Tech Talk: Getting the Most From Your Marketing Firm

EDITOR’S NOTE: Jim Walton is CEO of Brand Acceleration, Inc., which focuses on economic development marketing. Jim’s tips, however, can apply to all company-marketing partnerships. Learn more at www.brandaccel.com.

After working in the advertising and marketing industry for several decades, I can tell you that there remains a lot of confusion about what a marketing firm or ad agency does. For many, the notion is that such firms are made up of purple-haired, bearded designer types with tattoos and flip-flops. Admittedly, there are some of those, but today’s successful marketing firms offer much more than just design.

So, how do you select a marketing firm? What skills and characteristics do you look for? Once selected, how do you make the partnership work? Here are a few pointers:

It’s a partnership
The first thing the client (economic developer) needs to remember is that it’s a partnership relationship. Great marketing firms work as part of your marketing team, not just as a vendor who is there to take orders and design stuff. They assume an ownership role in you and your community. They’re in it for the long haul.

Think big picture
Great organizations, including economic development organizations (EDO), have a well-thought-out set of goals, setting forth their vision for the community’s future. From the first day, the EDO should get the new marketing firm involved with the visioning, making them part of the team, and sharing the vision. This is not the time to hold back or to be secretive.

The marketing firm should provide depth and counsel
Have you ever hired a designer to create a new brochure or website, just to find that you spend much of your time teaching him or her about economic development? Maybe you even have to do all the copywriting because the designer doesn’t write.

A great marketing firm should know your industry and your audiences as well, or better, than you. Do they know any site selectors or real estate professionals? Have they ever visited c-suite offices or interviewed corporate executives about their expectations of marketing tools? To save yourself a lot of aggravation, seek out a marketing firm that knows your audiences. They should also demonstrate a deep knowledge of marketing principles. From start-to-finish, the marketing firm should know and be able to communicate your story.

Get them involved early and often
Let’s say your organization wants to target the food industry, and you’re considering ways to reach out to people in that industry. From that very moment, that’s when you should get your marketing firm involved. Rather than simply cranking out a food industry brochure, the marketing firm, working as your partner, will help flesh out important considerations and provide ideas for ways to successfully reach the audience with the right message.

Be open to new ideas
Coming off point number four, you should always be open to new and different ideas. A marketing firm with broad experiences may bring you a suggestion that you never considered. They will also offer suggestions that are more in tune with the big picture (point number two).

Cheaper isn’t necessarily better
We are often asked what our hourly rate is, as if a lower rate means a cheaper final product. It doesn’t. If a vendor has a low hourly rate, there’s probably a good reason for that. Instead, you should look for a firm, fixed price that won’t change unless the scope of work changes. That way, you’ll know how much to budget.

What services do they provide, and which ones do you need?
Some agencies offer a very narrow line of services, like web design. Others offer a much broader list, such as media planning and buying, public relations, video production, workforce attraction marketing, event planning and management, etc. It’s unwise to limit yourself by selecting a firm that is unable to grow with your needs.

Be responsive
Working with a marketing firm does not mean that all the burden is on their shoulders. They’re going to need your input to get work done, especially if the work is on a deadline. You’ll be asked to proofread work and answer numerous questions to be sure it meets your expectations. It’s important to respond right away.

By making your marketing firm a trusted partner in your community economic development marketing effort, you’ll have a much greater likelihood of success. Hire the best, and you’ll experience truly positive results.

Tech Talk: Federal Tech Team Still in Place

The following is excerpted from NextGov:

An Obama-era technology troubleshooting team has continued under President Donald Trump, maintaining projects some experts suspected would be shuttered in the new administration.

The U.S. Digital Service, a task force of professionals recruited from the private sector, was established to tackle some of the federal government’s highest profile and highest risk technology challenges. Today, it has satellite operations in seven federal agencies, including Defense, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services.

The team reports to the Office of Management and Budget and is now part of the American Technology Council, a group of business leaders that President Trump taps for advice on federal problems. The Digital Service (USDS) also works with the White House Office of American Innovation, which is led by Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner and is aiming to modernize government technology.

Among the recent USDS priorities, according to its report to Congress:

  • A variety of projects for Veterans Affairs – building and deploying a system to process claims for disability compensation; piloting a tool to allow lawyers and judges to review evidence from those claims; and launching Vets.gov, an online portal consolidating thousands of federal benefit sites for veterans.
  • Collaborating with U.S. Citizenship and Innovation Services to digitize the immigration paperwork processing system.
  • Shoring up the federal purchasing process, including an education program to train contracting officers on buying digital IT services.

