Thursday, April 19, 2018

Four Tips for Strengthening Your Supply Chain

To remain relevant in the face of competition, it’s essential to build and strengthen the supply chain. At Shamrock, we’ve been building strategic partnerships with suppliers for more than 35 years. That’s our business model. Because we’ve managed our business this way from day one, building a reliable supply chain has truly become a byproduct of our charge to provide our customers with the marketing solutions that meet their evolving needs.

This model has fueled our charge to diversify our product and service offerings. It’s all about supply and demand: Shamrock’s success lies, in part, in our commitment to respond to the growing needs of our customers by expanding our scope to deliver integrated marketing solutions. Three decades ago, Shamrock was a print broker. Today, we’re a full-service marketing and communications agency with a national footprint and a dedicated supply chain.

That said, we’ve learned a few things over the years about supply chain management. Here’s four tips:

1. Vet & align your suppliers.
Clearly product/service quality and reliability are essential. But go the extra step to make sure that your suppliers are in alignment with your brand’s core values. Environmental sustainability, animal-friendly testing, industry best-practices, etc. Identify the risks and rewards associated with your suppliers and adjust accordingly.

2. Set expectations & establish open communication.
Start by outlining what’s expected—from every angle (vendor to agency and agency to client). At the end of the day, you’re responsible for delivering the product to the client, so make sure that your supplier can deliver on his/her end. Based on that scope-of-work agreement, outline your needs and expectations and provide a clear path for ongoing communication.

3. Maintain accountability.
Hold your supplier partners to stringent quality audits and benchmarks. At Shamrock, we lean on our suppliers to drive innovation and cost efficiencies, which then allows us to compete by delivering the best in quality, turnaround and price.

4. Collaborate with industry leaders & peers.
Best practices are best when they’re shared: We can all learn from one another. Collaboration can lead to innovation, new processes, improved quality standards, new delivery options—the list goes on.

If you’re looking to sharpen your competitive edge, evaluating your supply chain processes is a good first step. As the saying goes, you’re only as good as your last performance. Or product launch. Or campaign. It’s up to you to make it a great one.

All the best,
Tim Connor   

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Cheer on Your Team—and Everybody Wins. What kind of teammate are you?

Most of us have been on both the winning and losing side of team play. While it’s usually much more enjoyable to be with the first group, there is value in, and benefits to be gained from, being part of a team regardless of outcome.

Group competitions provide an opportunity to observe and watch others succeed and fail. That success/failure observation is how we learn. It gives us insight into solving the problem or task at hand; and it also models behavior for managing victory or defeat.

These lessons are just as important on a basketball court as they are in a corporate meeting room. The intrinsic rewards of being part of a successful team is powerful: Why do great individual athletes, like Michael Phelps, seem to get more fired up and excited to win relay races than individual events? It’s the exhilarating feeling of being part of something bigger than oneself.

When I think of teamwork, I think of creating synergy, or an environment where The whole is greater than the sum of its parts. First coined by the philosopher Aristotle, this phrase aptly defines the modern concept of synergy. For anyone who has played team sports, it echoes the T.E.A.M. acronym—together, everyone achieves more.

In Gung Ho!, we learn that the gift of the goose is to cheer each other on. Everyone needs a pat on the back, to feel appreciated and valued. Take time to reflect on your actions and contributions as part of your corporate team: What kind of teammate are you? Are you looking to get “the credit”, or do you seek to make others better? Do you thrive on teamwork, or do you prefer to work independently?

What is your contribution to your company’s culture, or your team’s objective? Do you inspire with a positive approach and attitude, or do you hold the team back with negativity?

My personal mission is to help companies, clients and colleagues perform at their highest levels. It is a thrill to watch the process of a team removing barriers and finding ways to raise the standard. When we are successful, we celebrate as a team – which is more fun than a party of one…

What does your company do to promote teamwork? Please chime in our Facebook page.

Bob De Garmo

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Use Customer Personas for Better Marketing Outcomes

Microsoft reports the average person’s attention span is just eight seconds. That’s not surprising given the amount of content we consume every day: According to the American Marketing Association, we are exposed to up to 10,000 brand messages a day. So, as a marketer, how do you make sure your customers don’t simply scroll right by your content?

Make it personal.

By connecting with your audience in more personal and relatable ways, you make stronger and more memorable brand connections. So, it follows that the best way to make such connections is to first get to know your audience or your customers—and then create campaigns that speak directly to them. This is where personas come into play.

