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  • Marketing Vision 2020

     Brian Halligan, CEO introduces the Flywheel. Photo credit: HubSpot Brian Halligan, CEO introduces the Flywheel. Photo credit: HubSpot

    There have been a lot of exciting new marketing technologies and strategies introduced this year. From HubSpot’s Flywheel methodology - to machine learning Chat Bots - to Augmented Reality — and much more.

    In order to make sense of at least some of it, and to begin to formulate a picture for where the marketing industry is heading next, we collected a number of helpful articles, white papers and presentations from some of the biggest publishers and players in the industry.

    To note, there are literally countless articles on this topic from countless sources. As an example, a simple search on the American Marketing Association website returned 5,200 results!

    That said, here’s our round-up for 2018 on topics that interest us and have caught our eye on where the marketing industry looking forward to 2020.

    Organizational Preparedness

    Harvard Business Review: The Harvard Business Review wrote a piece on marketing organizations in 2014 on how to construct the "Ultimate Marketing Machine", They discuss the traits of high-performing organizations, as well as specific drivers of organizational effectiveness. This includes the value of big data and deep insights, purposeful positioning and constructing a total customer experience.

    Our Social Times: We should be working in three dimensions. There are a number of great takeaways in this article by Steven van Belleghem planning for Marketing in 2020 that resonated with us. He discusses how companies need to excel in three key areas: "extreme customer centricity", "technology" and "selling without selling". The article enforces many of the strategies that one must consider when analyzing and (ultimately) modernizing the customer experience.

    Marketing Owns The Customer Experience

    Business 2 Community: We found this piece by Brenda Do with Business 2 Community from about a year ago talking about top trends for Chief Marketing Officers. One particular passage gets straight to the heart of where we see marketing headed today. The modern marketeer must connect the dots between marketing, sales and customer service - in other words - the complete customer experience.

    The science-backed CMO: Marketers spent the last 10+ years focusing on understanding customers more deeply for greater personalization. Now it’s time to use that knowledge to drive engagement, and do it at scale.

    “Today, the primary task of CMOs is to deeply understand customer buying behavior and intent; deeply understand the context of where someone is in their decision journey; be able to predict what they’re most likely primed to do next; and be ready to influence them at the right moment.” —Jonathan Martin, CMO, Pure Storage

    In other words, marketing is now responsible for getting and keeping the customer. Which means the CMO’s job now includes marketingsales, and customer service.

    Content Length Extremes

    Forbes: This article by Forbes written in 2017 discusses their top predictions for the shape of content marketing in the next few years. It's a short piece, but it reinforces the value of great content. The part we found most interesting was an observation on simply really long web pages. Knowing how web search and mobile use has evolved, we are a huge proponent for this. Here's a relevant example on a Life Science company’s website where they pack a ton of information on one page - versus splitting it up into different pages. Yes, the webpage is a monster (in the best of ways), but they did a great job laying out the information and providing the shortcut anchor links to keep it all manageable. It was great to see that there are related links at the bottom of their static web pages. But we must mention that nothing is gated - which is a missed opportunity for capturing leads.

    Organizational Transparency

    Fast Company: "Transparency is the new black." Gosh, we love this phrase. In reading this article from Fast Company, they cover how Brands must simply be more transparent "in a genuine and authentic way" to succeed. We absolutely agree. There are various ways this could be applied in a B2B organization. Providing a top-notch project management and customer support system is one. But in other areas, such as publicly sharing the price of your services can build a lot of trust for prospects. Yes, it may seem as if you’re giving away your most important secret (price) - but when done correctly, like showing cost ranges, this can ben an incredibly powerful tool when looking to build a strong, confident reputation and a level of market differentiation.

    The Trend On Trends

    Maximize Social Business: With a focus on influencer marketing, this article by Maximize Social Business lists 20 developing trends. The more obvious ones include the value of thinking like a publisher and investing in rich media content with video and podcasts. There are many, many studies that discuss how effective communications need to be delivered in various ways. And we can’t agree more. There's an art to striking the right balance - especially in B2B marketing. Having super slick, carefully crafted interactive media - sounds great - but the key is (and always will be) how to figure out all the ways this type of work can drive real opportunity into your sales pipeline.

