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Published by Elizabeth Godfrey , July 18th, 2017
Why Creative Matters
A great creative team should be engaged in all aspects of your business, from your overall brand, print and digital content marketing pieces, and internal communications right down to your actual product or services. Though businesses often need little convincing to see the ROI for the latest technology, design is still considered difficult to quantify and “isolate as a function.” While it is true that creative cannot be broken down into a measurement of output, there are ways to identify what makes it valuable.
 
Understanding the Investment.
We are all consumers. Though we might not consciously know why we like some package designs more than others, chances are we have heard about the impact product packaging plays. Research shows that improving your product is a great first step that compounds your return when combined with good creative. Design goes hand-in-hand with good customer service and a quality product, especially as more customers engage with your company through digital materials. But if you have the best product – that speaks for itself, right? Not anymore.
 
As technology continues to advance and the growth in online shopping expands the global economy, superior products and customer service are no longer enough to separate you from the competition which is fiercer than ever now. Research has shown that those who come top in sales do so through design-driven initiatives.
 
Design Management Institute (DMI) is a membership organization that brings together design thought leaders across industries worldwide. They strive to both define good design and quantify the return on investment. DMI, in conjunction with Motiv Strategies, developed the dmi: Design Value Index to examine the performance outcomes of 15 design-centered, publicly traded US businesses in relation to the S&P 500. The dmi: Design Value Index quantified the ROI of design in terms of sales, profits, market share growth, and market valuation and determined definitively that those who invest in good creative show substantial advantages over those who do not. In fact, over a period of three years, these companies outperformed the S&P in excess of 200% each year.
 
Marketing experts and business leaders have no doubt that investing in good creative delivers the greatest ROI – design increases profits, company value, and is the surest way to outperform the competition. Investing in creative has tangible, long-term benefits as the importance of design and the strategic advantage it offers is unlikely to go away in the near future. What’s more, potential customers often judge your creative design, and your brand, before they ever experience your product.
 
 
What is Design?
Design is more than logos and color schemes. Good design is an investment that leads to greater profits. It is a creative solution to your problems that relies on function as much as aesthetics. The science is there. We are hardwired to process images far faster than we can process the written word. Visuals grab our attention. Yet good design isn’t just about aesthetics. It is a direct connection to your customers that helps lead them in the right direction.
 
Your website is your business digitized. Without investing in a creative team that understands how to develop an engaging design as well as a user-friendly interface you cannot expect to see a compelling ROI. Content may be king, but without a good design no one will stick around long enough to read even the most compelling copy. Furthermore, while a good product will keep your customers coming back, engaging and effective design of all your sales elements will help customers remember you and make them more likely to recommend your company to others.
 
Businesses who had:
Adapted from the Design Council
 
The Design Council UK is recognized internationally as an authority on strategic design. The non-profit organization has spent 70 years championing the value of creative and sees design as a social responsibility as it is used to solve real world problems no matter how big or how small. The organization’s “Value of Design Factfinder Report,” determined that “businesses that see design as integral are more than twice as likely as others to see rapid growth.”
 
OffWhite has spent more than 30 years providing creative solutions to clients in a wide array of industries. We have seen first-hand the value our meticulous design brings to these businesses. Let us map your problems and develop strategic solutions that are backed by research, innovative thinking, and a true understanding of who you are and what your company can do. Contact Bill White or Abby Spung at 800.606.1610 to see how a design-centered approach can set you apart from the competition.
 
 
 
 
Published by Russell Cooper, June 29th, 2017
Leadership for Growth
In my first article of this series, I suggested that growth is the exception, not the rule, in business affairs. Over the last 25 years, I have come to see how leadership makes all the difference in the world. We all have first-hand knowledge of one organization or another where stagnation, if not decline, is the hallmark. Then, the ship turns and fortunes rise with relative growth and prosperity.

The most perplexing cases are those where many of the environmental factors did not seem to change radically. The available markets were about the same, the economy was about the same, state of technology was about the same - why even most of the employees, customers, and competitors were the same! The only significant change was a new leadership structure - a few key individuals - that encountered the same set of circumstances and decided to set a new course. As the old saying goes: Personnel is Policy.