Hubspot describes them well: "Buyer personas are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all -- in marketing, sales, product, and services -- internalize the ideal customer we're trying to attract and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.”

Source: Hubspot

To develop accurate customer personas, research is essential—you have to dig down beneath the surface to gather the personal data about your customer that paints a crystal-clear picture about who they really are:
  • What is their age and gender?
  • Which social media platforms do they use: Are they Facebook devotees or all Snapchat?
  • What TV shows do they watch: 60 Minutes? Game of Thrones?
  • What are their values: Are they intent on making a difference through social change? Strong supporters of U.S. veterans?
  • What is their digital capacity: Are they avid smartphone users or adverse to constant connectivity?

Click here to download Hubspot’s worksheet for creating customer personas.

The goal is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes to create a detailed and accurate profile. And then, to use that information to your brand advantage by aligning your marketing plan: Send brand messaging using social media channels where your customer persona spends his/her time; use messaging that speaks your customer persona’s language—and resonates with his/her value system; provide special offers that solve your customer persona’s problems, etc. 

The more questions we ask and the clearer “customer” picture we paint, allows us to be more effective in our marketing efforts. Are you currently using customer personas? I’m interested in your feedback.

Ellen Moriarty

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Dead Sales Leads? Revive Them with Strategic Lead Nurturing.

When we’re making a purchase, most of us shop around for the best deal—or the best quality, or service, or all of the above. Which is why most leads don’t immediately convert to sales, regardless of where they enter the sales funnel.

According to MarketingSherpa, 73% of leads are not ready to buy when they first give you their contact details. This is where lead nurturing comes in: These strategic campaigns work to create relationships and encourage consumers or businesses to become active prospects, and eventually, customers.

Now more than ever, we’re finding that people don’t want to feel like they’re just a number; they want a personal connection. And above all, they want content to be relevant to them. 

A recent article in Entrepreneur magazine concurs: “You can no longer create a single funnel or lead magnet and expect success. Your audience are at different stages, and your job as a marketer is to give them the right content at the right time.”

Again, it’s about getting personal: It’s important to first build intimacy with your audience—you can’t sell 24/7. Work to create relationships by providing value and quality, not quantity. Do that by considering where your contacts are in the sales funnel. The Entrepreneur article explains that scenario, placing prospects into three buckets:
  • The Sidewalk: Those who are not aware they have a pain or problem
  • The Slow Lane: Those who are aware they have a problem, but don't know enough about the process or methodology to move forward
  • The Fast Lane: Those who are ready to commit to a solution, but need more information about what the solution is
After you identify where your leads fall, create specific messaging for each: This brings intimacy into your lead generation and becomes relevant to the right people at the right time:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1PkS7TNlGYuG1hz0Jmk0v2ZSiqmr7SNx3/view?usp=sharing
Click to view infographic

  • People in your sidewalk are not aware of their problem, so you need to produce micro content that illuminates their pain.
  • If they're in your slow lane you need to educate them of your process, which means more in-depth content (articles, guides, longer videos, etc.).
  • Once they enter your fast lane, you can share intimate and detailed content with them, such as webinars, training sessions and phone calls.
Shamrock helps our clients manage lead nurturing campaigns—making meaningful, personal connections (with the right message, at the right time) using an automated marketing platform. Click on the image to view the infographic on the importance of using lead nurturing.

How do you nurture your sales leads? If you’re interested in learning more about content strategies and automated tools for lead nurturing campaign management, connect with me on LinkedIn.
 
Ellen Moriarty
 

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Marketing with Alexa (and other smart speakers)

Artificial intelligence has made its splash debut—and clearly, it’s here to stay. Given the popularity of voice-activated speakers like Amazon Alexa and Apple’s new HomePod, most of us are familiar with the power and influence of AI technology.  

One in six Americans own a voice-controlled smart speaker (up 128% from January 2017, according to an Edison Research poll). And more than half (57%) of smart speaker owners have used the devices to complete a purchase. Clearly, these smart speakers and similar devices hold enormous opportunities and implications for marketing.

The key to successful marketing lies in the ability to deliver the right message, to the right audience, at the right time, using the right channels—and AI can drive that process. The intuitive, voice-activated software gives us smarter searches; more personal, targeted touches; and refined, more relevant content delivery.

Because most owners use their smart speakers for voice searches, the devices greatly increase the importance of voice search optimization and audio content marketing. Before you jump in, first do your research to find out if your target audience is using these AI devices: Learn what questions they ask and how they interact with their speakers.