    Blue Compass: There are a number of rather bold prediction in this article by the agency Blue Compass. One particular comment that states Google will radically change their search experience (once again) and essentially reduce their search results caught our eye. Originally, we read this as a bit ridiculous. But, if you look at Google Snippets and now Google AMP - this prediction has (in a way) already come true!!!

    Side note: Google AMP is completely new to us. We are not completely confident when Google officially began rolling out this feature. In super simple terms, Google AMP is a mobile feature that kicks in when you perform Google search. Any result with a little lightning bolt next to the article title is a Google AMP result. When you click this link you actually stay in Google - and view the article in a special AMP reader. Yes, you have the option of continuing to the source article, but Google AMP is claiming to reduce load times and the clutter — formatting the article in a way that’s more compatible with mobile. All sounds great, but just remember - it’s Google’s job to keep you in their world as much as possible. They track your viewing habits even more with this function and can easily deliver sponsored content through this channel (and many other channels) without you even knowing it.

    Microsoft: Produced in June 2018, this presentation by Microsoft is a fairly deep dive on the topic of future proofing your marketing with machine learning and artificial intelligence. We’ve taken a number of classes on the topics of; deep learning, artificial intelligence and machine learning — especially in how these technologies and services are enhancing marketing and customer experience. This is a fascinating technology that, when implemented properly in a B2B environment, will really change the course of EVERY industry. The topic of AI as it relates to marketing will be covered in a separate article once we have completed enough due diligence to have a real understanding of this trend!

    HubSpot: HubSpot put together an entire mini-site they call a "crash course" on the topic of Marketing in 2020. The result is a series of videos they put together with FaceBook, Slack along with a few other key marketing professionals in various industries. They discuss the value of instant chat and its broadening effects - which (of course) follows the HubSpot technology roadmap. We love the fact that this is a video-rich experience. It's different than all of the other articles we have been reading - and as they mention - this is a trend in how to deliver compelling content today.

    Every year, Hubspot also publishes a report they call the “State of Inbound” which provides their analysis of the industry covering a wide variety of channels and strategies. This year’s report surveyed 6,200 people from 99 countries in just about every industry. You can download HubSpot's “2018 State of Inbound” report here.

    SalesForce: SalesForce also agrees on all of these trending fronts, mentioning the power of contextual marketing, chatbots and automation in this article about marketing trends in 2018 they published in November of last year. This article, like the ones from Microsoft and HubSpot, do the very obvious thing of enforcing their own technology roadmap and current offering set. That said, these services are enabling all of us to create fairly remarkable digital experiences for our leads and customers.

    Adobe: Like many of the other market leaders, Adobe publishes a report on the state of Digital Marketing with their 2018 Digital Trends Report. This report encapsulates the views of over 12,000 marketing and creative professionals - a really impressive sample pool of market intelligence. We found their results to be quite consistent with everyone else “where experience is the focal point of digital activities”.

    John Watton, Adobe’s Sr. Director of Marketing at Adobe summed up today’s trends very nicely. Here’s a snippet:

    While there are plenty of new insights in this year’s report, the message is again coming through loud and clear that we have well and truly moved into an era where experience is the focal point of digital activities.

    At the same time there’s a ‘creativity renaissance’ happening. Organizations across the globe are investing more heavily in design to differentiate their brands. In fact, organizations that described themselves as ‘design-driven’ are more likely to significantly exceed their business goals.

    It takes the right culture to achieve the right blend of tech, data and design. Companies committed to delivering experiences are adopting a cross-team approach with the customer at the heart of all initiatives and collaboration. These organizations are winning by a significant margin, and have built a cohesive, long-term plan for attracting future customers. So, it’s not surprising that these companies are at the top of their sectors.

  • Where's the "Wow" in websites anymore?

    Having been in the business of building websites for over 20 years, we are partial to the “wow” experience here at Inveniv. The typical modern website has smartly invested in content efficiency, accessibility and personalization. Though one would hope that there would still be a little room left to make the user experience more enjoyable. Specialized interactive elements that support the company’s vision, provide value towards gaining new business and (where possible) delight the visitor — seem to have completely disappeared from most (if not all) mainstream websites.

