Passion is Our Purpose and It’s Fueling Our Business

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John Mackey, as co-CEO of Whole Foods, once said of entrepreneurs, “Though they want to make money — start businesses out of passion.” He went on to say: “Physicians make money, but their mission is to heal; teachers make money, but their desire is to educate; and architects make money, but they yearn to build.” Looking at the day to day, quarter to quarter postings of profitability statistics constantly ticking across the bottom of our video screens, one would be hesitant to extoll business intentions to be anything other than making a profit. The truth, however, is that the most profitable businesses began as a dream; a vision to create something non-existent; a goal to provide a solution to the yet unsolved; a passion to fulfill a very personal need.

It’s not that a profit motive is undesirable or misguided. Without profit, even the most well-intentioned business is unsustainable over time. Perhaps it is more of a chicken or egg thing. What comes first? In today’s most competitive environments customers want to be appreciated for being more than a source of revenue. They are looking to businesses to focus as much on delivering value and fulfilling a purpose as they do on profitability.

As we look at some businesses, it is easy to recognize that intentions can be misguided. “Many entrepreneurs enter into business thinking ‘I am going to get rich quick or I am going to take advantage of a gap in the industry and over-price customers for work,’” says Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions (Junction). “Financially motivated organizations tend to be here today in good economic times and gone in tomorrow’s economic down-turn. Purpose and value must be foundational to a company’s vision and must align with the organization’s financial goals for profitability.”

The Junction team of experienced professionals is passionately focused on partnering with clients to create value. “Whether developing a complex comprehensive strategy or executing digital solutions, it’s all about our customers, and the process of providing quality work. It is the differentiator in our business,” says Gareleck. “We don’t take on clients just to take on clients. We invest our time and energy into clients that want our help and want to partner with us to achieve something greater.  It is a model for success that we have proven over and over.”

“When you believe in something the force of your convictions will spark other people’s interest and motivate them to help you achieve your goals. This is essential to success.”- Richard Branson.

To learn more about Junction’s passion for helping others to achieve success, call 678-686-1125.

New Data Handling Regulations from Across the Pond May Affect U.S. Businesses

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On May 25, 2018, a significant new set of regulations go into effect across Europe and around the world that will greatly impact virtually any business that has an internet presence. The time for compliance is approaching very quickly but 60 percent of all businesses affected are not ready to be in compliance.  This number is concerning given that violations of new regulations carry huge fines that could cripple businesses of all sizes.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) was initiated to give consumers in Europe greater control over their personal data. GDPR impacts any business that has customers located within Europe and affects all businesses regardless of physical location, company size, or scope of business. While the emphasis first appears to be on European organizations, the regulations apply to businesses anywhere in the world that process the personal data of European Union (EU) residents. In today’s vast global internet world without borders, those not affected make up a very short list.

Article 3 of the GDPR says that if your organization collects personal data or behavioral information from someone in an EU country, your company is subject to the requirements of the GDPR. Businesses will need to be much clearer about the information they hold on people and give them more control over how it disseminated and managed. Compliance is likely to be easier for heavily-regulated business-to-business sectors such as banking and insurance, but retailers and companies that deal directly with consumers need to be particularly aware of the new regulatory environment.

Many business entities outside Europe who failed to thoroughly understand the implications of the looming regulations are suddenly waking up to their new reality. Robert Bond, a partner at London law firm Bristows, says, “Already this morning, there have been three overnight calls from the U.S., saying we don’t have anything in place but we’ve realized this applies to us, do you have a quick fix solution?  I think there’s an awful lot of businesses out there, particularly outside the EU, that have suddenly realized the extra territorial nature (of GDPR) and that’s come as quite a shock. They are assuming it’s a tick the box exercise, which of course it isn’t.”

U.S. based hospitality, travel, software services and e-commerce companies will certainly have to consider their online marketing practices and determine the risk of non-compliance as well as any other U.S. companies that have identified a market in an EU country. GDPR requires organizations to identify a security strategy and adopt adequate administrative and technical measures to protect EU citizens’ personal data.

