Perfectly timed with the serendipitous narrative of the Chicago Cubs’ first World Series victory in 108 years, One North’s fifth annual Experience Lab knocked it out of the park for the 70+ digital marketing and technology professionals from more than 35 leading professional services and B2B organizations.
You didn’t have to wait long for the sports metaphors (nor will you in this recap). They came early and often, but were perfectly woven through this year’s theme of Digital Endurance: Playing the Long Game for Competitive Edge.
No bleachers and ivy, but breathtaking views and iconic hipness at the spectacular Chicago Athletic Association provided the perfect backdrop for the presentations, panels and social events that drove home the winning message of digital endurance. Just as the Cubs needed a paradigm shift to win that elusive World Series, professional services firms need to move away from a myopic campaign or project-based approach and instead build digital endurance by establishing durable business and incremental investment strategies.
Here are the box score highlights of the presentations:
1st Inning: Taking the lead with continuous innovation
One North Chief Strategist Kalev Peekna fired the group up by presenting a challenge common to marketers, setting the tone and theme for the Experience Lab. Peekna presented the bimodal problem that so many professional services marketers face. Using a “camel hump” analogy, he showed the peaks and valleys inherent in the time/effort/satisfaction continuum when firms take a project management, website-centric approach to their overall digital strategy.
Peekna suggests flattening the curve by adopting an endurance mindset that values incremental, sustained attention to digital strategy. Switching focus to the long term vision and an incremental release schedule of new digital assets in lieu of the big product launch cycle will build the competitive edge.
4th Inning: Building a winning team
Sarah Mueller, Manager of Talent Development at One North, described how essential it is to find the right players in every position of a firm. In professional services, a highly engaged workforce is the difference between successful, thriving companies and those that stagnate and fail to grow. Companies with engaged employees outperform those who don’t by 202 percent.
Mueller stressed that professional services firms need to play the digital long game by making a sustained commitment to their talent brand in the rebounding economy. This means remaining vigilant about what information you are putting out there to potential employees and making sure all your digital assets serve to bolster your talent brand.
5th Inning: Rallying past creative challenges
Creative Director at One North Nate Denton described the common problem of creative biases in his talk. On any creative project with multiple players, building consensus can be difficult, to say the least. An individual’s design preferences are just that, individual. Feedback like “I hate yellow,” or “There’s too much white space,” can be frustrating. So how can marketers and others in charge of digital assets move designs forward, secure buy-in and keep the key stakeholders happy? Denton outlined these five essential activities:
- Identify Stakeholders
- Do Your Research
- Tell the Story
- Know When to Step Away
7th Inning: Knowing the key metrics for victory
One North CEO John Simpson and Greentarget Director of Research & Market Intelligence Kevin Iredell discussed research findings from a recently conducted survey, and found that when companies hire new professional services firms, they don’t take the decision lightly. To win business, professional services firms need more than just one perfect pitch. Their key players must have solid personal reputations and established contacts that promote the message and bolster an already developed and strong brand.
Thoroughly exploring the hiring company’s entire organization, from the players to the owners to the company culture, is no longer viewed as a winning strategy, but a requirement to even compete in the game.
Want to learn more about the One North research on PSO buying decisions?
9th Inning: Scouting reports – How to properly use analytics
Players from the One North Strategy Team, Cathy Lynk, Mitch Diehl and Account Manager Ben Magnuson dived into the hot topic of analytics, how to use them and why they’re essential to business growth.
With an endless amount of quantitative data at our fingertips (and the added value that qualitative data promises), marketers have the daunting challenge of finding clarity and themes from countless metrics. Professional services firms should develop an analytics framework to identify goals, establish key metrics, measure results and optimize performance.
This framework can help to avoid the bimodal cycle discussed earlier in the game, and instead help to sustain and commit to strategy over the long haul.
Extra Innings: Panels with insight
When it comes to rebranding and redesign, communication is key, but it’s equally important to be nimble.
Senior Account Manager Alex Castillo, along with Goodwin Proctor’s Digital Marketing Director Susan Katz and Navigant’s Digital Marketing Director Gerardo Campos-Tello sat down to discuss what shifting away from the bimodal looks like from a client perspective.
Data is the name of the game, but the overarching theme in every single inning is: don’t use data for the sake of it. Using analytics to look at what works and what doesn’t can help make the little changes that make a big difference. When faced with challenges like completely redeveloping a new site in a few short months, professional services firms should be equipped with a roadmap to create a vision of what they want. With that said, there doesn’t need to be the commitment to change everything all at once. Having an accelerated timeline can help with the shift from project to program mindset. This reinforces the notion that an incremental release schedule facilitates endurance.
The Experience Lab’s second panel included One North technologists Emma Birdsong, Ben Pomeranz, Michael Blaha and Michael O’Laughlin, all who provided their technology background and problem-solving expertise to share technology strategies with the help of Strategy Director Sarah Levine Meyer as moderator.
We scored a home run with the amount of insights this team offered. When it comes to winning, it’s all about building a strong core around your digital ecosystem. When the question of technology versus strategy was presented, there was a strong but equal debate about which should take the lead. The general consensus? There isn’t a right or wrong way.
Your access to technology can help determine strategy, while strategy can determine what technology to use to achieve your goals. So, we’re going to have to call this one a tie. One thing everyone did agree on is the importance of data and analytics on decision making. Once you start looking at analytics, you can answer questions like how users are getting to your site and what they are doing once they’re there. And that kind of insight is priceless.
So, as One North’s fifth annual Experience Lab comes to an end, we hope you go out and use the tools you learned to score a home run, and as the late, great Babe Ruth said, “never allow the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game!”
Read our full event summary here.