Growth and change are sometimes treated as two separate subjects in business, but I would suggest they are one and the same. More obvious shifts in leadership can occur when new blood is brought in from outside the organization. But sometimes change in fortunes can also arise from within moribund firms.

Stagnation can lead to frustration, and when that reaches a breaking point, individuals, ideas, and agendas - heretofore not understood, considered too junior, or believed to be too costly or risky - are given an opportunity to be tested. If growth is to become the order of the day, a firm must look beyond traditional structures and promotion pathways of personnel. Interestingly enough, over the years, it’s at junctures such as these that many of OffWhite’s clients have first turned to us for assistance. New directions and strategies often require fresh insights and new tools.   

What drives one leadership team to seek growth and success, when other managements remain satisfied with simply coasting? We rarely have to look beyond the usual suspects of human nature – fame, control, or financial reward. The simple reality is that growth affords more publicity and profit to share than merely existing year after year. But truly remarkable leaders create objectives and incentives that align their entire organizations to the mission and its success. This is critical to harnessing what may have previously been idle talent, passion and commitment within the ranks.

The job of the leader has its essentials - creating a consensus of vision, developing the appropriate supporting strategies, recruiting and organizing the talent to execute these strategies, and marshalling the needed resources. Nowhere are these responsibilities more important than when a new growth trajectory is embarked upon. One other responsibility stands out here - the ability to communicate, internally and outwardly, the truth of how things will be different than in the past. It’s for reasons such as these that OffWhite assists clients to not only explain what they do, but how and why they do it.

Growth can be achieved by a variety of means - entering new markets, creating service components, marketing and licensing agreements, new product development, etc. Regardless of method, what is important is that old Peter Drucker gem: "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."
 
Skeptics of growth exist in every organization; the leader needs to define larger markets and smaller shares as a starting point. Developing and selling new products is always more difficult than doing so with those that already exist; the leader needs to break out the measurement of the relative success of the growth strategies and project the expected future impact. New initiatives must be over-weighted early on with regard to incentives and reward; if this appears a departure from traditional expectations, leadership must make the case that something larger is at stake.
 
Finally, unlike managing a longstanding, stable business, successfully leading new growth initiatives requires a creative understanding of critical paths, key milestones, and important tipping points; this is because timing resource commitments, and aligning the returns from them, will be unfamiliar territory for much of the organization.

Sometimes, growth requires heroic efforts of its leaders, but this can be overblown too. More often than not, what is really called for is creativity and thoughtfulness, determination and perseverance, and the ability to communicate with, and motivate, others. It is best undertaken with a serious, yet cheerful disposition. I suppose a little luck never hurt.

If you find yourself in a new position, charged with engineering growth for your organization, and need to take stock of inherited marketing practices, or simply seek a new partner to support your efforts, consider giving OffWhite an opportunity to explain its services and past results. For more information, contact Bill White or Russell Cooper at 800-606-1610.
 
 
 
 
Published by Jane Cirigliano , May 30th, 2017
SSL Security and Google
An SSL certificate allows you to submit sensitive information securely over an encrypted internet connection. While SSL certificates have primarily been used for ecommerce websites in the past, recent Google algorithm updates are giving preference to companies who take security seriously.
 
Google's HTTPS ranking signal started with a low impact in early 2017. The search engine has indicated that the weight of security on rankings may increase in the future as Google wants to "encourage all website owners to switch from HTTP to HTTPS to keep everyone safe on the web."
 
Not only does having an SSL certificate help your search engine rankings, it also alleviates confusion following browser security updates. For example, Firefox and Chrome now give users security errors on any form they fill out on a non-secure site (any site without an HTTPS prefix). Filling out a lead generation form or even doing something as innocuous as logging into a webmail account on a server that doesn't use an SSL certificate now looks suspicious.
 
 
As internet users become more aware of security when submitting their personal information, SSL certificates will become necessary for successful lead generation campaigns. Trust is key to prospects providing their information through contact and content marketing lead generation forms. If prospects are concerned that their personal information could be intercepted or misused, they are less likely to share their information.
 