    A recent observation:

    On September 12, 2018, Apple announced a series of new devices including the Apple Watch Series 4. Almost immediately, Apple’s website was updated with the latest-greatest information and product glamor shots - along with a painfully basic eCommerce page.

    Previous to this launch, Apple had developed an interactive a designer tool that allowed you to select a model - band and even try out one of the many watch faces before moving you along to the shopping cart. The tool was simple, yet it had character and function. It was a great way to accurately visualize the device in a number of configurations. Between the selections of finishes, bands and faces - there are literally hundreds of options to explore. If you would like to see what this configurator looked like, I was able to find a cached link to the configurator here.

    Apple_Watch_Old.png

    When you visit the Apple Watch “configurator” today, you are presented with a very linear experience. Select a few search filters which will display a number of options. Make a selection and “BUY NOW!”. This new user flow is void of any personalization or flexibility. To explore all of the available options now you would need to click through the dozens and dozens of bands and envision what it would look like with your new watch.

    Our view…

    It’s a huge mistake. Providing an engaging, memorable digital experience keeps visitors returning and increases the likelihood of sharing what they found with friends and colleagues. Visitors want a significant amount of information when they visit a site. Having the ability to explore and experience solutions in an exciting and informative way will undoubtedly build trust and convert more business.

  • Snapshot Review of the Latest-Greatest Music Streaming Services

    I have recently noticed the ever-expanding market of music streaming services. It's impressive. One would think that the industry would be flooded with garbage. And, don't get me wrong, there's still a lot of useless services out there. But, there's also an amazing set of solid music streaming services that are just impressive. 

    To quickly jump to a conclusion, yes, there's something for everyone. That said, it's hard to deny Spotify the top spot in service and user experience. YouTube Music is the only service that immediately establishes a "universal player" for both music and video. They are setting a new precedent - and it's cool. For those that do elect to pay a monthly fee - they're most likely a fan of Apple (Apple Music), Google (YouTube Music) or Amazon (Prime). In a separate post, I will provide a review of other fan-supported indy-artist websites such as BandCamp and Patreon.

    Today's Top Music Streaming Services

    Spotify:

    Hands down, continues to be the best. Catalogue is key. And they seem to secure music from everyone. They continually improve their artist relations and it shows. Everyone is upping their game on the quality of their playlists. Spotify is going strong here as well. I actually find myself starting playlists over searching for anything. This is where I agree that curation is essential to a successful streaming service (no matter the market). Integration with Facebook allows sharing of playlists with friends - and the ability to play music OnDemand is stable at $5 for students / $10 for everyone else. The player itself is über-basic - nothing special here but full-screen pictures of albums and artists, but it's functional. There were a number of features that I found surprising and welcomed. The first was the ability to play music in the background on my phone. And the second was the ability to send the music to multiple "available sources". Both excellent ideas - nearly expected. Make the music easy to access, listen to and share.

    Apple Music.png

    Apple Music:

    Simply put, you have to be an Apple fan to use this service. It's probably the only reason they have a subscriber base. The biggest advantage thus far has been the ability to download music and play off line. Their radio stations have potential. Playlists are fine to discover new music. The family account has potential. Costs are identical to Spotify at $10 for individuals and $15 for families. Advantages with Apple is certainly it's integration across all Apple devices. They also offer a 1-year subscription for a discount. To make their app "smart", it's obvious that Apple will eventually do more with Siri to follow patterns and make smarter suggestions.

    Pandora.png

    Pandora:

    These folks seem to be the "Netflix" of music streaming. Their smart algorithm using the thumbs up/ thumbs down rating is machine-learning implemented well. This function will become more prominent in other services as the technology to integrate becomes more accessible. Pandora now offers the ability to play music on-demand - which surprisingly wasn't always the case. From what I have seen, Pandora was and still is - the passive listening streaming service. It's the closest to hybrid radio.

    SoundCloud.png

    Soundcloud:

    Of all the services out there, SoundCloud appears to be "the peoples" streaming service. They now have over 100 million user-created tracks. That number is absolutely insane. But they make it so easy to share original music in their platform - so why not. SoundCloud also boasts hundreds of millions of active users. Which is also absolutely incredible. If anyone is looking for the absolutely freshest music - this is the place. They also do something that Medium.com does with their content. Listeners have the ability to comment on the music while it plays. And this can be so entertaining to read while listening. I give them big kudos for their unique service and focus on the indy artists.

