Published by Bill White , February 26th, 2015
In Early February I took a walk through the Global Center for Health Innovation, part of the Cleveland Convention Center. This facility is one of its kind in the world, an interactive showroom of healthcare innovation, technology, education and commerce, all supported with wide open spaces, hands-on programs, virtual presentations and an epic view of the Cleveland skyline. While on-site I met a technician who was sprucing up a display area in advance of a film shoot over the weekend.
I’m not sure what the movie will be about or who will be starring in it; perhaps a futuristic tale in a glass walled emporium, Terminal Tower in the background, with the Cleveland Indians battling evil and the curve ball with light sabers while sausage mascots race about the room.
During the course of our discussion the technician was wiping down a European-manufactured fume hood. Great piece of equipment, he said, real classy engineering, like a Mercedes. More expensive on the front end, but a real bargain overall.
How so, I asked?
Well, he said, one of the leading USA brands next to it sells for about ten grand. This European version is thirteen. But this cheaper American hood sucks more air out of the lab, which means more heating and air conditioning wasted into outer space (where the light sabers actually function, I thought). The European product costs less to operate, he added. Way less.
I know there are some wonderful, high-efficiency hoods produced here in the USA; this wasn't one of them. So, I asked, reaching deep and righteously into my sustainability suitcase, the difference should be easy to measure and the payback should be easy to calculate. An easy sell to a smart architect or lab planner, yes?
No, he said. That’s what’s so pathetic. We showed them the numbers; payback on the purchase cost differential was a little over a year based on their own HVAC calculations. But they wouldn’t budge. They bought the cheap ones, a hundred of them, saved three hundred grand on the acquisition price and stuck the facility managers with an operating cost differential of more than a million and a half dollars over the next six years. The folks paying the bills down the road are in for a rude awakening. It’s a disconnect and a waste.
Who made the decision, I asked. The architect, he said. Didn’t you make the case for total life cycle cost differences, I asked? Sure, but you know what they told me? They said it “wasn’t their job”. Their job was to bring the project in on time and on budget, nothing more.
This conversation irritated me like a blown save after a two run lead.
Not their job, I questioned? Whose job is it to save a research institution a mil and a half over six years?
Hell if I know, he said, but until these research folks here in the USA start managing resources like the Europeans, we’ll continue to see ignorant purchasing decisions made by smart people who simply don’t talk to one another. In this case, that million and a half should have been plowed back into research instead of exhausted through the roof. It’s like – you know – they’re not even thinking.
This wasn’t news to me. But hearing it from a dude wiping down a piece of sheet metal in advance of a photo shoot reinforced a reality – again - that marketing is about building and communicating a value proposition far beyond the obvious, far beyond the purchase price, and deep into the ninth inning.
For me, marketing is education. One of the greatest assets we can create for a client is a smart customer. Conversely, smart customers make our clients better.
Consider this. From home to first base is a 90-foot sprint. For those of you who dress in pink shirts and run the 10k and feel good about it, perhaps it’s time to send a message to the folks who spend your money. Research is not a sprint to first, it’s a marathon. We expect you to work together and invest wisely. This is the key to efficiency in the marketplace.
Efficiency means that over time one obscure product that sucks too much heating and air conditioning into the ozone layer will suck less. The Americans are getting more efficient every day and leading the way in innovation. Over time the Europeans will find a way to reduce their price. Over time those research dollars we drip like sweat into medical research through 10k’s, marathons and baseball promotions with pink bats and sausage races will end up where they belong. And where is that, you ask? Well, it’s not such a good place in baseball but in the lab, it’s golden - on the bench.
I won't disclose the architect, the facility or the state where this project occurred. My thoughts are directed to the lab managers, facility managers, service technicians, architects, specifiers, contractors, CFOs, researchers and others who want a piece of our pink ribbon contributions but think they live in silos: Cut it out.
Talk to one another. Have some meetings. Find a perch high enough, even if it’s in the cheap seats, so you can see the big picture, shift the defense, define the problem, sniff out some rebates, identify the savings and map the solution. Do the right thing. Let’s find the cure.
You can make a great save. Don’t blow it.
