Insights

  • Defining the Two Worlds of eLearning

    by Bob | Jul 30, 2013

    The ubiquity of digital devices and mobile technology is helping to redefine the traditional definitions of content across the professional landscape.

    One place where that is certainly true is the discipline of eLearning. What was once only driven by inside-the-firewall, enterprise online applications is now extending out into the public eye. And many of the best practices used in marketing, advertising, and social media are now being applied to the world of eLearning.

    At Trellist, we see eLearning moving in a new direction. To further illustrate that point, we’ve segmented eLearning into two sectors: Enterprise eLearning and Marketing-Based eLearning.

    Enterprise eLearning is the traditional, in-the-workplace, effective content and compliance training issued to over 80% of American professionals.

    Marketing-Based eLearning provides brand training, product demos, and instructional videos released outside of the firewall — readily available to both employees and consumers. It helps to solve problems and enhance the brand experience. And it can be consumed on all kinds of devices.

    In the Trellist infographic below, we break down the differences between Enterprise eLearning and Marketing-Based eLearning

    Check it out. Then share it around and follow us on Twitter @trellist. When you’re ready, connect with one of our eLearning experts via info@trellist.com.


  • 3 Must-Haves for the Mobile Inbox

    by Lou Burtell | Jul 11, 2013

    With a forecast from Forrester Research predicting that 78% of active US email users will view their inboxes via mobile clients by 2017, the question isn’t whether or not to optimize your communication for mobile, but rather how to make it more effective when it arrives. Below are three considerations when approaching email marketing for the mobile landscape.

    1. Present a compelling message or offer

      Is your content truly interesting? Or relevant to the customer? It needs to be, otherwise you risk losing that open or click-through, and ending up in the old trash can. This is true with any form of marketing, but with users constantly receiving digital communications, it’s important to optimize your message accordingly. Use a consistent sender address to establish a relationship with the recipient. Start with subject lines that intrigue – and be sure to keep them short. Studies show that shorter subject lines perform better and they’re less likely to get truncated by the mobile email client. Consider pre-headers as an extension of your subject line. And personalize body content wherever possible. Finally, A/B testing and optimizing your segment will help you determine what is resonating with users.

    2. Optimize Content Across Devices

      In a recent study by BlueHornet, 69.7% of email users said they immediately delete an email if it does not display correctly on their device – more reason to make sure your message delivers as intended. Make sure content is easily scanned and that CTAs are positioned appropriately. Be judicious when using imagery as part of your message and consider an alternate text version to be sent as well. Depending on the amount and size, images can slow down the deliverability of an email. Also, large images could potentially appear as spam to some filters. Always ensure there’s a balance when using imagery. Most importantly, test your marketing emails across multiple mobile devices, operating systems and email clients.

    3. Provide a Consistent Mobile User Experience

      Mobile-optimized email communications are only part of the equation. Connecting users to a seamless experience beyond the “click” is a great way to keep them engaged. If directing a user to an additional web property, be sure that it not only supports your message but also continues down the path of a mobile-optimized experience. This could come in the form of an app, a mobile website, or a website designed responsively to make content mobile-friendly.

    Email marketing continues to transition more into the mobile spectrum. Developing a sound mobile strategy now will help you meet the expectations of your customer base, positioning your digital marketing for growth and success going forward.

    If you’d like to learn more about optimizing email for mobile, follow us on twitter @trellist , or connect with us via info@trellist.com.

  • The Corporate Meeting of the Future is Here

    by Bob | Jul 02, 2013

    The Corporate Meeting of the Future is Here

    Imagine attending a corporate meeting or conference, and all you need for managing check-in and registration is your mobile phone or tablet. Consider the power of never having to squint again to view an overstuffed presentation slide from your seat in the back of the room, because you can follow along to more compelling, real-time presentation content on your own device. Or imagine yourself as the presenter – with the ability to get instant feedback from an audience half a world away.

    All of the above – and much more – are real possibilities, right now. And central to the innovation shift is the integration of social media into the experience. It’s continually amazing how simple conversations mixed with unique technologies continue to influence so many facets of our personal and professional lives.

    So, if your next corporate meeting or large-scale event is on the horizon, here are some key ideas worth considering.

    Open the hall doors early

    Well, not literally. Just consider that it’s never too early to start setting the tone for a big event. That’s why you’ll want to take to the social airwaves right away. You can manage promotional communications and provide access to preliminary meeting content via corporate Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, LinkedIn pages, and video properties like YouTube and Vimeo. Prior to the meeting, these channels are low-cost, high-touch options to build excitement around a theme, position overall objectives, set expectations for the audience, and get influencers involved in the early conversations.

    Deliver content & encourage feedback in the moment

    During the meeting, attendees can interact with speakers in real time via smartphone polling systems, review live presentation materials on their tablets, and interact with other attendees via blog sites and pre-built surveys. The strategic use of social media sites and mobile devices enables attendees to collaborate on an ongoing basis and helps meeting organizers adapt to cogent feedback. The combination of social and mobile maximizes the impact of the event, while simultaneously empowering the attendees to arrive at the desired outcomes.

    Tactically, consider using a social hashtag for the meeting or event. An example of a hashtag is #BigMeeting2013. Be sure to make it ubiquitous by putting the hashtag on name badges, slides, handouts, displays throughout the space, and any marketing materials associated with the event. This way, you’ll keep attendees engaged and conversational throughout the meeting – and you’ll get the feedback you need to act.

    It’s critical to encourage input early and repeat that message often. Make it known that audience feedback can influence content throughout the event by updating presentations based on social media comments. Promote blogging and best practice sharing from the stage during presentations. You could also set up a reward system for the best contributions, offering items like gift cards, hotel vouchers, or show tickets.

    Don’t forget the after-party

    It’s equally important to maintain a conversation with your attendees after the event, when everyone is back in their respective territories. Post-event polling, best practice examples that demonstrate key meeting objectives, case studies showing how key learnings led to or closed a sale – these are just a few examples of the things you can do.

    Also, consider re-purposing some of the video assets of key presenters and integrating those pieces into follow-up training. Video is always a great way to revisit the highlights of the event and its most engaging speakers. It’s also the ideal content to have at the ready when you want to start building awareness for the next event.