If you have noticed a decrease in your website leads or search engine rankings over the past few months, the lack of HTTPS/SSL on your website could be the culprit. And if you haven't experienced any negative effects of new security updates yet, take preventative action now.
 
To learn more about the latest trends in SEO and how you can improve your business's visibility, contact Bill White or Abby Spung at 800.606.1610.
 
 
 
 
 
Published by Russell Cooper, April 27th, 2017
Innovation for Growth Planning Session
 
If growth - driven by new products and services - were the natural state of business affairs, the economy would grow more than 2% per year. In fact, you might say that simple inflation of prices accounts for this level and real growth this last decade has been next to nil. In 2016, Robert Gordon’s monumental study, The Rise and Fall of American Growth, provided ample documentation of how most of the necessities, conveniences, and productivity enhancers of our modern life were invented and developed more than 70 years ago. Efforts since - with the exception of computing and media - have largely been just window dressing. Planes fly at the same speed they did in 1957.
 
My first, eye-opening encounter with the inability of your average business to invent, grow, and change was my involvement with an industrial retention association in Cleveland during the mid 2000s. This was a group of family businesses and smaller divisions of corporations - largely long established and employing 25-200 employees. There were no start-ups in the group. Many were single product or service firms. Sadly, most seemed a few generations removed from the inspiration and energy that created them. As a sizeable portion of these firms were experiencing declining fortunes at the time, the association organized workshops and group discussions to address growth issues; launching e-commerce, overseas expansion, new product development, or starting service arms. To my astonishment, the general consensus was to "wait out the recession and business levels will return to normal."
 
Let’s look at the other end of the spectrum. In the mid-1990s, I worked at Emerson Electric and participated in their growth planning cycle, which culminated each year with a one- or two-day growth conference for each division. Leading up to this, Engineering and Marketing teams would invest months investigating how to squeeze out new variations of existing products, or finding new applications for existing offerings. Given the time, effort, and results, it was taking a sledgehammer to a nail. But you damn well knew that growth beyond inflation levels was expected. In 30 years, I have rarely encountered such a commitment in the many businesses I have come to know. Most don’t have the discipline for it. Does yours?
 
In order to develop and launch new products and services, a firm must have ideas and ambitions. More precisely, the critical few individuals who innovate and lead within the firm must have these. Organizational vision and commitment to planning and marketing are also required, otherwise ideas and ambition cannot flourish.
 
There are a variety of approaches to achieve business growth through new products and service offerings. Many times, your ambitions are augmented by factors outside your control or knowledge. John Rockefeller had a superhuman fixation on making kerosene cheap and safe for the masses, in hopes of extending the hours of the day with light. He was hugely successful early on to be sure. But the success and wealth of Standard Oil would have been limited without the advent of the automobile and its insatiable thirst for gasoline some 30 years into these efforts. The readiness to address new opportunities was the greatest factor.
 
At other times, the larger growth may lay beyond your original scope for an idea.It was recently reported that tens of thousands of traditional retail stores - both independent and large national chains - will close this year and next. Do we really believe that Amazon had this in mind as a primary goal of its business 15 or 20 years ago? Its early business model was based on channel to market innovation, and it proved to be a wrecking ball for the likes of Borders and Barnes and Noble, not to mention the devastation visited upon local independent booksellers. In these early days of success, management consultants urged the firm to stay true to its niche and fundamentals and harvest the fruits of this innovation. Luckily for the future utility and convenience of the vast consuming public, once the concept was mastered, Amazon invested heavily in expanding this vision into new products and markets.
 
But innovation is not enough on its own. Gone are the days of the world beating a path to your door for a better product or service; the ever-shrinking global marketplace is too crowded and competitive. This is why OffWhite is increasingly emphasizing to its clients the importance of successfully launching new products and services. For 32 years, our firm has specialized in making complex and technical concepts more understandable. Where are such services more important than with introducing new products or reaching new markets?
 
