traction in 2010, don't hire -- keep your workforce flexible and your staffing resources ready.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Agency Headaches and Heartbreaks

The breakdown in agency-client relationships

Agencies will pull out all the stops when pitching to win your business -- from marvelous rich-media presentations to charming meet-and-greets with senior management. But once the hoopla is over and the agency is settled in as an extension of your business, what happens when there is a breakdown in the relationship? Is it a minor headache or an intense heartache?

Addressed in an article from BNET Editorial from BNET.com, agency-client relationship expectations need to be discussed both during the selection process and as the relationship matures -- for better or for worse. It is important to set clear expectations up front.

Following is a list of typical comments clients offer in frustration, as well as reasons why agency-client relationships break down:

  1. "I don't think the agency 'gets' our business." The agency does not have a solid grasp or understanding of the client's business.
  2. "I explained the budget up front. Why are we so far off?" Expectations like budgets, deliverables and quality are not met by the agency.
  3. "Why do I have to push them to get things done? Shouldn't they be able to manage my needs?" The agency is devoting too little time or resources to the account.
  4. "I don't feel they are bringing new ideas to me anymore." The agency is losing enthusiasm for the account or the relationship becomes stale.
  5. "I brought them in to help me with my challenges, and it has backfired on me." The agency feels that poor results are caused by problems on the client side.
  6. "Why do I have to tell them the same thing three times? Are they listening?" A communication breakdown prevents the agency from understanding or responding to the client's real needs.
These areas of frustration can quickly change from headaches to heartaches if they are not resolved quickly. However, the first step is to be proactive and set expectations right away. Both parties need to level-set to understand the needs and wants of both sides. From there forward, setting structured review meetings to discuss the relationship and expectations is very important in developing a strong long-term partnership. Expect there to be headaches, and be prepared to swiftly resolve them.

At Creatis, we frequently have companies approach us due to frustrations with their agencies. Either the agency has told them that they are a full-service agency but have failed to deliver on their promises, or the list of headaches have mounted to the point that they need to make a change. Although Creatis is not impervious to the issues that can arise from a breakdown in the relationship, we are driven to understand expectations up front, and to manage the headaches with open communication and forward-looking problem-solving.

Consider the alternatives

BNET mentions, "Many agencies claim to be good at all types of marketing and call themselves 'full-service agencies'. However, a single agency may not always be able to meet your requirements in all areas." Take note. Some of the headaches may be coming from agencies' struggles to live up to full-service expectations. Consider appointing alternative or specialty firms, such as Creatis, to handle specific services such as marketing planning, creative development, media buying, social media or product development.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Are you building a brick wall or a cathedral?

There is a story set in medieval times that tells of a traveler who comes upon three stonemasons. He asks each in turn: "What are you doing?" The first answers, without hesitation, "I am cutting this stone." The second, who appears to be doing the identical job says; "I am building the wall." The third, again seems to be doing the same job slowly raises his eyes to the sky and says, "I am building a cathedral."

Who are your cathedral builders?

Are you prepared for the grand migration of creative and marketing talent? It is upon us. As the effects of the recession linger, people on both sides of the employment equation continue to be haunted by the uncertainty of long-term employment. Many valuable marketing professionals - your cathedral builders - were sent adrift in 2008 and 2009.

There are a number of top marketing and creative professionals who have either chosen to go it alone, or have been pushed out on their own - and they are prospering as a result. The recession has required that companies and professionals think outside the box, take risks and try new alternatives. We are in a very entrepreneurial stage, and we should embrace it.

As companies start to gain momentum, the valuable employees who have been retained - your cathedral builders - may now start to look for new opportunities and new challenges. We shouldn't be surprised. Even at the height of the recession, talentmanagement.com was reporting on the importance - and scarcity - of high-value employees. According to a January 2009 article by Alex Dodd, "Human capital is the asset that drives organizational success, and the battle for this finite resource is becoming more and more intense. 20% of established U.S. companies will lose upwards of 40% of their top talent over the next four to five years."

A trend toward a more flexible business model?