    And, of course, keep encouraging attendees to share insights, quotes, pictures, and more from the event across your social properties and their social media channels. Track these posts to further illustrate event ROI and to continue collaborative learning beyond the event.

    Innovation in the realm of technology and connectivity, coupled with compelling content, is revitalizing corporate meetings and events. It’s a wonderful reality. Best of all, Trellist is uniquely positioned to help our clients make the most of these advancements. We have the right balance of technical expertise and social media strategy muscle to help you achieve more from your meetings. If you’d like to talk more about this topic, follow us on Twitter @trellist, or connect with us via info@trellist.com.

  • Rumble On: An Alternative Approach to Idea Generation

    by Neil Dougherty | May 28, 2013

    A few weeks back, Trellist hosted its first event at the annual Philly Tech Week. We called it Technically Challenged, and it was an open invite for technologists, creatives, strategists, and entrepreneurs to compete in a rapid ideation and prototyping exercise – with a stash of tech-forward prizes up for grabs. It was one of many great evenings spent at Philly Tech Week. And for me, the event was a real eye-opener.

    Twenty-six motivated participants – flanked by forty-five or so curious onlookers and judges – were arranged into six teams with just over an hour to complete the challenge. They were presented with a fictitious business case, then went off and developed a solution using only simple craft materials and their collective brain power.

    Observing the teams in action and watching the final presentations, I couldn’t help but think this type of format – and its core constraints – had the potential to be a difference maker in business environments of all shapes and sizes.

    Here are a few things I took away from the event – considerations that might benefit productivity and creativity in your neck of the woods:

    Less clock makes for better outcomes

    In business, time is often a double-edged sword. We want a lot of it to do our work, but we rarely use it wisely.

    At Technically Challenged, the participants had only ninety minutes to come together, generate ideas rapidly, create their prototype, and present their work to the judges and audience. What they came up with in this short period of time was impressive. The presentations were incredibly polished and well-sequenced. One of the teams even arranged their time in the spotlight to include a skit.

    What does this tell us? In reality, sometimes we do our best work and make smart, instinctual choices when time isn’t on our side. Think of ways to add timed challenges and impromptu projects into your business model – their effectiveness may surprise you.

    Unfamiliarity breeds contentment

    Here you had teams of five to six people who didn’t know each other when they walked through the door. Surprisingly, it took them only a few minutes to jell.

    Unlike university or corporate environments, where study groups and project teams develop a unique dynamic over time – one that often favors the most extroverted and outspoken individuals – the teams at Technically Challenged quickly realized that rapid idea generation and opinion evaluation were critical to finishing their prototype in time. There were no major power struggles.

    This suggests that applying randomized, impromptu team structures on a weekly or monthly basis can bring new enthusiasm and heightened focus to even the most mundane tasks.

    Cross-generation collaboration works

    There’s a general misconception that innovation in this new age of bootstrapped startups belongs only to the twenty-somethings. Add to that a cultural bias against older generations whose lives aren’t rooted firmly in technology, and you might think we’re on the brink of a generational turf war.

    Refreshingly enough, the pool at Technically Challenged featured an impressive cross-section of Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. These generations can, and do, work together better than you might think.

    In a way, it’s the ideal gap control. The Millennials understand the digital lifestyle because it’s their natural environment. The Gen X population is ready to take over leadership roles and poised to make their mark. And years of trial and error gives Boomers the strength of perspective, a prized intangible.

    Foster an environment of respect and communication, and you’ll find productive working relationships across these generations. When they click, it’s fascinating to watch.

    You can catch a video recap of Technically Challenged now on our YouTube page. We love to talk business strategy, so don’t hesitate to start a conversation by following us on Twitter @trellist , liking us on Facebook , or connecting with us via info@trellist.com.

  • Making Web Content Accessible to People with Disabilities

    by Gavin Garrison | Apr 17, 2013

    making web content ADA compliant

    No one
    thinks twice when they see a wheelchair access ramp to a building. Stoplights have audible “walk” signals for the visually impaired. ATMs have braille type next to the keypads. The last presidential inauguration speech included a sign language interpreter following the president word for word. Virtually every television comes equipped with a closed-caption option. So what about making online content optimized for people with disabilities?

    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 requires federal agencies to make their electronic and information technology accessible to those with disabilities. Generally speaking, Section 508 requires agencies to give employees and members of the public who have disabilities access to information comparable to the access available to others. Nothing in Section 508 requires private web sites to comply, unless they are receiving federal funds or are under contract with a federal agency.

    The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (the “ADA”) was modeled after the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, but it is a separate law with separate requirements. Title III of the ADA outlaws discrimination on the basis of disability with regard to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of any place of “public accommodation.” Till now, courts have generally held that the ADA cannot be applied to activities on the Internet. That may change.

    While neither the ADA nor Section 508 currently requires that private companies optimize online content for people with disabilities, more and more companies are doing so voluntarily. Why? Here are a couple reasons for you to consider:

    Marketing and PR

    Treating all customers fairly isn’t just a nice thing to do — its message can carry a lot of PR weight, especially when your business is the first organization in your industry to voluntarily meet the accessibility requirements of the ADA and Section 508. Private entity compliance with ADA and Section 508 accessibility standards also provides a compelling PR opportunity to tell the public a human-interest story that both builds and strengthens customer relationships.

    Legal

    What is considered a “public accommodation”? The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission interprets a “public accommodation” as a private entity that owns, operates, or leases restaurants, hotels, offices, stores, parks, schools, libraries, and other such places. The broader meaning for “public accommodation” is any place that has public access. The increasing move, especially in the financial industry, away from physical locations and towards e-commerce, particularly when coupled with marketing that touts the ease of online transactions and encouraging customers to increase their online interactions, means that this debate will only intensify.

    Compliance with the ADA and Section 508 isn’t easy. Making electronic information accessible to those with disabilities involves fine-tuning interactive information with specific best-practice design and coding methodologies that work hand-in-hand with content navigation tools for those individuals. Information needs to include coded recognition for screen readers, mouse-free adaptability, tagged page navigation, advanced scrolling…and a lot more. Achieving full compliance also involves carefully choreographing IT, web design, and web development for a unified, optimized output.