 
In a series of blogs throughout this year, OffWhite will share its experiences, suggesting strategies and tactics that help to insure success, warn of common mistakes, obstacles and risks, and make light of how we can help you reach your goals for sustainable growth. For more information, Contact Russell Cooper at 800-606-1610.  
 
 
 
 
Published by Elizabeth Godfrey , March 7th, 2017
Interesting Whitepapers
 
Even if you regularly download and read white papers, chances are you have not considered what makes a document a ‘white paper’ and not an article, technical bulletin or something else. As content marketing pieces, white papers can represent very different styles with some that are much more effective than others.
 
A good white paper is essentially a hybrid technical (or academic) marketing piece that is intended to educate the target audience. As a marketing piece, it should contain captivating subheadings that make the information simple to skim and lead the audience through the paper to the conclusion. The subheadings should lend to the overall structure of the paper by providing clear signposting that makes the paper easy to navigate and helps establish it as a valuable educational resource.
 
An Argument for Better Papers
All white papers are persuasive pieces, whether they aim to convince readers of a particular solution to a common industry problem or convey that the newest technology or research innovation offers the answers to their problems. The resolution represents the paper’s conclusion, and ‘soft sell.’ An effective white paper must be written with this intended argument in mind.
 
The Marketing Component
Unlike brochures and other marketing pieces, white papers should not contain overt selling as the primary goal is to educate readers. The soft sell in the conclusion allows the business or company to provide readers with a chance to learn more about the specific solution. It also typically contains a call to action for next steps. Any marketing in an effective white paper is considered ‘soft’ because it should not alienate readers or detract from the educational aspects of the paper.
 
Determining Your Audience
Who do you want to reach with your white paper? With the broad goal of a white paper established, one of the first steps for success is to consider who you hope to inform. In selecting your target audience, it is helpful to identify problems or needs your ideal reader may face so you can better map your solution. Targeting a broader audience, such as a specific industry, means a larger reach for your paper. This gives you a bigger impact on brand recognition and helps position your company as an authority on the subject. However, if your solution or goal for the paper is to close sales, you may want a more focused audience. Writing to the executive suite or to those with buying power is more effective in this case as you can specifically address the technical aspects that are most important to the specific group.
 
Establishing Length
Word count ideally stems from the topic itself. In general, the goal is to find something that is Goldilocks approved – not too long, not too short but just right. The most beneficial white papers for readers are those that examine something new and support findings and claims with evidence. While the white paper is more of a hybrid document when executed effectively, it is still a marketing piece. It is therefore essential to remember the overarching goal, whether that is lead generation, closing the sale or establishing thought leadership. Your white paper should move readers through the content toward the bigger picture. To ensure they make it to the paper’s conclusion, however, you need to keep your readers’ interest. Holding an audience is much more difficult when the paper is very long.
 
Setting the Tone
Unlike a blog, white papers need to maintain a tone that conveys thought leadership and credibility. This does not mean the writing needs to be stuffy. In general, white papers should avoid first and second person language (I, we and you respectively) in order to maintain an appropriate tone. As with all technical writing, the content should strive for accessibility. Even papers that explore more in-depth, technical topics should written clearly and concisely.
 
To Byline or Not to Byline
Should my white paper list an author? The simple answer to this question is, it depends. Including a byline for a well-known industry expert can absolutely strengthen both the creditability and desirability of a white paper. If your business publishes white papers frequently, this can also help establish your team’s subject matter experts and generate a regular audience, making your paper more likely to be disbursed organically.
 
On the other side of this, attribution to a person, rather than the company in general, may strengthen the brand of the specific author as much as, or more than, the brand of your company. While not inherently negative, the risk of losing established thought leadership due to turnover is something every company should consider before deciding on attribution.
 
White papers are not new, but they also aren’t going anywhere. An effective white paper can make all the difference in the continued push to gain new leads and set your brand apart from the competition. They also benefit your company as much as they benefit your audience. White papers are a long-term investment that helps persuade potential customers to choose your company. They also educate your sales reps and give them a valuable tool to close the sale.
 
Let OffWhite help you create more effective white papers or other content marketing pieces. Contact Bill White or Abby Spung at 800.606.1610.
 
 
 
 
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