    Tidal.png

    Tidal:

    When this service launched, they focused on fidelity. And this continues to be the case. So, for the audiophiles out there - here's your modern vinyl record player. Subscription accounts can cost double over other services at $20/month for their hi-fi service. Competitors will be doing the same soon enough. But people will always expect the listening experience to be good. So, not sure anyone would really pay more for this. There are aspects of Tidal that should be looked at more closely. 1) They are targeting a specific audience - the affinity market. 2) Today is now owned in-part by a major US mobile carrier - Sprint. 3) It seems blazingly obvious that all they want to do at Tidal is get acquired. Just saying...

    YouTube Music.png

    YouTube Music:

    It's obvious that YouTube would move into this market. Even though their free music features don't hold an LED light to Spotify it will be hard for everyone to compete with the YouTube audience and content creator network. YouTube is an entertainment powerhouse - hands down. I also see them as the Switzerland of services. Everyone (competitors and the like) heads to YouTube. So YouTube music will be no different... eventually. Today, the biggest differentiator for YouTube Music is the integration of their streaming video player. With the option to watch and listen or just listen is massively unique. Unfortunately, without becoming a premium subscription holder, you cannot just listen to music. Strange move on their part - especially with all of the integrated ads. It's also worth mentioning, YouTube Music will undoubtedly become the "Apple Music" for Android devices. This will give Google-the Android community of User and YouTube Music a massive advantage in market penetration. And it's also expected that this service will become wildly smart with Google's algorithms working behind the scenes. 

    Amazon Music.png

    Amazon Music:

    By the time I checked out Amazon Music, it feels like Amazon is getting into the biz because everyone else is in the business. With Alexa getting more and more integrated into people's lives, Amazon has at least one advantage. And, without a doubt, Amazon is another unexpected powerhouse in entertainment. So - built in community, built in eco-system, hardware is there, now comes the powerful software. Curation-wise, they have the same playlists as the others. There's a set of solid features under the hood especially for Prime users - allowing easy control to modify existing playlists - the ability to play music in the background on mobile - access to popular music over the ages. It's impressive. Especially when your looking at an app that's also delivering your favorite movies, tv shows and toilet paper. 

  • State of Inbound - HubSpot's Annual Industry Report

    soi2017reportEvery year, HubSpot surveys thousands of the world’s foremost marketers and salespeople. HubSpot asked them about their most pressing priorities, the challenges they face, and the strategies they plan to add in the year ahead. All of these insights are then consolidated into a master report: The State of Inbound.

    This year's report includes: 

    • ROI benchmarks for inbound campaigns 
    • What channels marketers should add to remain relevant 
    • Data-backed steps for marketing and sales to collaborate better 
    • What disrupters marketers and sales reps are facing 

    Get the Report Now 

    Unlike other industry reports, this one is completely free. You can download it right now at no cost and learn how your business can prepare for the future of inbound. 

    This year's research findings include:

    Leadership and employees struggle under a growing corporate chasm:

    • 69% of C-level executives believe their organization's marketing strategy is effective, while only 55% of individual contributors believe their organization's marketing strategy is effective. Learn about "executive isolation" by watching this video.

    Marketing and sales not aligned, resulting in challenges:

    • 22% of respondents say their organization's sales and marketing relationship is tightly aligned. Learn "The Power of Smarketing" by watching this class.

    Top 3 Marketing Challenges in 2017:

    • 63% - Generating traffic and leads
    • 40% - Proving the ROI of our marketing activities
    • 28% - Securing enough budget

    Top 3 Sales Challenges in 2017:

    • 38% - Getting a response
    • 35% - Closing deals
    • 30% - Prospecting good leads

    Dig Deeper

    For more information on the company behind this report, be sure to check out HubSpot's Marketing and Sales Blogs. There's a goldmine of information for just about everyone from those new to the marketing industry to a seasoned pros. And for those designers and developers out there that need to catch up on everything HubSpot and Inbound-y, there are gobs of resources out there for you too!

  • Inspiration for a New Year

    With each new year, I find a little time over the holiday break to enjoy looking ahead, setting personal goals and searching for new opportunities for both my personal and working life. Here's a collection of my recent findings and sources of inspiration. 