    Some companies have formed special teams to try to tackle optimizing content. But for most companies, this is a larger task than they can handle internally. Trellist works with companies, including leading financial institutions, to make their content ADA- and Section 508-compliant for a variety of reasons–PR, legal, or maybe they just feel like it’s the right thing to do.

    If you’d like to learn more about optimizing your content for people with disabilities, follow us on twitter @trellist , or connect with us via info@trellist.com.

  • Social Media: Changing the Rules for ROI

    by Chris Wallace | Feb 26, 2013

    “When a new medium borrows from an existing one, some of what it borrows makes sense, but much of the borrowing is thoughtless, “ritual”, and often constrains the new medium. Over time, the new medium develops its own conventions, throwing off existing conventions that don’t make sense.”

    – John Allsopp, founder of the Web Standards Project

    Back in 2000, Allsopp (@johnallsopp) noted a tension between the web as we know it, and the web as it would be.  The web at that time was heavily influenced by print, as designers and builders had little other frame of reference. Those attempting to measure the value of the internet were using Nielsen-like ratings held over from TV. It’s all they knew.

    Many marketers and business people find themselves in a similar conundrum when evaluating social media performance. Social media challenges long held traditions about ROI from online media. Advertisers, publishers, agencies, investors and even social networks themselves desperately want to measure social media using the “tried and true” methods and metrics for ROI. The problem is that many traditional measurements miss out on the true value of social media and, worse, can lead to the false impression that social media is not a valuable marketing channel.

    Evaluating social media based on metrics designed to measure, for instance, search advertising can be problematic. Users on a search results page are in “target acquisition mode”—they are looking for the most direct route between where they are and what they want. If your ad represents a good chance that their heart’s desire is a click away, they are all over it. They click or tap on the ad and this action is easily measureable, its value is quickly quantifiable.

    The social consumer does not play by the same rules. Social media blurs the lines between how people interact with friends and how they interact with brands. This changes the rules for selling and requires adapting both your methods of customer interaction and how you measure success.

    Social consumers have different sets of expectations and exhibit different behaviors on social channels than they do when they are elsewhere on the web. Social consumers want to learn about your brand and expect you to learn about them. They expect a conversation. They gravitate to social channels to hang out, to catch up, to share, to waste time, to celebrate, to rant. This is not a shopping mindset, and as such they are exceptionally resistant to overt sales pitches while in social channels.

    Thus, measuring direct sales from social media alone, while seemingly expedient, can be a false ROI indicator. A broader, more inclusive approach to social media measurement will uncover dimensions of ROI that may have previously been ignored. Here are a few additional ways to measure social media ROI that may add dimension to your current calculations:

    1) Social Traffic versus Display Traffic

    • How much would this traffic level cost if you generated it via paid display advertising?
      This can help you optimize hard spends (ads) versus soft spends (content and customer interaction)

    2) Visitor Quality

    • How do your social visitors perform against key performance indicators (KPIs) compared to their non-social ones?
    • How much do your social visitors spend versus non-social counterparts?
    • What other actions do your social visitors perform (beyond purchase)?
      This dimension lets you begin to get a handle on the lifetime value of a social consumer.

    3) Revenue via Social Conversions

    • How many purchase decisions are influenced at some point by social media?
    • Does social media assist in conversions along the way?
      A visit from a social referral may result in a conversion immediately (Last Interaction Social Conversions) or it may influence a conversion that occurs later on (Assisted Social Conversions).Comparing the two is essential to understanding the role that social plays in business outcomes.

    4) Channel Quality

    • Which social channels result in highest performing customers/conversions?
    • How do social consumers prefer to engage with you?
    • Do visitors from one social channel perform better than another?
      This metric helps optimize which social media channels you pay most attention to.

    5) Content Quality

    • What types of content do your social consumers respond to?
    • Do your social customers value your content enough to share it?
      By tagging your social media posts by “function” (i.e. direct sales, informative, conversational, customer service, brand building) you can identify those types of content that optimally drive results against your KPIs.

    The methods mentioned above acknowledge that social media is breeding a consumer culture of peer-oriented relationships. They recognize that social interactions are non-linear while most measurement tools attempt to draw linear relationships. Ultimately, they may help you realize previously unforeseen value from your social media endeavors.

    If you’d like to learn more about Social Media marketing and strategy, follow us on twitter @trellist or connect with us via info@trellist.com.

  • Use Kinetic Type and Avoid the “Next Factor”

    by Jeremie Moore | Feb 22, 2013

    You’re familiar with the Next Factor. It’s that feeling you get when you’re watching a video or a commercial and you are seeing the same old thing. Your reaction? “Thanks. Seen it. Forget it. Next!

    Of course, there are multiple ways to enrich a boring commercial or video— improved footage, better photography, exploding 3D logos. But an often overlooked enhancement is staring us in the face: kinetic typography. Also described as “motion type”, kinetic typography is an animation technique mixing motion and text to present ideas through video animation.

    For many designers, the creative use of type is the stuff of Typography 101. But it’s often left by the wayside when it comes to design for business applications. It shouldn’t be.  Dynamic type is a simple creative solution that can really pay off— getting your message across in a big way, whether for B2C or B2B.

    Advertising and marketing success is gauged on the impression you leave with your audience. Will they walk away understanding your intent? Was your creative strategy effective enough to sway them toward purchasing your product or service? The old school ad rule of show what you’re saying applies today more than ever, as products and technology have evolved. So if you need to clearly explain complicated material or robust subject matter, there’s no better way than using kinetic type.

    Arguably, one of the most memorable uses of kinetic type was the dramatic 1959 opening credits of Hitchcock’s North by Northwest, designed by Saul Bass. And, more recently, the drama created by the title sequences of Star Wars and Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

    What can we learn from our graphic forefathers?  When kinetic type is done right, you can’t look away. Through their use of animated, dramatic type sequences, they were able draw us in, tell a story, create a mood and evoke energy into their subject matter.

    Current applications of kinetic type keep the action happening in an increasingly fresh way. Look at what Ford did with their F150 spot: Thinking

    Freeland Foods took a straightforward approach with Go Raw. This is advertising that does its job; it grabs your attention and keeps it.