The USDS web site notes that in support of its goals, “We recruit top technologists for term-limited tours of duty with the federal government. We hope to encourage a tradition of public service in the technology industry that will support the ongoing improvement of government digital services.”

Bottom line: There’s no doubt that there are plenty of opportunities for improvement when it comes to government and technology. Let’s hope USDS can play a positive role in that mission.

Talking Technology at Connect & Collaborate Sessions

“Today, every company is a technology company. We know technology is evolving quickly and not just in current businesses, but those that are looking to make their mark in Indiana,” says Brock Hesler, Indiana Chamber director of membership.

“If you don’t evolve, you could be left behind and your business growth might be hindered.”

The Indiana Chamber is once again hosting the Connect & Collaborate series as a thank you to its members and investors. The 2017 focus is technology – how it is permeating Hoosier businesses, and how companies can learn and adapt to new and improved ways of getting things done. Presented by AT&T, the series begins in May and concludes in August.

Consider these examples from the world of agriculture. What if technology could provide an answer to how much moisture is in a stalk of corn or a field of beans? What if farmers could drive tractors from a remote location or control an entire farm from a keyboard?

These scenarios sound futuristic, but are starting to become reality around Indiana. It’s not just the agriculture industry that is heavily impacted by new technologies: advanced manufacturing, logistics and others are already changing dramatically – as are the workforce skills required to staff these industries.

Attendees can hear an update on the Indiana Technology & Innovation Council, and a local business/community leader from each of the 12 Connect & Collaborate locations will comment on how that area or region is utilizing technology. A panel discussion will also allow for audience questions.

The free series – with either breakfast or lunch included (depending on the time of day) – enables companies to hear directly from Indiana Chamber representatives and learn more about membership resources available to them. Several new locations are included in 2017.

“This is a way to thank our members for their investment and support,” Hesler adds, “while also providing information that we think can help them succeed at an even higher level.”

Dates and cities for the Connect & Collaborate series:

May 9, Indianapolis
May 11, Lafayette
May 30, Bloomington and Columbus
June 6, Huntingburg and Evansville
June 8, Muncie and Richmond
June 13, Terre Haute
June 20, South Bend
June 22, Fort Wayne
August 16, Scottsburg

For complete details on locations and to register, go online or call Nick at (317) 264-6885.

Mixed Bag With Tech, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Priorities in Senate Budget

The long-awaited announcement of the Senate initial version of the budget came late
last week. In it, there are several technology-related issues that were either included or dropped from the bill, as well as some funding amounts also reduced from the House version:

  • Transferability of the Venture Capital Tax Credit was deleted. The Chamber would like to see it included to increase the flow of venture capital funds for promising qualified businesses.
  • Funding of the 21 Fund (21st Century Research and Development Fund) remains at $20 million a year. The Chamber prefers $30 million a year.
  • Funding to backstop the initiation of direct flights to Europe was reinstated, although it is $4 million rather than $10 million over the two years. A good start.
  • Funding for the Management Performance Hub (MPH) was reduced to $6 million for two years, which is less than what the House reduced from the Governor’s original amount.
  • Keeps $20 million for the two years for the Indiana Biosciences Research Institute
  • Removed the Next Level Trust Fund, which would have provided investment guidelines and supervision to direct a portion of the Major Moves Trust Fund to invest in promising Indiana opportunities.
  • It allocates $1 million for the biennium for the Launch Indiana program.

We will work to keep the things we like in the bill and try to restore other items that were reduced or removed as it advances through the Senate and goes to conference committee. The Chamber will continue to educate legislators on these important economic development priorities currently in the bill.

New Addition: Indiana Technology & Innovation Council

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Technology companies are relocating to and growing in portions of Indiana. The mission of the Indiana Chamber’s new Indiana Technology & Innovation Council is to support and expand those efforts.

The Chamber will utilize its policy, political affairs, event planning, research, communications and financial resources in collaboration with tech company leaders and organizations. The Indiana Technology & Innovation Council opens the door statewide to those wanting to join Chamber members, who will receive these expanded benefits as part of their current Chamber dues investment.