In his article, Dodd concludes that forward-thinking companies will implement a flexible approach to managing their workforce. Bringing in specialized expertise and extra hands as needed may become the preferred model, while companies that rely on old, inflexible hiring models will be "pummeled."

There are plenty of benefits to a flexible workforce approach. Companies throughout the Twin Cities and Texas have discovered partners like Creatis to help them manage their creative and marketing initiatives through the peaks and valleys of their business, without hiring and without overspending with external agencies. Some of these benefits include:

Cost savings associated with a flexible model to respond to marketing resource demands - an efficient way to manage through the ups and downs of this economy

Cross-pollination of ideas with experts from other industries and corporate cultures - consider alternative and creative solutions for your initiatives

Retaining talent - your cathedral builders - they are the drivers of your organization's future success and should be allowed to focus on strategy rather than tactics

Support your top performers - your cathedral builders

We have quickly moved past the first decade of the twenty-first century, and it is clear that creative and marketing departments are being redefined, due in part to the 2008-2009 recession. We are leaving behind the remnants of twentieth century business practices and entering a new period in which flexibility and innovation are rewarded. We are not only cutting the stone and building the wall, we are building cathedrals. Creative and marketing departments are now challenged with doing more with limited resources while retaining and supporting their top employees.

We need to take time to support these top employees - help them find the right balance and challenge them with new opportunities. Recognize them for their contributions. And as you move forward in managing your business, remember that companies that consider new alternatives will create a competitive advantage for themselves and their employees. Be entrepreneurial, consider the alternatives, and build your own cathedral.

"Behold! The future of the marketing department"

"When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened." - John M. Richardson, Jr.

Recently, I was engaged in a lively discussion with a group of CMOs and marketing executives from within the CMO Network on LinkedIn. The question that started all the active dialogue was, "What will the marketing department look like in the future?" CMOs from companies across the globe responded with a variety of forward-looking, futuristic perspectives.

A few key themes or perspectives that resonated include:
  • The marketing department will be smaller, but more powerful. Some departments will be populated by strategists and analysts to respond to the ever-changing marketing conditions and the demanding needs of consumers and buyers. The non-critical functions will be outsourced to specialists. However, smaller does not mean less complex or less robust. It actually means more market-driven power with a level of flexibility to respond. This will allow the department to focus on the customer and the market segment requirements.

  • The marketing department will redefine and streamline media strategies. In today's battle for attention, and the availability of rich content through various media outlets, there are large numbers of consumers who compartmentalize their media consumption - using the Internet to the (near) exclusion of any other media, reading nary a newspaper or magazine in print form, spending less (and shrinking) time looking at television.

  • The marketing department will focus on KPIs and metrics. Marketing can no longer run from being accountable to the top and the bottom line. Marketing will continue to be held to the fire for budgets and outcomes with an emphasis on metric-focused environments and major attitudinal shifts. There are too many organizations where "marketing" is just seen as the "comms people," rather than something that is absolutely core to the business. Metric-driven marketing will be critical and ROMI (return on marketing investment) be it on a project, group or organization, will be expected.

  • The marketing department will embrace integrated media. Yes! Even though "integrated media" is not a new catch-phrase, vehicles such as social media, SEO strategies, and other new tools will become just "another tool" in the marketing toolbox. We will most likely see fewer separate organizations on "Web marketing," SEO/SEM marketing and social media marketing in the future, and strategies will develop to be much more comprehensive.
As you look to the future to enhance your marketing department, be forward-looking as you set up your strategies, and allocate your budgets. Because the information landscape is changing so swiftly with the consumer, you will need to adjust your business accordingly. However, the core principles of marketing have not changed, so we need to be prudent on how we craft our future, reach our customers, and maintain relevance in their minds.

Where does Creatis fit into all of this? Creatis has a valuable window into how many companies set up their marketing departments, and our vantage point provides us with valuable insight into how organizations either cling on to old-school ways or aggressively work to reinvent themselves. If you would like to learn about our perspectives or experiences, please contact us at creativeperspectives@creatis.com, or call 877.558.3233 to learn more.

"My interest is in the future because I am going to spend the rest of my life there."  - Charles F. Kettering