    If you’d like to learn more about adding engaging video content to your marketing and technology initiatives, follow us on twitter @trellist or connect with us via info@trellist.com.

  • 2013 Social Media Resolutions

    by Neil Dougherty | Jan 21, 2013
    2012 social resolutions

    We’re believers in the power of sharing. We love telling the world a little more about our business each day and listening to what others have to offer. And we’re passionate about helping our clients make the most of every new blog, wall post, tweet, or pin. As the social media landscape evolves minute by minute, businesses and brands must continue to optimize. Stick to these social media resolutions for 2013 and start seeing improved ROI from your social media investment.

    Get Your Story Straight

    Take the time to remember (or find) your brand voice. Know the story that makes your brand special and how that story gets told. Develop a content strategy that reinforces and expands that story. Stick to content that tells little bits of that broader narrative—one piece at a time. Let that content remind people why you’re different and valuable every time you speak up.

    Pick & Choose Your Channels

    Being everywhere at once can dilute quality opportunities to connect with and build your social customer base. Even if your competition jumps head first into, let’s say Pinterest, you don’t have to. Especially if you’ve done your homework and know that your customers aren’t going to be pinning any time soon. By resisting fads and Johnny-come-lately services, you’ll stay focused on reaching your most attentive audiences. You’ll want to keep an eye on the latest developments in social media services and communities, but resist the urge to commit until you know you’re working with a proven impression maker.

    Publish Better (Not More) Content

    Many consumer and B2B brands talk simply to be heard. If you fix elevators or sell antiques, a Facebook wall post asking people how they’re ringing in the New Year does you little good. Instead, work on publishing more refined content in 2013. And make it more appealing, through the power of a new medium like online video. You can create a YouTube channel and use it to connect subscribers to an assortment of branded content, including case studies, product demos, thought leadership features, and customer service FAQs. You can even share features on office culture and corporate philosophy, creating a subtle but effective recruiting device. And it’s free to set up.

    Encourage Two-Way Conversations

    Are your social media efforts legitimate two-way conversations? If we’re being honest, very few organizations have accomplished this two-way goal. Resolve to get there this year. Allow followers to share your content easily with others across their network. Avoid mundane posts and publish thought-provoking content instead. Give your audience the power to weigh in on important decisions. Develop in-person events and other rewarding offline opportunities. Delight your community with a surprise now and again. Finally, remember to monitor your channels for interactions. The quicker you respond to questions and concerns, the more street cred you’ll build among the masses.

    Measure Differently

    Measuring only quantitative results can mean missing much of the unique value that social media offers. As you’ll find out in my colleague Chris W.’s upcoming blog about ROI in Social Media: Likes, Follows, and Retweets alone are all only surface-scratching ROI indicators. Dig deeper into what people are saying about your brand, products and services across your social media channels and use the new knowledge to retool your social strategy and content calendar as needed.

    If you’d like to learn more about Social Media marketing and strategy for the new year and beyond, follow us on twitter @trellist or connect with us via info@trellist.com.

  • You’ve Got One Shot to Get Your Message Read - Think Mobile First

    by Jim Auer | Nov 28, 2012

    Think mobile first

    If your email isn’t mobile-optimized, will it still be read?
    Probably not.

    63% of mobile email users delete or ignore emails that aren’t optimized for their smartphones. (Source: Return Path) That means that if your email isn’t mobile-optimized, you may have lost your chance to get your message across to that viewer.

    Emails designed for desktop viewing typically require panning, zooming and scrolling on a mobile device in order to read the message or find the call to action. It’s a misconception that a user will save an email on their mobile device for desktop viewing later— 97% of emails are opened and viewed only once (Source: Return Path), with about 35% of the opens occurring on mobile devices. (Source: Knotice)

    So how do you create an email that provides an optimal user experience, regardless of the type of device used to view it? Enter Mobile First.

    The term Mobile First means that the mobile use case is taken into account first and foremost when developing any digital customer touch point—website, landing page, email, etc. This practice forces a focus on simplicity, from both a design and content standpoint, enabling the experience to scale effectively from device to device. Adherence to this discipline translates to more streamlined messaging and, ultimately, more effective communications.

    Applying Mobile First thinking to email design requires the inclusion of small-screen-friendly design elements, such as one column layouts, large fonts, prominent calls-to-action that don’t require a lot of scrolling, and the use of large buttons made to accommodate finger taps instead of mouse clicks. When you follow these design rules, your emails can be viewed on any size device screen—smartphone, laptop, or 30” monitor.

    Keep in mind that mobile email optimization alone is not enough to drive direct marketing success. All digital destinations, regardless of entry point (email, QR code, direct traffic, etc.), must be optimized for the device in order to create a seamless, end-to-end user experience that will ultimately improve conversion.

    If you’d like to learn more about applying Mobile First thinking to your marketing and technology initiatives, follow us on twitter @trellist or connect with us via info@trellist.com.

  • Ask and You Shall Receive: A Crowdsourcing Follow Up

    by Neil Dougherty | Oct 24, 2012

    istock_000018181103xsmall
    A few weeks back, I touched on the notion of proactive crowdsourcing as a way for organizations to engage their customers, advocates and followers on a new level. Crowdsourcing during a wave of large-scale success can add legitimacy and energy to the initiative.

    Assuming times are good and you’ve committed to crowdsourcing, now you need to decide on exactly what to ask your crowd for. While there’s no one-size-fits-all crowdsourcing challenge, there are a number of established approaches that could work for you. Here are two options to consider:

    Start your crowdsourcing challenge with a simple list of product concepts or ideas farmed out to a group of loyal customers for feedback.

    Let them cull the list down to the best, most marketable products or services. All it takes is a little bit of code to create an online community, then the willingness to listen. You can even gamify the challenge to motivate your participants (more about that here). The difference between the diverse crowd’s conclusions and those of a more homogenous group may be the thing you need to boost sales and build stronger brand loyalty.

    Extend creative ownership via an online open innovation portal.

    Make it a place where both your loyalists and those curious about your brand can offer up ideas and develop them with a community of likeminded contributors. Then share their compelling ideas across your social media channels. Procter & Gamble’s Connect + Develop community has achieved success through this type of model. The community asks for innovative product submissions, while also matching entrepreneurs and ideators against an existing need.

