Face to Face Networking in a Digital World

Much has been experienced and touted about how technology has disrupted, in a positive way, the flow of information between marketers and customers. The impact digital media has had on the speed and ease of making connections has revolutionized the entire process of marketing. The “old school” social interactions once thought to be critical to forming loyal and extended relationships were lost to all the pervasive hyperbole over the advantages of high-tech anything. Fast, efficient and user friendly web based social networks have demonstrated how technology can truly revolutionize communal conversations.

Data from these digital networks can be quickly gathered, evaluated and utilized to enhance the understanding of the conversations and allows for quick and free flowing interactions. However, making personal, face to face group encounters are proving to be powerful, albeit, old school methods that can contribute to long lasting relationships that enhance long term growth and stability in an organization.

While entrepreneurs typically tend to take a path of independence, there are times that long term stability and growth require a strategy of building relationships over time that is essential to marketing your business. In a sometimes too familiar proverb, “If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far, go with others.”

Networks are usually local in focus and may be traditional groups like the Chamber of Commerce or Business Networks International (BNI) that conduct regular seminars and events to promote comradery and unity in a common purpose. Others are locally formed independent groups with a common thread of business purpose. The goal is to develop a personal relationship of trust among members so they will refer business to one another. Results are not immediate and take practiced effort over extended periods of time but can produce significant opportunities for business growth.

To discover networks that will work best for your organization, reach out to other individuals in industries or organizations that are the same or are those that compliment your own. It can be beneficial to participate in more than one group. Be prepared to share your knowledge and expertise. It should be an environment where giving more gets you more. Focus on your reputation for knowledge, performance and commitment to deliver on your brands promise.  Invest as much time developing a referral strategy as you do to formulate your marketing strategy and utilize the social media and technology tools to reach out to new contacts and stay in touch with existing ones. Initiate and maintain referrals on social media platforms, emails and follow-up phone calls. Staying connected with existing members of the group will build an inventory of influence that can be harvested long term.

“It’s hard to say exactly what it is about face-to-face contact that makes deals happen, but whatever it is, it hasn’t yet been duplicated by technology.”- Paul Graham.

Achieving a Vision for the Future through Value-Based Leadership

The need for effective leadership in business has never been more in demand in the history of commerce. The dynamic conditions that exist in this technology driven, disruptive business environment are dramatic in comparison to times past. With organizations under constant pressure to cut costs, develop new products, become more efficient and improve quality just to remain competitive, effective leadership at all levels is crucial to survival and success.

Much debate and discussion abounds over what constitutes a leader, what qualities one must possess and what style of leadership is most effective. Leadership can be hard to define and it means different things to different people. Leaders set direction and help others do the right thing to achieve the company’s vision. While leaders manage delivery of the vision and facilitate and inspire others to achieve a shared objective, leadership is not management. People are led, processes are managed.  As French writer, poet, aristocrat, journalist, and pioneering aviator opined, “If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.”

A well led organization’s values should be clearly defined and are the basis for a company’s culture.  Today, more than ever, “Leaders must lean on the values of the organization to drive performance, especially during times of change. Values should be the bedrock of why the company exists, how it makes decisions and its true purpose.” Metrics and milestones are still important in measuring performance, but values are at the core of what and how those measures are achieved.

Values-based leaders communicate organizational values to employees by connecting company goals to employees’ personal values. Such leaders focus on the organization’s core beliefs to facilitate employees’ belief in the sincerity and depth of the organization’s mission. Leadership must lead with overt confidence and by example, communicating consistently the vision for the future. “It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse,” said Adlai E. Stevenson II.

Today’s best companies focus on a realistic and compelling vision and are led by those who demonstrate an ability to inspire, motivate, coach and deliver on achieving the vision. As leadership expert Warren Bennis once stated, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.”

Ultimately a leader will be judged on the ability to maximize the potential and performance of an organization’s human resources, who together successfully create value and sustainability into the future.