Published by Jane Cirigliano , February 20th, 2015
Business partnerships drive all parties involved to be better. They encourage trust and collaboration. When you partner with another company, you gain new skill sets and the opportunity to mentor others.
Two recent partnerships in the search engine world are affecting the strategies we employ in Search Engine Optimization and social media.
Yahoo and Firefox
In November 2014, Firefox announced it would be ending a 10-year partnership with Google, and Yahoo would become the browser's new default search engine in the U.S. As a result of this partnership, Yahoo has already improved its search user experience with insights from Firefox. The contract mentions "other" joint ventures over the next five years.
Over the past few months, we have watched as Yahoo's traffic on websites we manage has increased. Google traffic hasn't taken as large a hit as one might expect, but there is a noticeable difference.
This partnership has serious ramifications for anyone investing in SEO. Where once the largest focus was on Google rankings, Yahoo has honed in on a larger market share, escalating the need to appear on Yahoo search results. If your organic traffic has been down since the holidays, compare your Google and Yahoo sourced visitors to find out if this new partnership is affecting your web traffic.
Google and Twitter
Twitter announced earlier this month that the social network will partner with Google to bring tweets back into search results. Twitter will give Google access to its feed of data, and Twitter's advertisers will gain more coverage with non-Twitter users via Google. By the way, Twitter already has similar deals in place with Yahoo and Bing to display tweets on their search engines.
So what does this mean for businesses? Real-time information is going to have a more prominent place in search results. We've already seen this with Google+ results and previous social network deals (i.e. Twitter and Google from 2009-2011).
If you are not actively posting on social media, especially Twitter, you are missing an opportunity to reach more potential buyers. You must post strategically and often, choosing keywords carefully to tie into your SEO program.
Why Partnerships Matter
As seen in the two examples above, the way that we do business, market our products and services, and reach our prospects is constantly evolving. Not only do new innovations, technologies and tools change the way we communicate with our customers, but also outside forces alter the way we do business.
Do you need a partner who can help you navigate this constantly-changing environment to keep you in front of your customer base?
Published by Abby Spung , February 12th, 2015
In the spirit of Valentines Day, let’s talk love hate relationships, with a heaping side of Humble Pie.
A love hate relationship: it's wild, thrilling and full of passion. But on the flipside, stressful and heart wrenching. I could use this to describe just about all of the most successful and memorable design projects I’ve done. How so, because these two feelings can only co-exist when the heart is “all in” so to speak.
Scientifically speaking, there is literally a fine line between love and hate. Some of the nervous circuits in your brain that are responsible for producing feelings of hatred are actually the same ones used to produce the feeling of love. And when you think about it, love and hate do share some similarities. Both are extreme emotions, and both can lead you to do irrational, heroic or even evil things.
So it makes perfect sense. This type of behavior isn’t just confined to an idea of romantic love. The most extreme emotions are triggered when the stakes are highest. When one of two parties reveals something of great significance to them (an idea, opinion, feeling, etc.) that the other was previously not aware of. There that something sits, revealed, lingering for acceptance or judgment. Things can either go really well or really bad at this moment.
Think about how many times you’ve been overcome with extreme emotions of love and hate toward a friend or colleague that you respect and admire in a situation like this. Or, dare I say it, a client.
Ah, yes. There you have it. Admit it, you’ve all been there. The stakes are high, you’ve just laid your heart and soul (i.e. the project that consumed you for just about every waking hour of the past week, month or year) before them. Do they swoon with excitement and exhilaration? Burst with gratitude and admiration? No. No, they most certainly do not. Someone always seems to have an opinion. A tweak. Or the worst— the “I’m not feeling it” look. It never seems to play out exactly the way you had pictured it. How ya feeling now? You’re crushed. You’re angry. You immediately begin fantasizing about the replacement client. The one that will appreciate you, and value your expertise.
But wait. Hold on. You can’t just up and play out some ridiculous fantasy of slapping them up side the head and exiting the conference room in some dramatic fashion. You have a history. You have a contract. You happen to like them. Now what?
Good news, all love is not lost. I have found this exact type of love hate relationship, with clients especially, to be one of the most valuable and rewarding of all. A long time ago (we won't say how long), when I was fresh and naive, I’d frequently make the mistake of walking out or quitting on the job/project. Until one day, I couldn’t afford to. The stakes were too high. The project was too big. It would be the crown jewel of my portfolio. The first “real project." The coveted annual report.