    Regardless of the crowdsourcing ask you land on, you’ll soon find that the crowd’s diversity is the basis of its success.

    Different backgrounds, experiences and knowledge sets yield more exploration and less crowd conformity. Author James Surowiecki touches on this in his best-selling book “The Wisdom of Crowds”. He notes, “The simple fact that a group is diverse makes it better at problem solving.” Encourage your crowd to challenge your internal assumptions.

    A few caveats before committing to crowdsourcing.

    First, make sure you have ample human resources to support a crowdsourcing initiative. Once you launch a crowdsourced action, your community needs to be monitored. Give a participant any reason to believe you’re not listening, and your community will turn into a ghost town. While the natural inclination is to hire young guns to manage crowdsourcing efforts, consider using tenured employees as moderators or analysts too—it’s the ideal “know your customer” refresher course.

    Avoid coming across as overly-polished, or even worse, cheesy. Stick to your brand voice and use straight talk where you can. Treat your crowd the same way you would treat a valued colleague.

    Finally, don’t ask your crowd for too much, too soon. If crowdsourcing is new to your organization, it’s perfectly acceptable to take baby steps. At the same time, it encourages your participants to focus on a single-minded goal.

    We’re just scratching the surface of crowdsourcing. If you’d like to talk more about crowdsourcing strategies and other innovation approaches, connect with us via info@trellist.com.

  • The Yin and Yang of Content Marketing: Which One Are You Missing?

    by Renee Cohen | Sep 28, 2012

    “Content marketing” has been part of the savvy marketer’s vocabulary for years.  It’s touted as the savior for any marketing plan – increase website traffic, improve conversion rates, become a market leader!  Yet, many who embark on the journey to launch their content marketing strategies fail to achieve these goals: Web traffic is flat (or, horrifyingly, lower); leads and sales aren’t converting; and market share is lost to the new kid on the block.

    Is it simply that content marketing is the snake oil solution to all that ails a languishing brand?  Not so…after all, someone’s getting those results promised on the label.  No, the more likely scenario is that many marketers are missing one of two secret ingredients:  either the Thought Leader or the Do Leader.

    A few months ago, I came across this excellent infographic (below), which defined the role of the “do leader” in contrast to the more well-known “thought leader.”  It was crafted by MindJet, a collaborative work management software company. I was struck with the thought that successful content marketing must also rely on these same two contrasting roles – seemingly at odds personalities, but each one side of the same coin.

    content_infographic1-1024x669

    Thought Leadership

    The thought leader is typically seen as the rock star.  This guru drives the creative process that is integral to any content marketing program…specifically, creating content.  And not just any content, but interesting content.

    The content you create has to be compelling to your future and existing customers.  It must be provoking, provide validation for them to share upstream, and foster kinship with your brand.  For some brands, this may seem like an easy task – particularly for B2C or trendy products. But when you sell something as dry as ERP software, or you’re educating consumers about retirement financing, the task requires considerable skill and dedication.

    Many companies fail to dedicate resources to their content marketing program.  “You mean I’m paying someone to sit around just to think about my industry, write about it and present on it?” a CMO might say.  Yes, that is precisely what I’m suggesting.  Or better yet, identify multiple thought leaders within your organization and allow them the time to generate and advance their ideas.  If you want to truly reap the benefits of your content marketing program, thought leadership must become a way of life in your organization.

    Do Leadership

    The “do” leaders are often overlooked.  These are the people in the background, creating opportunities for the thought leader to shine.

    The old philosophical conundrum comes to mind: “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?”  Your thought leaders can espouse the most cutting-edge corporate positioning and philosophies – but if no one hears, reads or sees what they have to say, it’s like silence in the forest.

    The do leader must effectively map out communications plans, keeping teams honest on timelines, meeting deadlines and budgets.  The do leader will identify outlets for content – blogs, videos, webinars, events, emails, social networks, editorials, infographics, reports and more.  While the do leader may not typically be in the spotlight, this role is critical to setting milestones, creating plans for execution, and measuring and refining success.

    If your content marketing program isn’t giving you the results you’d hoped, look at which of these two roles may be lacking.  Is your content actually compelling?  Do you have a plan for distribution of those captivating thoughts?  It’s time to regroup and ensure you’re working the program from both angles.

    If you’d like to talk about your content marketing efforts and how Trellist can help, feel free to drop us a line, info@trellist.com and follow us on Twitter @trellist to get daily insights.

  • Crowdsource when Times are Good

    by Neil Dougherty | Sep 11, 2012

    Let’s talk crowdsourcing for a minute. In very generic terms, crowdsourcing describes work or funding that’s gathered from a network of connected online participants. Think Wikipedia or Kickstarter.

    When applied specifically to marketing, crowdsourcing can evolve in any number of ways. It has the power to turn traditional product development and marketing concept development methods on their heads. Crowdsourcing lets consumers and aspiring ideators assume the role of the R&D expert. It even empowers brand fans to develop a product’s identity and marketing message. Crowdsourcing is a dynamic tactic for tapping into the strength of the masses.
    While generally used for consumer goods and rolled out to younger demographics, crowdsourcing is being leveraged by more emerging businesses and enterprises to tackle marketplace challenges. Organizations riding the wave of crowdsourcing are seeing shortened product and strategy development cycles, while spending less on traditional R&D and marketing resources.

    As case studies are analyzed and best practices continue to develop, Trellist has discovered a common misconception—that crowdsourced ideas are a last resort, culled only when there’s a problem the insiders can’t solve. Because we believe in the vast potential of crowdsourcing, we think it’s best used in the best of times.

    Rather than falling into the trap of reactive crowdsourcing, consider crowdsourced ideas as key elements of your overall communications and marketing strategy. Unleash crowdsourcing challenges when you’re experiencing unprecedented sales or growth. Let crowdsourcing follow your brand or product’s aggressive growth arc and soon you’ll see a bump in your social clout. After all, crowdsourcing participants are social influencers with large networks. The more ownership they’re extended in a crowdsourced action, the more likely they’ll be to rapidly spread the good word about what you’re up to.