For information about how Junction Creative Solutions’ experienced team of business development experts can help you lead your organization to achieving an inspiring vision, contact info@junction-creative.com.

Technology Changes Coming for Popular eCommerce Platform

For nearly 25 years, buying and selling over the internet has revolutionized the retail industry. Ecommerce, in the early years, was largely limited to B2B transactions but has grown to threaten traditional brick and mortar retailing all across the industry spectrum. Today, almost everyone in the United States has made a purchase on the internet and 80 percent of consumers have made a purchase within the last 30 days. Once considered a novel, passing threat, online sales were positioned to surpass $2 trillion dollars by the end of 2017 as consumers continue to make eCommerce a way of life. Some reports predict eCommerce will reach $4 trillion dollars by the year 2020.

The explosion of online stores has been the result of the availability of digital platforms that are easy to develop, user friendly, economical to build and efficient to operate. One such platform, Magento, became very popular among small to modest sized internet retailers when it was first introduced.  Built and developed as a flexible platform that permitted users to create stores with a variety of functions, it featured pre-made extensions that made changes or modifications easier to implement.  Unfortunately, the focus on flexibility left many users wanting options when it came to performance optimization, mobile-responsiveness and expanded administrative capabilities. Technology advancements and the demand for higher performance and increased user-friendly options spawned Magento 2.0.

Introduced in 2015, Magento 2.0 promises to address many of the short comings of its previous version.  Compared to its predecessor 2.0 will run, on average, 20 percent faster resulting in more sales and increases in website search engine optimization. The checkout process is more streamlined allowing customers to navigate quicker through the purchase decision to checkout. Additional extensions and better administrative interface help reduce time spent managing the online store. With more and more consumers utilizing their mobile devices to complete their shopping, version 2.0 has an improved look and functionality on mobile devices. Most important, Magento 2.0 promises to grow its capabilities as the online store grows.

Change is never easy, and many online retailers are reluctant to migrate from their current version to a newer version of the platform. Fear of disrupting their online business is the most common concern among retailers considering an update, but costs of maintaining older versions can soon eat away at initial apprehensions. With immediate improvements in scalability, usability, security and better consumer experience, making the move sooner rather than later may prove to be the best option. In addition, Magento has announced that they will stop supporting the 1.9 version or below in November 2018.

What does this mean?  For those eTailers on previous versions, it will require a complete redesign and development of the website to the Magento 2.0 platform. It’s not a standard upgrade. “Clients are coming to us asking when they need to move to Magento 2.0,” commented Julie Gareleck, CEO & Managing Partner, Junction. “If a client doesn’t want to move to the latest platform, they run the risk of having issues that can’t be resolved. If the shopping cart breaks, there is no supported fix from Magento. We encourage our clients to begin planning for the migration so that they can continue to operate the business without interruption.”

The other important consideration for the migration to Magento 2.0 is selecting a responsible partner to assist with the migration. “We have been working with Magento 2.0 since it was released. We are now starting to see firms quote outrageous prices for this conversion as they take advantage of Magento’s platform upgrade. We’ve had many clients question why our pricing is more competitive than others.  Our experience in the industry over the last 2 decades and our Magento expertise enables us to provide our clients with pricing that reflects the work required to complete their goals and objectives.”

For more information on upgrading and how Junction Creative Solutions can help you navigate to a platform designed to enhance the growth and sustainability of your online store, contact info@junction-creative.com.

TradeAutoX™ Launches Online Marketplace for Dealers & Wholesalers

With the introduction of a multitude of auto purchase apps and creative alternative marketing channels, traditional auto seller marketing strategies and tactics are quickly being impacted as fees continue to rise and margins decrease.  The art and science of managing used car inventory off the lot is seemingly more complex.  The automotive industry is set to adopt new technologies to replace and improve antiquated and cost laden systems.  One company, TradeAutoX™, has launched a 24/7 online marketing platform for dealers and wholesalers to buy and sell used car inventory in real time.