Oh, I was more than pissed with the feedback I received from the client on my concept. Fuming. How dare they, I mean what the hell do they know about type selection, whitespace and grids. Really. I bit my lip, held my tongue, and did something I hadn’t done all too often in my adolescence. I opened my mind, my ears, my heart. I listened. I really listened. And do you know that I was able to hear something I couldn’t hear before?
They weren’t telling me what to do. They weren’t pretending to be the experts. They were giving me the same courtesy. Just as I was putting it all on the line, showing them my best work. They were giving me their honest perspective. We were both submitting something to the other, that we previously did not know.
I learned at that moment a most valuable lesson. One that has served me very well both professionally and personally speaking. My job is not to sell my ideas to the client, but to be a communicator on their behalf. As a graphic designer I am more adequately equipped to accomplish this task. Yet the client is more adequately equipped to understand the audience. It’s not the job of any designer to do what the client tells them to do, it’s our job to meet their needs. (Read that again.)
That is the love-hate relationship that when mastered makes a graphic designer very good at what they do. That annual report was, and still is, one of my best pieces. The best work comes from true collaboration. And since that one very valuable exchange some time ago, when I discovered the art of listening - really listening - to client feedback, I’ve come to value that the project’s real success depends on it. Like it or not. Love it or Hate it.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Published by Bill White , February 3rd, 2015
On February 28, 1953, Cambridge University researchers James Watson and Francis Crick presented to the scientific community their cardboard model of the double-helix. It marked the first three-dimensional expression of a secret – the secret of life. Watson and Crick articulated an insight and discovery that revolutionized the understanding of molecular biology. They introduced the concept of the Central Dogma which set the stage for the life sciences industry we now serve.
Fast forward. In 1978, while making a sales call with my boss on Dr. Cesar Milstein at his Cambridge University laboratory in the UK, he led us to the lab down the hall where Watson and Crick worked. Later, Dr. Milstein walked us through a fundamental explanation of his work on fusing cells into hybridomas; these would form tiny factories which manufactured antibodies. The industry would call them monoclonal antibodies.
Years later, I’ve come to value even more my encounter with Dr. Milstein who, in 1984, shared the Nobel Prize in Medicine with Niels Kaj Jerne and Georges J. F. Köhler. While their team worked in relative obscurity, the outcome of their research turbocharged a revolution in genetic engineering that continues to generate exponential progress in drug discovery and development. My contribution was nothing; I simply helped calibrate one of his cell culture incubators. It was sort of like putting air in the footballs.
But our support of his work, and the work of countless others laboring as bench techs, post-doc researchers or primary investigators, has always brought me back to a comforting but awesome reality: What we do in product innovation, development, manufacturing and marketing has value. What we do matters to the world.
As marketers, we work hard to shape messages designed to educate people who have waded far deeper into biological weeds than those of us with economics degrees. Our job in marketing is to help our clients deliver solutions. The joy of serving the life science market - and those who, in turn, serve life scientists - is that we are a substrate upon which the real creators do their work. These are the anonymous imagineers and molecular biologists such as Watson, Crick and Milstein who must rely on dependable, repeatable performance from a conglomeration of sheet metal, controllers and flashing lights. After all, if we can't sell it, what does it matter?
As Crick set forth, his Central Dogma drives an imagination engine. In his case, it was the thread that ties together DNA, RNA and proteins. While they wired the building, Milstein and his team turned on the power.
In our case, our Central Dogma is the thread that connects our understanding of technology, a sense of why it’s important, what it means to the research at hand, and the effort it takes to place it into context. Our job is to make sure customers are informed and educated. Our responsibility is to not leave them guessing about what to buy based on an offer of a free toaster or dinner after the exhibits close. Those days are over.
Our Central Dogma of marketing is as basic as the nucleic acid sequence in DNA, transcribed into RNA and articulated in the form of proteins. After all, with Watson and Crick illuminating a life code so nearly perfect, and seeing how it worked for Dr. Milstein, should we not follow nature and copy the sequence as well?
Here it is: Understand. Establish context. Articulate value. Educate.
We think it’s a good sell.
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