    For a practical example of proactive crowdsourcing, take a look at Starbucks. They’ve created a crowdsourced community appropriately named My Starbucks Idea. To date, Starbucks has collected 85,184 product ideas and 30,776 experience ideas. Over 500 have been put into action. My Starbucks Idea is a caffeine-fueled think tank where like-minded members submit their thoughts, gain points for participating and use their status to influence others. By involving the crowd, the Starbucks brand grows even stronger and is positioned for long-term success.

    My Starbucks Idea is just one of many examples of enterprise crowdsourcing at work. Major players like General Electric, Amazon, EBay, Xerox and Panasonic are all experiencing success through crowdsourcing.

    Before jumping into the crowdsourcing pool, remember that consumers are savvier than ever these days. They’re aware and they’re seriously connected. They know the difference between the spirit of collaboration and the scent of desperation. Whether you’re trying to increase general brand engagement or fine tune a product or service offering, involve the crowd early, often and under sunny skies for ideal participation and results.

    In the end, knowing when to launch a crowdsourced action is only part of the success equation. Knowing what to ask your crowd for is just as important. I’ll discuss that in my next blog post.

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    In the meantime, if you’d like to talk about crowdsourcing and other creative ways to amplify your brand awareness and build connected customer loyalty, shoot a note our way, info@trellist.com

  • The CEO Must Take Branding Back

    by Chris Wallace | Aug 23, 2012

    Consider this: There are more than 42 results pages of “branding agencies” on Google – each promising to help marketing managers turn their company into the next legendary brand.

    Companies spend billions in marketing and advertising campaigns annually to make sure consumers remember their brands. We admire certain companies and remember great brands because they stand for an ideal that is expressed in every facet of their operation…and in every customer interaction.

    So why can we only name a handful of brands that we really admire?

    Most brands lack leaders. These leaders don’t have to be geniuses/tyrants who micro-manage every nuance of a company’s products and communications (although apparently that works, too). What’s important is thoughtfulness and vigilance at the top.

    marketingbranding_12

    Often, CEOs delegate branding decisions solely to the marketing department without taking an active role, instead tending to financial or operational affairs. In doing so, they risk committing one of the most underreported business blunders of our time. They give their company almost no chance to become the brand that their marketing department promises to their consumers.

    A strong brand is established when the product or service, along with every customer experience, exceeds the expectations introduced by marketing and the branding campaign. Brands are embraced by customers when the product development team innovates, and the customer service organization operates as if they invented the brand message. All company staff, from the receptionist to Accounts Receivable and beyond, must embody the brand message presented to the world. A breakdown at any touchpoint can tarnish or even destroy the brand’s image.

    This alignment requires a meaningful, top-down strategy and stewardship from the C-level to provide the proper foundations for marketers (and others) to work from. And that’s why it has to begin with the CEO.

    Inverting this structure, when branding is owned and managed solely by the marketing department, runs the risk of marketers making brand promises without the commitment or full support of other departments. The CEO, by contrast, has purview to the broadest possible range of business functions and the responsibility to act to ensure alignment.

    To achieve this, a CEO must provide the company with the right tools to succeed. Brand development begins in your mission statement and company charter, which define why you are in business. These inform your brand guide, which spells out your brand’s story, voice, personality, promise of value, and the experience of interacting with it. With these foundations in place, your marketing team can make informed decisions about everything from positioning and identity to channel mix, copy, and creative. In addition, these tools serve as guides for the rest of your enterprise, from HR, Customer Service, R&D, and all other areas. The result is a consistent customer experience with your brand, no matter who they interact with.

    At Trellist, we have developed a branding methodology which includes our CEO.  With this structure, we established a process that has helped CEOs take back ownership and build the brand their company needs.

    If you’d like to talk about your branding efforts and how Trellist can help, feel free to drop us a line, info@trellist.com, and follow us on Twitter @trellist to get daily insights.

  • Online Video: Not Just for the Right Brain Anymore.

    by Jeremie Moore | Jul 02, 2012

    Video communicates emotion; it conveys passion, excitement, sincerity and even love. Video is one of the most powerful communication tools because it is delivers creative messages that drive brand interest like no other media. This has always been true.

    But until recently, the argument for including online video in your marketing plans was just that… an emotional appeal to be an integrated part of a carefully planned campaign. The numbers were not available to justify the video access, viewership or ROI.  Not anymore. The case for including video in your marketing strategy is no longer a right brain vs. left brain conundrum. The numbers are too compelling now.

    Recently, comScore reported that 82.5% of Internet users watch video. 30% of Internet data volume is now video and by 2013 an incredible 90% of internet traffic will be video. 12% of video watched today are ads that reach about 42% of the US population.

    Like never before, online video is now engaging viewers. Online viewers watched 4.3 hours of online video each month in 2010. That is now closer to 4.3 hours per week.  Email video messages generate 2-3 times the click-through rate of a non-video message. While mobile video is growing, it already accounts for 66% of mobile data traffic. iPad users are highly engaged with the medium, watching  each video for an average of 5 minutes.

    For business, 55% of online retailers reported using video several years ago… now it is more than 75%.  More than 75% percent of business executives watch work-related videos in the office, and just last year more than 42% made a business related purchase after watching a video about a product or service.

    The capacity of video to communicate compelling emotional content has been accepted for decades. However, the increased access to video content on laptops, tablets and smartphones, and faster and faster connection speeds, provide an opportunity for video to reach almost every consumer. And with viewership increasing and better measurement tools, the argument for integrating video into the marketing strategies is now as empirical as it is emotional.

    CMO’s can justify video using both the right and left sides of their brain.

    If you are interested in how video could be used to improve your marketing or eLearning programs, feel free to drop us a line, info@trellist.com. Also, you can check out our video services reel on YouTube.

  • Is it Really Time to Shut Down the Malls?

    by Jim Dixon | May 21, 2012

    Who do you trust?  Is it an advisor that can excite a conference room with sampled data and compelling predictions, or the professional that relies on analytics and a rational approach to reach a conclusion?

    Let’s examine an issue about the behavior of smartphone owners. According to comScore, smartphone owners overwhelmingly report that they prefer shopping online over shopping in a physical store. We’ve seen numbers clearly stating that three out of four smartphone owners prefer online shopping and are increasingly turning to their smartphones for this. With more than 150 million smartphone owners in the US (fast approaching 60% market penetration), these preferences are highly significant. With this kind of empirical evidence, we should close down the malls, divest our retail stocks and double-down on eCommerce competency.

