h1

The Keys to Success and Longevity in Business and Events

November 4, 2013

This originally was published as my contribution to the RSVP MN Magazine Article: Click here to read it therersvpmn-logo

In 2003 there was a huge transformation of the entire workforce in the United States as a whole generation of women bought into the mantra of a revolution known as “Opting Out.” Women were choosing to opt out of the job force to stay home and raise families and seek a balanced life. By 2013, with economics in their current state, women and men are choosing to “Lean in” to their careers and seem to be driven for success. Both movements became vastly popular, and have worked for several individuals, and that is where the problem lies.

These movements have had a huge impact on both our corporate culture and the dynamics of companies, but they have failed to last the test of time. I believe they fail because they have been focused on the individuals that make up a team or company. They fail to work on or have impact on the entire team and culture. The focus has been on the change of self rather than on the team, business or culture. While this has profound effects for individuals, the impact and benefits to business and events has been scattershot and in many instances has had a negative effect.

To go the distance and have longevity, an event or business has to pull together as a team and effect change for growth and success. They need to innovate. The key to all Innovation is that the people in charge are able to keep their vision focused on the Big Picture, instead of being sucked down into the mire and details that often leads to tunnel vision. We have two incredible examples of a company and an event here in the Twin Cities that are exemplary models of this: Target Corporation and the Minnesota State Fair.

Target was recently named as No. 10 of Fast Company’s 2013 “Most Innovative Companies” and is in the caliber of such companies as Nike, Pinterest, Square and Amazon. Its attention to the trends and needs of current shoppers and the future of shopping has lead it to re-imagine its “Big Box” concept to create CityTarget, a half-size store prototype that launched in Chicago, Seattle and Los Angeles.

This model focuses on a demographic that is looking for four-packs of toilet paper rather than a 36-pack, has furnishings more suitable to apartment and balcony dwelling, smaller packaged food proportions, and is more mobile friendly for research, e-commerce and speeding up checkout lines by having additional employees deployed with mobile register scanners.

Target’s focus on value versus volume has proven so successful that they will add three new stores, doubling their new concept and look to take this concept globally in the future. Target’s ability to continually transform and respond to the rapidly changing retail behaviors will keep its chain ahead of its competition at a time when its competition struggles to keep pace and in fact are downsizing the numbers of locations.

The Minnesota State Fair has had innovation at the core of its mission statement since 1859. An event that has continued and has thrived for 154 years has put in a lot of work to keep its offerings fresh, educational and entertaining. Each year, from attractions and food offerings, to events and displays, the Fair not only embodies and lives out its own belief of innovation, but encourages and challenges its participants and vendors to do so as well. Continual feedback and communication from attendees each year drives changes for the future.

Nowhere is this more evident than with the food vendors that innovate each year to come up with the newest flavor trends or gimmick “food on a stick” (candied bacon cannolis or deep fried pickles and chocolate anyone?). Not only does the food then become an innovation that is fresh, but the popularity of the inventive foods has driven media coverage, self fulfilling its ability to remain relevant and fresh year after year.

It is clearly evident that the companies and events that are built on a best practice that focuses on the entity or event such as innovation will far exceed and surpass any practices that focus on the individuals involved. If your team and culture can fully embrace a concept that leads to benefits for all, versus benefits to one, than it is a concept that can stand the test of time. It’s time to opt out of bad practices, lean in to a team concept and employ innovation to your business.

h1

Best Practices – Live Tweeting An Event

July 9, 2013

twitter-button-colorMary Lower, Founder and CEO of Sterling Cross Communications was recently asked to write an article for RSVP MN Magazine for the Meeting and Event Planner Industry on the best practices to use when live-tweeting an event. Here’s her article from the Summer 2013 Issue.

h1

Crowdsourced reviews can put local restaurateurs on the defensive

July 9, 2013

1yelp0302I was recently interviewed by Bill Ward of the Minneapolis Start Tribune for an insight into online reputation issues facing restaurants. We talk about Yelp and how clients I had set up with monitoring tools and training are utilizing those tools in every day restaurant operations!

Click here to read the article in the Star Tribune.

h1

The Paula Deen Effect and your Business – The Perils of Influencer Marketing

July 2, 2013

rsvpmn-logoToday I contributed a guest blog/article to RSVP MN Magazine. Here is the post also a link to the post on their site:

The Paula Deen Effect and your Business – The Perils of Influencer Marketing

By Christopher Lower, Co-Owner and VP of PR, Marketing, & Social Media for Sterling Cross Communications

For many years we have come to learn of the power that celebrity influencers have on businesses. It’s one of the hottest terms in marketing today: Influencer Marketing. Businesses are looking for that lift that can be achieved when a person with a huge audience on multiple communications channels speaks fondly of your service or product and endorses it to their audience. In the most wildly successful cases, it became a phenomenon called the “Oprah Effect” due to the frenzy of business activity a company would receive when mentioned on the popular Oprah Winfrey show by the host herself.