Next, it’s important to optimize your content so that they can find it: Because most people use questions to search using their smart speakers, research what the most common questions are for your industry or product line. Include those key words and phrases in your online content (website, Facebook page, blog, etc.)
 
After you align your messaging, how do you use that smart-speaker-optimized marketing content to promote your brand? Here’s a few ideas:  
  • Advertise targeted content during daily flash briefings
  • Establish your brand as a thought leader regarding topics relevant to your customers by releasing podcasts
  • Place ads on Spotify or Pandora: Sixty-eight percent of users listen to music on their smart speakers
Many industry experts believe that as technology advances, AI will continue to manage the rote mechanics of marketing, making sense of big data and providing the analytics that we need to make more meaningful customer connections, while leaving the creative content work for us humans. 
 
One thing we know for sure: This is only the beginning. It will be exciting to see where AI takes us.
 
All the best,
Tim Connor

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Pick A Winner: The Perfect Tournament Bracket

Who’s in? Who got left out? The excitement of March Madness is here! At this point in the NCAA tournament, we all have perfect brackets—but that will likely change on day one. At least for the majority of us: The odds of picking a perfect bracket are 1 in 9,223,372,036,854,775,808 (or 1 in 9.2 quintillion). Wrap your mind around those odds!

Our friends at Alta Partners host an annual March Madness Bracket Challenge in which they designate funds for a charity. At this time last year, I was working to lead a team for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's (LLS) Man & Woman of the Year Campaign to raise money for cancer research. Alta Partners donated their proceeds to that campaign, which made a huge impact on my team’s campaign—and a life-changing effect on those who are bravely fighting blood cancers.
http://www.altapartnersllc.com/tt/2018tourney/default.html
This year, Alta Partners is at it again: The Malachi House is the charitable recipient of this year’s bracket challenge. If you’re not familiar, Malachi House is a Cleveland-based ministry that serves people who are terminally ill—all genders, races, religions and national origins, and without cost to the resident or family. This Home ministers to individuals who need an available caregiver, who have limited or no financial resources and need special home care in the final stages of their life. Malachi House is a very special place, and one that our Shamrock family has supported for many years.

So, if you’re looking to pick the perfect bracket, you can’t go wrong by jumping in on the Alta Partners challenge, because the residents at Malachi House win, no matter which teams end up in the finals.

ENTRIES ARE DUE BY MARCH 21st. To sign up ($25 entry fee) and fill out your bracket, follow the link below:
http://www.altapartnersllc.com/tt/2018tourney/default.html

Good luck!
Tim Connor

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Use Promotional Products to Make Brand Impressions

In this digital age, so much of our everyday business is managed online. But as with any other aspect of our lives, balance is essential to success. Promotional products are the ideal source for equilibrium in your marketing program because they make a brand impression offline

Think about it: How many logoed t-shirts do you have in your closet? I’ve got a stack of them—and I’m not alone: Statistics show that, on average, Americans keep t-shirts for 6.3 months, tallying 2,450 impressions. It’s a great example of how a promotional item makes a tangible, lasting brand statement.

These recent statistics from the Promotional Products Association International (PPAI) 2017 Consumer Study speak to the resonating power of promotional products in marketing:
  • 89% of consumers received a promotional product in the last six months. Of those consumers,
  • 79% researched the brand, and
  • 83% are more likely to do business with the brand
Are promotional products part of your current marketing program? Consider that promotional products are the most highly regarded form of advertising (Advertising Specialty Institute 2016). Here’s a few additional statistics to consider as you review and refresh your marketing plan for next quarter:

Which premium items will provide you the best return on your investment? 
  • Pens + Impressions = Best Value:
    The cost per impression is less than 1/10th of a cent in the United States
Which items generate the most impressions?
  • Bags generate more impressions in the U.S. than any other promotional item;
    50% of U.S. consumers own promotional bags
Looking to influence opinions about your brand? The top 5 influential products on opinion of
advertisers:
  1. USB drives
  2. Outerwear
  3. Drinkware
  4. Writing instruments
  5. Performance wear
At Shamrock, our value is not merely sourcing highest quality promotional items at the best price—it’s our ability to connect online and offline channels to complement each other and work together to deliver the message in the most powerful and effective way. The result of that integrated marketing effort is a memorable brand impression. 

If you’d like to talk about integrating promotional products as part of your next campaign, email me at tberry@shamrockcompanies.net

Tim Berry