    But hold on…aren’t some physical stores still turning a profit? And while big box stores may be downsizing, it is in favor of opening retail shops with smaller footprints, less overhead, and an updated, more intimate shopping experience. While mall retail space may be light in some areas, other stores continue to thrive. I still go there to shop, and I see my friends there.  Are we the last ones?

    While the evidence in question strongly suggests that smartphone users love the idea of internet shopping and report that “they prefer it”,  a bit more research reveals that they are more likely to browse online and actually shop in physical stores, according to Wave Collapse, a specialty market research firm.  In fact, 87% of smartphone users actually shopped in a store last week and if they buy regularly, the numbers are even higher.

     

    As it turns out, 84% of smartphone owners use them to enhance their in-store shopping experience. The vast majorities of smartphone shoppers read reviews (73%), compare prices with other retail outlets (71%) and scan QR codes to get more product details (57%), according to Nielsen Research.

    Although smartphones usage is growing and dynamically changing how we integrate mobile into the marketing plan, it does not suggest that retail is dead to 75% of the 150 million smartphone users.

    Bold statistics used to drive the bandwagon forward can create the illusion of a compelling trend. This is not new. However, the reminder here is that we must look at the numbers through a well-balanced and thoughtful filter, and depend on good judgment to enable creative solutions that work. Surveys and charts tell an important story when balanced by reason and educated instinct from experienced business people.

    At Trellist, we depend on analytics and data to make good decisions…. but the data is always part of a balanced decision-making process by experienced business-savvy professionals, operating in consensus and using sound business judgment.

    So, don’t shut down the malls just yet and look at the numbers carefully.

    If you want to know more about Trellist’s capabilities, feel free to drop us a line: info@trellist.com, or follow us on twitter @Trellist

  • Siri Puts a Second "S" in SEO, Part 2

    by Chris Wallace | Apr 27, 2012

    In part one of this series, we discussed the phenomenon of intelligent digital agents, and their significance in the future of our computing experience.

    In this second installment we’ll discuss ways to start incorporating mobile thinking into your SEO strategy.

    Tips on how to Optimize SEO for Siri:

    1) Tailor Keywords and Metadata to Natural Language.

    Think about how people may ask for information in a conversation. “What’s the new Cantonese place in Chinatown” is semantically different from “Chinese Food, Philadelphia”.

    2) Location Optimization.

    Make sure that your address and contact information are displayed on every page on your site so your content is associated with both you and your locale. Also of value is submitting your business to services like Yelp, Google Places, Angie’s List, and other localized directories. This is your best shot to be recognized as that pizza place around the corner.

    3) Utilize Rich Snippets.

    These are really just highly specific meta tags (called schema tags) with properties that can help Search Agents easily determine details about your business. For instance, Professional Service organizations can include contact points, employees, location, founding date, and more. For a full list of what Rich Snippets can do, check this out http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=99170

    4) Be Social.

    When you ask Siri a question, she does not just hit Google and return the top result. Rather, Siri queries its own servers that are fed from any number of sources (only Apple knows for sure). What is clear is that Siri’s servers index and include social sources of information like Yelp, Foursquare, Google Places, Epinions, TravelPost, and others. Making a concerted effort to promote yourself on these platforms can only serve to expand your reach, whereas neglecting this in favor of putting all your efforts into manipulating Google Search results may yield lowered returns in the future.

    5) Develop a Mobile Optimized Site.

    It may seem obvious, but as of 2011, 79% of online advertisers do not have a mobile optimized site. With smartphones now comprising roughly 60% of total mobile ownership in the US, some of our clients have seen as much as a 300% increase in site visits from mobile devices from Q4 2010 to Q4 2011. Going through the trouble of optimizing for intelligent search agents means little if users abandon your site due to bad mobile usability.

    Keeping up with the pace of technological advancements in marketing can be challenging, but that’s why we are here. If you have any questions, or want to talk about how Social Media, Mobile Optimization and SEO can impact your business, feel free to drop me a line or give me a ring.

  • Direct Response Marketers can toss the Law of Diminishing Returns

    by Jim Auer | Apr 11, 2012

    In direct response marketing, traditional logic dictates the more you can customize a message to reflect what you know about that customer, the better the results.

    In 1994, Don Peppers and Martha Rodgers promised that the concept of “one-to-one” marketing was the way. However, the pursuit of this theoretical segmentation ideal has never been practical or effectively achieved. Still today, the practical number of executions (or cells) in most direct marketing programs is limited by the law of diminishing returns for all the wrong reasons… except at Trellist.

    Many marketing executives accept the idea that as they pursue more precise segmentation, their total costs will increase due to added creative & production time, increased coordination and production hours, and additional QA time (or its converse, the likelihood of costly errors). To this thinking, as incremental production costs increase, there comes a point where incremental yield from more precise customer segmentation is no longer profitable.

    Trellist, however, has demonstrated that as you control the creative and production costs by leveraging production technology and deploying a disciplined creative approach, the incremental costs of customer segmentation are significantly lowered (changing the slope of the incremental cost curve). With a very different approach to email development, print and direct mail creative methodology, marketing executives have much greater freedom to personalize offers, creative treatments, and marketing messages, all while reinventing their marketing program strategy with greater personalization. 

    By dramatically moving the point in which the incremental costs for customizing direct marketing are equal to the incremental return, Trellist has demonstrated the capability to increase the marketing team’s ability to customize marketing content. As a result, our clients are able to deploy more precise messaging, increase the effectiveness of each campaign and produce higher ROI for their organizations.

    At Trellist, we are proving that through integrating marketing and technology, we can toss out the “Law of Diminishing Returns.” This approach offers direct marketers new options that dramatically change traditional assumptions and produce a very different kind of business results.