On the negative side of the spectrum would be what has been happening in current events and could be ascribed as being victim to the “Paula Deen Effect”. In this case, the person of influence has become associated with a negative event and has triggered a wave of impact across several businesses that were connected to her, either as a direct working relationship, or in an endorsement relationship. Because of her negative online reputation, and current public perception of her, any brands that are tied to her are suffering. There has been a massive wave of companies scrambling to distance themselves from her brand, many of whom have been intrinsically tied to her popularity in the past.

To be completely fair, Ms. Deen isn’t the only influencer to have a negative impact on brands when a scandal has been tied to their reputation. How easily we forget those like Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods, and so on.

This current case is only greater proof of how important the public perception of your brand and reputation is online. It affects the bottom line, and can impact the stock prices in public companies. It could be your greatest weakness and many companies don’t even know how they can protect and defend their online reputation.

Because of the nature of social media users to have an extremely short attention span, people are more willing to perceive what they find on search engines to be the true nature of your business. You are what Google says you are. Sadly, you are also only as good as the latest and highest search engine ranked review.

As “The Deen Effect” demonstrates, you are also affected by the online reputations and perceptions of those people associated with you. These range from your vendors, suppliers, resellers, channel partners, employees, board members, and anyone else that impacts your brand. Their negative reputations can harm you online as well. You may not have “celebrity” endorsements, but you do have influencers inside and attached to your company. You no longer can afford to not monitor your own company and brand, and it would also be beneficial to monitor the reputations of those associated with your brand where you rely upon them to conduct your business.

Many businesses are scrambling to put together teams that can respond to these new crises situations. These issues may occur across multiple communication platforms in an instant, and can go globally viral in seconds. Traditional PR professionals who don’t have both the crises communications skills and a mastery of social and mobile technologies are obsolete. Using interns to solve the problem is fine for their knowledge of social media tools, but inadequate to deal with the crises communications. You need a team experienced in both that can respond immediately 24 hours a day, every day.

h1

Sterling Cross Communications Celebrates 10 Years of Cross Community Projects (Pro-Bono) for Non-Profits, Charitable Causes, & Faith Based Organizations

January 11, 2013

Sterling Cross Communciations logoThis has been both a great sense of accomplishment and pride for our firm and we hope to continue projects like these for many years to come:

Sterling Cross Communications Celebrates 10 Years of Cross Community Projects (Pro-Bono) for Non-Profits, Charitable Causes, & Faith Based Organizations

Minneapolis, MN – When Mary Lower first proposed the idea to her husband Christopher, that they should put out their own shingle and launch their own Public Relations and Marketing Firm, Sterling Cross Communications, in 2003, they knew they really wanted to put their own stamp on what it meant to be a firm or agency in the Twin Cities. They really wanted to be a firm that stood out from a very crowded creative field in the market. One of those unique differences was the creation of their Cross Community Project program.

There are many great stories that needed to be told to the public, but a lot of charitable, non-profit, volunteer based, and faith-based organizations did not have the budgets, know-how, or manpower to get the word out there to the media. The Lowers decided that no matter how their business would perform, it would always have the Cross Community Program offered.

Four times a year (once each quarter) Sterling Cross takes on a project from one of these groups that fills out a request on their website for help (http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/contact), and selects and provides a pro-bono PR or Marketing project. It started with just the Lower’s choosing projects, but as their firm grew and they added employees, contractors, vendor partners, and clients, the project grew to include recommendations and selections from the entire group.

Mary Lower reflected on the 10 year milestone and said; “We may always be a smaller (size) agency, but we want to have a huge impact on our community.” She continued; “Some of these events reaped tremendous benefits from our effort, helping to make these events or news stories the best they could be and share great stories provided great joy and we felt that was payment enough.” Christopher Lower agreed; “Great stories need to be shared, and as that is a passion of ours, it has truly meant we were honored to be a small part of and to share the stories of people doing great things to impact their communities. Both Lowers hope to still be performing these projects and continuing the Cross Community Projects for many years to come.

For a partial list to some of the parties and organizations they have helped over the years, please click here: http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/industries (listed under the Cross Community Clients). To find out more or to submit your projects for consideration please visit their website here: http://sterlingcrossgroup.com/industries/cross-community-charity-and-non-profit-clients.

h1

The Easiest and Quickest Line Item cut you can make to your Marketing Budget to save money in 2013

December 12, 2012
The Yellow Pages are dead. Cut the deadweight from your Marketing

The Yellow Pages are dead. Cut the deadweight from your Marketing

If there is one thing you should rush to do to stop any useless dollars being spent in your marketing budgets now and for the future is to end all money spent with Yellow Pages (yes including those that claim to be “online” these days). It is time to put these paper behemoths permanently in the recycling bins!