TradeAutoX™ was founded to create efficiencies, cultivate an exclusive network, and improve the bottom line for all parties involved in buying and selling of used car inventory. Founded by automotive industry veterans, Louis Robert Spaeth and Michael Zimmerman, TradeAutoX™ is redefining the online model for buying and selling cars. The combination of the robust online platform and the vetted Nationwide network differentiates TradeAutoX™ from the other digital solutions on the market. Spaeth and Zimmerman are focused and passionate about identifying ways to incorporate technology into an industry that is being failed by traditional processes.

“Franchised dealers and independent dealers can create their own network inside our site, solving a problem that has been a part of the landscape for decades.,” comments Robert Spaeth, CEO, TradeAutoX™.

With a mission to improve gross margins for dealers, reduce fees for wholesalers, and open opportunities for independent dealerships to source its own inventory, TradeAutoX™ is committed to adapting and improving its platform to meet the increasing demands of its members.

TradeAutoX™ partnered with Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) to customize an innovative platform, creating an online marketplace to connect end to end users. The Junction team is experienced and adept at building and fully implementing smart and customizable digital platforms. “As Junction’s portfolio continues to expand, the breadth of our expertise managing and executing multi-faceted, integrated strategies and solutions expands” says Gareleck. “We pride ourselves on responsibly taking on projects that we are confident our team can deliver on. We strive to not only meet our clients’ expectations but exceed them.”

For more information on how TradeAutoX™ is redefining the online model for buying and selling cars, visit https://tradeautox.com/.

March Madness, The Final Marketers’ Trifecta Event

The Trifecta of sporting events sponsorship only comes along every four years. With the 2018 Winter Olympics barely closed, the craziness of March Madness looms just around the corner as eager, but cautious, mega brands are contemplating an advertising strategy. The stratospheric costs to play the advertising game at this year’s Super Bowl had even the most hardened and committed marketers nervous about the value of the play. For some brands, the opportunity to pull off a triple play permitted them to spread the risk, making the adventure more palatable. For those who failed to demonstrate a winning performance on Super Bowl Sunday, the Olympics provided a chance to at least score a medal at PyeongChang or bring home an upset victory at March Madness.

Last year the NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Championship generated a record-setting $1.24 Billion in television advertising spend. The three week event known as “March Madness” provides brands an integrated platform of offline and online channels, social media conversations, branded placements and experiential events. The NCAA men’s basketball tournament is consistently the second largest post-season sports franchise, trailing only the National Football League (NFL) playoffs. The NCAA has successfully monetized the sporting event through media rights fees and corporate sponsorship payments.

The ad generating opportunity doesn’t end at video streaming and traditional television media. With all the games streaming online, fans and sponsors can connect through live video casts, real-time scores, statistics and other related content through web browsers and mobile apps. Facebook continues to take a more proactive role in playing the statistical game. Marketers will be able to tap into fans’ conversations to increase exposure. Facebook conversations during March Madness 2016 grew by an astounding 40 percent year over year. Worldwide more than 650 million people are connected to a sports-related page on the network, while 165 million follow a sports account on Instagram.

Making the sporting trifecta commitment doesn’t insolate ad players from losing though. With fan participation falling in major sporting events, muffing the ad-ball out of bounds can still result in some marketers being benched.  “You’re not necessarily going to get fired for putting more money on YouTube or more money in Google search, Facebook or even Snapchat at this point in time,” said one media buyer in 2017. “Yet they may question you when you say you’re going to spend $5 million on a Super Bowl spot, or $1.5 on the NCAA tourney and have it fall flat or be an unexciting game or have it underdeliver.”

Unlike the digital play call where social analytics effectiveness can be evaluated immediately, video, display and sponsorship advertising often requires an incubation period following the performance to measure success or failure. The cumulative, longer term impact of even an effective cross-channel effort may not be fully realized for months after the game’s champions are crowned. The marketing champion of this year’s big trifecta remains to be seen.