    Atlas Obscura: 

    Definitive guidebook to the world's most wondrous places

    If you are looking for adventure down the street or around the world, you can find some facinating places featured in wonderful detail on AtlasObscura.com. The editors seek out those places with hidden secrets and incredible bak stories. 

    Soundbreaking Documentary:

    Stories from the cutting edge of Recording Music

    Most of my childhood and graduate studies were steeped in music and the arts. So the Soundbreaking series on PBS caught me by complete suprise. It's a wonderful look at an industry that combines art and technology to literally push the sound barrier from the perspective of the people behind the curtain (or sound booth). This very special series, produced in collaboration with George Martin, extends online with additional interviews and a special look behind the scenes.

    Intel Compute Stick:

    Transform any display into a complete computer

    For years, I've been hoping to see technology reach this flash point where all of our needed computing power fits easily in our pocket. Then we have the freedom to choose the format to view and access. Intel has recently released the Intel Compute Stick which essentially does just that. They have packed a computer into a format the size of a small stick of gum which you can plug into almost any monitor with an HDMI input.

    CBS Sunday Morning:

    Inspiring stories from around the country 

    Each week I look forward to watching CBS Sunday Morning. The show is both entertaining and educational - eye-opening and always delightful. My optimism about our surrounding community is renewed each week - especially after week-over-week of less-than-positive news from around the world. 

    US National Parks:

    The national treasure that is our great outdoors

    Undeniably, our nation's greatest gift to the American people are the US National Parks. All of us need to make time to visit these natural wonders. Currently, there are 58 parks across the United States - each offering something unique and truly remarkable. The National Park Service is now beginning their second century (if you can believe it), so get out there and explore!

    Mozart In The Jungle:

    An absolutely hilarious look at the life of a symphony orchestra

    Amazon's award winning original series "Mozart in the Jungle" is nothing less than brilliant. The creators of this series do such a fabulous job at combining art and entertainment. Numerous internal stories strike a personal chord with me. From the energetic, passionate and completely wild (and mysterious) maestro - to the struggling musicians searching for purpose - the aspiring filmmaker - the aging and retired conductor who transforms into a brilliant composer finding a new audience - and the various other performers who's lives are beuatifully complicated and oh-so-real. Just love it. If you have Amazon Prime, this show is included in your subscription.

  • The 7 Key Elements of Logo Design

    Above: Top 10 Most Valuable Brands of the World - Forbes Magazine 2016

    Designing a business logo is no small task. You essentially have to find the design elements that represent your brand's identity and your target audience's wants, then weld those things together until they convey more than the sum of their parts.

    No big deal. Right?!

    This complicated process is all about striking a balance. Your logo has to be new and modern, yet it needs the classic elements that give a design staying power. It has to be simple so it can adapt, yet it needs complex elements like space, shape, color, and typography. Creating the perfect logo is like creating the perfect paradox!

    Before you get too deep into the process or too overwhelmed, take a moment and check out this guide produced by the talented team over at Company Folders outlining 7 key elements that can perfect any business logo.

    Characteristics to strive for include: Be Enticing, Unique, Timeless, New, Simple, Consistent and (most important these days...) Adaptable

  • Eyes Down, Heads Up

    Eyes Down, Heads Up

    A year goes by real quick when you are busier than a bee. I will be somewhat humbled to end the year shortly with over a dozen new websites and countless campaigns under my belt.

    For one of these digital initiatives, our agency launched a new digital publication for the life sciences market called "Pharma's Almanac". During the production process I put time aside to do some exploratory research on the ways in which brands on improving the reader's experience online. I'm somewhat embarressed to say I (somehow) missed the launch of two key sites that Google has developed which I'm now happily following; Google Arts & Culture and The Keyword. I also discovered Medium.com this year by digging into the platform behind ReadThink.com - a HubSpot curated business blog for like-minded business creatives.

    Each of these platforms offer something very unique.