According to pewinternet.org, 14% Of the American Population even knows what the Yellow Pages are! 1% Of Americans will ever search for a business in the Yellow Pages. The Yellow pages of today are online business directories such as Google Places, Linkedin, Yelp, and Facebook. All of these sites have options for businesses to set up business accounts with a basic listing always being free of charge. There are of course customization and enhancements to your listings such as running optimized targeted advertising, posting product photos, and video.

The traditional Yellow Pages companies have made the migration online, and Qwestdex (Dexonline) seems to be the most aggressive and capable, yet there is a major problem. They are extremely far behind these other platforms in the areas of SEO. It is rare to find unpaid Dexonline listings ever appearing in the top ten listings on Google for a business. I would love to revisit them in the future, as I am always rooting for businesses to reinvent themselves to survive in the new economy. For now, when it comes to Yellow Pages advertising in any way shape or form, my advice is that from the one-hit-wonder band of the 80’s;  Slade and their song “Run Runaway!”

h1

The One Thing You Have To Do To Your Website In 2013

December 10, 2012

I am constantly being asked by clients and panels that I am speaking on, about how to prioritize the very limited budgets that are being forecasted for 2013 when it comes to what they can do for marketing that will give them the greatest ROI without costing an arm and a leg. Here is my best advice for 2013:

It’s no longer “good enough” to have a website and to be found on the internet. That website you invested good money into building and maybe even rebuilt once or twice in the last five years is obsolete. Visitors to your site are leaving in droves, or not even finding your site in the first place. Is it because of a lack of SEO (search engine optimization)? No. It is because you can’t be found on mobile devices.

Up until 2011 most website designers designed websites to be viewed on a 15” or larger sized computer monitor or screen. 90% of today’s Smart Phones (phones with the ability to access the internet) come with standard 2”x 3”screens, so at most, they are seeing as tiny portion of your website or your whole website in a micro-size.

Why is this so important?

According to pewinternet.org, in 2012 half of all American Adults (ages 18-60) will access the internet only through a Mobile Device such as a cellphone or tablet.

Mobile User's Frustrations

Mobile User’s Frustrations

When a mobile user visits a standard website and has a negative experience:

  • Most, over 61%, never come back
  • Almost all the rest, nearly 40%, go to YOUR competitor’s site

The top complaints of mobile users about websites are:

  • It takes forever to download.
  • It doesn’t fit on the screen.
  • The text is too small.
  • I can’t navigate the interface.
  • I have to pinch & zoom to view anything.
  • It takes too much time to use

So, what can be done to correct this? At Sterling Cross we have been researching these issues and at the request of our clients we have come up with a solution we have now added to our service offerings for 2013 and beyond! We’ve met with and surveyed over 12 of the top local, regional, and 2 national web design firms to create a solution that can meet the needs of our clients, whether they are looking for the most cost effective solution or as part of a redesign of their entire site.

The number one recommendation from almost every single website company was to do a complete website redesign and incorporate “responsive” technology where the website will detect what type of device is browsing the site (smartphone, tablet, or computer) and display that version of the site (essentially building you three sites). This is of course how all websites will be built in the future, and if you are looking for an entire rebuild of your site, we’ll gladly help you in that process.

If you are looking for a short-term or a more cost effective solution to modify your site without redoing the entire website, we now offer the following three solutions:

  1. For 95% of Custom HTML or Open Source code websites: you simply add a “Mobile Style Sheet” Which recognizes when a mobile browser is viewing the site and adapts it to mobile view. (This typically requires only a couple hours from a coder to adjust on your site).
  2. WordPress sites have a free Mobile WordPress “plug-in” that can be added to also discern who is viewing from a mobile browser and adapt the view (The WordPressbasic widget, truly is very basic. We would recommend 1-2 hours of a coder or designer to create a mobile interface template that matches your brand).
  3. If your site is not in these two categories, we can do the custom coding to do to provide a front end Responsive Bumper. This bumper recognizes the device browsing the site and seamlessly directs it to a mobile version of your website, which mirrors the data and info on your current site. We can do this on an hourly basis, without having to revamp the whole site, typically for a fraction of a total website redesign.

Please contact us for more information or if you are interested in any of these solutions. Your customers ARE on mobile, shouldn’t you be as well?

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

Make Your Website Mobile Friendly

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.