Chamber members can participate in upcoming open discussions on policy and programming priorities. Two committees – Tech Policy, and Program and Trends – comprised of representatives of member companies will develop a specific policy agenda and programming that supports existing efforts.

Full details are available in this press release. Mark Lawrance (mlawrance@indianachamber.com), who recently returned to the Chamber as Vice President of Engagement and Innovation Policy, will be the lead staff person.

“We’re excited to partner with tech companies and their leaders,” states Lawrance, “while offering a statewide platform to expand Indiana’s growing tech success story.”

Picture This: Catching Up on Cyber Monday Sales

Three Businesswomen Texting

Cyber Monday.

It’s a catchy phrase to describe a day dedicated to fingers furiously pounding keyboards or mobile devices to grab the best deals on a plethora of holiday gifts.

PFSweb, a leading global provider of comprehensive eCommerce solutions, posted a cool infographic of 2015 Cyber Monday activity and how it compares to 2014.

Who did the spending and did it come from their digital devices or desktops? See for yourself.

But first, a couple highlights:

  • Average order value: $123.43 (down 78 cents)
  • Digital sales: $3.19 billion (up from $2.59 billion)
  • Desktop sales: $2.28 billion (up from $2.04 billion)
  • Mobile sales: $838 million (up from $548 million) – a 53% jump!

Blinding Music Fans with Science

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While I’m passionate about music, it’s rare that I don headphones and pop in a CD to inspire me during the workday. Perhaps I should change my tune.

Turns out there’s a melodious connection between music and productivity. Check out this Business Insider story to see – and hear – for yourself.

The story offers several approaches to boosting productivity. One involves choosing songs that feature sounds of nature:

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently discovered that adding a natural element could boost moods and focus.

Sounds of nature can mask intelligible speech just as well as white noise while also enhancing cognitive functioning, optimizing the ability to concentrate and increasing overall worker satisfaction, the researchers found. The mountain stream sound researchers used in their study also possessed enough randomness that it didn’t distract test subjects.

Other examples include listening to songs you enjoy, songs you don’t really care about (the horror!), songs without lyrics, songs with a specific tempo and songs played at medium volume.

Let’s rock!

VIDEO: Ikelite Making a Splash in Indy

David Combs, general manager of Ikelite, spoke with BizVoice about the intriguing history of the Indianapolis company and why it’s so successful. Some may find it odd that a company so loved by SCUBA divers would be based in Indiana, but hey, it’s been working since the 1960s!

Read the Indiana Ingenuity feature on this exceptional business in BizVoice.

Indiana Schools Earn Campus Technology Innovators Awards

Campus Technology, one of the top information sources for higher education news, recently presented its annual Innovators Awards. Four of the 12 national awards presented went to universities in the Hoosier state.

IT Infrastructure and Systems
Indiana University
Project: One.IU (OneCampus)
Project Lead: Eric Westfall, enterprise software architect
Vendors/technologies: Developed in-house, rSmart

Category description: IT Infrastructure and Systems (including, but not limited to): learning management systems; collaboration technologies and environments; learning space design/architecture/smart classrooms; classroom management and control systems; data security and authentication; networking; SaaS and cloud computing; telecommunications; digital repositories/digital libraries; high-performance computing; green technologies; disaster recovery and business continuity; help desk.


Student Systems and Services
Ball State University
Project: Ball State Achievements
Project Lead: Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs and dean of students
Vendors/technologies: Developed in-house

Category description: Student Systems and Services (including, but not limited to): technology for career services; advising/online advising; technology for housing; physical security and emergency planning; eTextbooks/bookstore; instructional resources and library services; recruitment/eRecruitment.


Teaching and Learning
University of Notre Dame
Project: E-Portfolios With Evidenced-Based Badges
Project Lead: G. Alex Ambrose, associate professor of the practice and associate director of e-portfolio assessment
Vendors/technologies: Credly, Digication

Category description: Teaching and Learning (including, but not limited to): learning design/instructional design; immersive technologies; social software, Web 2.0; mobile learning; teaching in the smart classroom; collaboration tools; student assessment; student ePortfolios; lecture capture; eLearning; accessibility.


Education Futurists
Ball State University
Project: The Traveler
Project Lead: Kyle Parker, senior software engineer for developing technologies
Vendors/technologies: Developed in-house

Category description: Education Futurists (including, but not limited to): visionary learning technology development; new program development; institutional reformation; trend spotters: technology and society.