    Google Arts & Culture: Explore the world's creative arts through virtual 360 tours, video, photography and editorial. It's simply fantastic. You can also see what's happening in the fine arts near to your current location. The hero image above is an exploration of color use by the modern master Yoo Youngkuk. Google just doesn't throw these images online, they find ways to engage the reader by making these interactive. In this case, they created a color selection tool to filter the artists work in a very inventive way. Yoo Youngkuk Color Exploration

    The Keyword: There's so much to follow online these days. And, honestly, I have a lot of difficulty picking where to start. Recently (Sept 2016), Google consolidated their many blog channels into one mega-blog and it's lovely. :) I'm sure that there's a ton of user metrics going on behind the scenes and I'm getting profiled a million different ways to deliver releavant content my way -- and everything has a "googley" spin to it. But, all that aside, I don't mind. This blog is delivering some really exciting stories and I'm drawn in by the positive theme they share. Everything is covered from Travel, Technology to Google Doodles, News, Arts, Culture and lots more. Here's a sample piece about how a teacher in San Diego is re-engineering his classroon to foster creativity. Matt Martin, Chemistry Teacher + Google for Education 

    Medium.com: This platform is just slick. There's really no other way to describe it. Yes, the stories and editorial content is informative, intelligent and sometimes hilarious. But it's the little UX choices that they have made that make this site stand out. One such feature is the abiltiy to highlight any amount of text and save it - share it - comment on it. This is a fantastic way to provide feedback to an author, but also remind yourself what part of an article resonated with you the most. It's like a virtual highlighter -- similar to the physical ones you might have used in college to help study. A ton of companies have now leveraged this platform to host their blog. So, I'm sure we will be seeing more features pile in with the diversity of readers now following medium.com websites. Check out ReadThink.com to get a good sample of what's going on on Medium. 

    Pharma's Almanac: As you explore these sites, be sure to also check out our team's fine work on PharmasAlmanac.com. You will see some design influences from around the web for sure. We have big plans in the works as we aspire to become one of the leading mags in the industry.

  • Inbound Explained

    Inbound Explained

    I'm asked probably 5+ times a week "What is Inbound?". In short, it's the modern way to do marketing. But, honestly, this strategy is nothing new. Simply put... gain trust in order to engage buyers. I found this simple illustration earlier this year and it seems to sum up the major steps quite nicely.

    1. Attract Leads organically by producing stellar content.

    2. Convert Leads by providing releavant, personalized information and content offers that your audience can use for their own education or to better understand how you think.

    3. Delight Leads by being helpful and insightful on what matters most to them – and don't stop being helpful once they close as a customer!

    For more information on "What is inbound?"... be sure to check out this brief on HubSpot's website. You can also check out all of their marketing and sales tips on their blogs here: http://blog.hubspot.com/

  • The value of great UX Design

    The value of great UX Design

    I happened upon the Wikiwand website the other day researching ideas for a new online publication I'm working on. The concept is awesome. Take an online information resource like Wikipedia and re-engineer the user experience design. Sounds a bit crazy, but I love it.

    As you can see in this picture, the left side shows the original post in Wikipedia - the right side shows the same post using the Wikiwand viewer.

    A few of the added features Wikiwand adds to their view include... 

    1. Sticky nav/toolbar at the top of the interface providing the ability to like, save, share, switch languages and start a new search.

    2. Collapsable menu systems that make the reading experience much cleaner.

    3. A collection of additional menus at the bottom of each post that consolidate the references section, see also, external links, etc...

    4. An added "contents" menu that can be toggled on/off, chases you down the page as you read allowing you to navigate the article quickly and without having to return to the top of the page (as it does on Wikipedia).

    See more at Wikiwand.com. Also check out the free plugin for Chrome and Apple iOS App

  • Looking forward towards 2020

    What Does the Agency of 2020 Look Like?

    Great roundup piece by Jami Oetting, editor of The Agency Post.

    Tim Williams (@TimWilliamsICG), founder of Ignition Consulting Group has created a map of the foundational elements that the agency of 2020 will need to focus on. These foundational elements are about how agency leaders think about their service models and operate their businesses.

    The elements are grouped into eight different areas: Expertise, Effectiveness, Agility, Pricing, Collaboration, Digital fitness, Innovation, and Accountability.

    “By 2020, in a world of increased fragmentation and specialization, agencies will have to get their business model much more focused,” Williams said. “They have to know what they stand for. They have to know where they can be best in class.”