  • Siri Puts a Second "S" in SEO, Part 1

    by Chris Wallace | Jan 13, 2012

    If you have watched TV or touched the web in the past 3 months, you’ve probably seen the iPhone 4S, which boasts an intelligent “personal assistant” named Siri. Siri is a bold step forward in natural language processing, allowing users to access many features of the iPhone by speaking as you would to a person. Siri can get you directions, write and send emails, calculate your tip, even remind you to call your Mom.

    apple-siri 

    Siri’s capabilities go far beyond voice recognition, which has been around for years. Siri heralds a shift in how we search for and filter information – by using an intelligent digital agent. Some might call it Web 3.0 or the semantic web. Nomenclature aside, what’s important is the effect it will have on your findability on the web, and ultimately, your bottom line.

    In the 90’s, Google, Yahoo and others (remember WebCrawler?) brought Search to the forefront of computing. The vastness of information online became more manageable and relevant to the user. By the turn of the millennium, Search Engine Optimization had become a burgeoning business practice as people devised ways to manipulate websites to favor search engine results. Now, 10 years later, SEO and content marketing are at least standard practice and at worst an arms race. Businesses who do not prioritize SEO see diminished returns online.

    Siri, and her inevitable descendants, have the potential to change how information is indexed and consumed, and we need to understand how to prepare for it. As computing moves to increasingly mobile and personalized environments, users require greater relevance. Mobile search has grown by 400% in the past year alone, and 1 in 3 of those searches has local intent (source: Google).

    When I search for a pizza shop on my mobile device, I don’t want just any pizza shop. I want one around the corner. Soon, I will ask my digital assistant for the closest pizzeria and she will get me what I am looking for. The point is, if a digital agent like Siri is doing the searching, web content will need to be formatted so that it can be easily indexed by those agents.

    Stay Tuned.

    In part 2 of this blog, we’ll address how to optimize for Siri and other intelligent digital agents. In the meantime, if you have any questions or want to talk about how Mobile Optimization can impact your business, feel free to drop us a line, info@trellist.com.

  • Is Cloud Computing Right for Your Business?

    by Mark Stitz | Jan 06, 2012
    is cloud computing right for your business

    Over the last few years many businesses have moved aspects of their business operations to cloud computing. It offers many advantages, including potential cost savings. However, there are also significant risks associated with cloud computing. So what are some of the factors that companies should be aware when evaluating cloud computing, and how do you mitigate the risks associated with it?

    Cloud computing is an environment of interconnected servers providing computing resources in an elastic and dynamic manner based on computing need. The hope with cloud computing is that the underlying hardware is not significant to the equation, which allows the actual processing needs to be addressed dynamically based on need. The costs of cloud computing are normally based on a usage model, with payments being charged on a time usage or occurrence basis. As your computing needs change you can dynamically allocate more or less resources.

    Another important factor is that the speed at which content is delivered to end users plays an important role in the success or failure. In regards to websites and services, delivering content as fast as possible to the end user is very important in making sales. Search engines now factor in load times in their search rankings, which users have factored in for many years. If your content is delivered using the old model of hosted servers located in data center(s) thousands of miles away from users, you may not be achieving your full potential conversion rate. This rapid content delivery has become so important that content delivery networks (CDN) have been established to aid in getting static content to the user even faster by utilizing thousands of servers located everywhere.

    The primary potential advantage of cloud computing is the significantly lower cost required for data processing services, since you only pay for what you consume instead of the old model where you purchase servers that often sit mostly idle. The old model of computing resources often required you to purchase more than enough processing power in order to accommodate peak demand, even though the peak rarely happens which then lead you to server(s) being mostly idle.

    The use of cloud computing removes the need for the potentially large capital and operating costs associated with purchasing or leasing such hardware and software, and shifts those costs to a usage-based model. Purchasing or leasing hardware often requires agreements that lock you into a specific set of computing resources regardless of how your needs change over time.

    Cloud computing has its risks and disadvantages, however. Cloud computing typically has a dislocated nature in which your software runs on the cloud computing providers’ servers, which then means you are tied to the provider maintaining a certain quality level of assurance. Often times this dislocated nature is considered an advantage as it augments your staffing needs but could be problematic as you rely on the provider and cannot do it yourself.
    Another disadvantage to cloud computing is the substantial risks in privacy and confidentiality. By using a cloud system, company sensitive data and information is stored on third-party servers of which you will have very limited knowledge or control over. A breach of these systems for another client could overflow and compromise your data which could have devastating effects.

    A key component to cloud computing is establishing effective contingency plans. These plans should cover all aspects that you can anticipate and propose ways to deal with these. For most small businesses, developing such plans are difficult since there are not a lot of desirable alternatives, but by establishing the best contingency plan you have a huge advantage when problems arise.

    Business owners should carefully evaluate the use of cloud based systems, weighing the advantages and disadvantages. You need to be aware of the potential risks and problems that accompany cloud computing, to reduce and mitigate them. The substantial potential cost savings with increased freedom to elastically alter your computing resources can be quite significant for a growing business or even a well established one.

    Interested in delving deeper? Contact us at enterprisetechnology@trellist.com.

  • Getting to the Heart of Business Strategy

    by Jennifer | Dec 13, 2011

    Merriam-Webster offers ten different definitions for business and three separate definitions for strategy. If the dictionary gurus can’t give a single definition for business or strategy, is there really only one definition of business strategy? The obvious answer is “no”.

    During a time when each monetary decision, especially in business, is more heavily scrutinized than the last, the creation of a strategic vision is of the utmost importance. Business strategy provides a methodology that should be used to effectively complete any project; specifically:

    • Define the Mission
    • Analyze the Impact – both internal and external economic factors
    • Assess the Assets – what you have and what you need (including people, processes and budget)
    • Determine the Roadmap – sequence of events to reach the goal
    • Implement the Plan
    • Reflect on Intent

    Of those steps, the key element to any successful business strategy, no matter what the focus or problem to be solved, is Defining the Mission, which involves fully understanding and objectively analyzing the goal. Be sure to ask Why? and Should? before jumping right into the Can? and How?

    Although the size of the company, the scope of the initiative and the budget available may differ significantly, following a proven methodology like the one detailed above gives the owner of the goal confidence when explaining and/or defending that decision to senior management, peers or even the industry. It may be fiction, but think how differently Jurassic Park would have turned out if the questions of Why? and Should? had been analyzed objectively. Then again, maybe it depends on their definition of business strategy.