Given the existing costs associated with irresponsible handling of consumer’s personal data, few organizations can afford complacency about cybersecurity. While the heavy fines for non-compliance to GDPR compounds the penalties for cybersecurity ignorance, the new regulations offer an additional incentive and opportunity for companies to implement policies that may help them avoid a future data breach and the significant calamity to normal business operations that results.

Reaching the Powerful Women’s Demographic Lives or Dies in Campaign Execution

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The knowledge that women wield the most influence over the household spending decisions is nothing new. For decades women have been credited with controlling the purse strings at a greater degree than their male counterparts. But as traditional societal male/female roles continue to evolve, the only difference for marketers is the realization that the numbers are getting bigger. Across the globe, women are controlling nearly $20 trillion in annual consumer spending. That number is likely to grow to $28 trillion in the next five years. Women represent a growth market bigger than China and India combined; verification that female consumers now drive the world’s economy. Over the next decade women will control two-thirds of all consumer wealth in the United States and be the beneficiaries of the largest transference of wealth in our country’s history.

Today more than 79 percent of women self-identify as the primary household shopper, making 70 percent of all the travel decisions and 90 percent of all the healthcare purchases. Nearly 60 percent frequent social networking sites and are the most likely consumers to use digital purchasing tools. The overwhelming majority (92 percent) pass along information about deals they have experienced online. Talk about influencer marketing!

Commanding as this economic segment is, most companies continue to struggle to effectively tap into the potential opportunity, and despite the remarkable strides women have made in market power and social position they continue to feel undervalued in the marketplace. “Success in reaching this powerful demographic often lives or dies in the marketing execution, and getting it wrong can be serious business. Mistakes and gaffes can go public, or viral, all too easily, alienating the very people a campaign was designed to attract.” David Levithan, says “Pink is female – but why? Are girls any more pink than boys? Are boys any more blue than girls? It’s something that has been sold to us, mostly so other things can be sold to us.” If there was ever a time where simply using pink to attract the attention of women was a viable strategy, that time has passed.

Gender is often a blind spot, both within company campaigns and within the make-up of company marketing teams. The old adage, it takes one to know one is sage advice. Gender diversify your marketing team if you want to make a meaningful connection with your target audience. If not, your approach to attracting female consumers may come off as patronizing and passive.

Remember, no one-gender market sector does a complete marketing segment make. Women now occupy, in significant numbers, every social and economic level of society. Today women are embracing the differences in their identities and exploring more progressive interests. Marketers need to identify products and services that answer the multitude of female consumer needs and interest if they are to successfully develop a winning marketing strategy. The messaging needs to align in content and tone with the diversity of the market segment.

For information on how Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can help you formulate a winning women’s market strategy, contact our experts at 678.686.1125.

Successful Email Campaigns are Not One Size Fits All

Say email marketing or monthly newsletter and some descriptive phases, many not admiring, come to mind. Digital marketing has revolutionized communications both personal and commercial, delivering marketers the ability to directly reach into the lives of millions of potential customers and clients with mind-blowing speed and automated targeted placement. Suddenly broadcasting a message right into a recipient’s home or place of business through email windows is remarkably simple. But many are complaining that the overt email assault that permeates millions of in-boxes each day are leading this new marketing tool down the path once traveled by direct mail (junk) and robotic telemarketing. With so many emailers opting to click “delete” or relegating unsolicited messages to the spam file, what is all the upside appeal of email marketing?

In 2017, the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day reached 269 billion and is expected to continue to grow at an average annual rate of 4.4% over the next four years, reaching 319.6 billion by the end of 2021. With that kind of audience, email marketing spend in the United States is predicted to reach $3.07 billion by 2019. Businesses looking for cost effective, measurable ways to connect with consumers have discovered the positive return on investment (ROI) of email marketing campaigns, of 122 percent, irresistible. This impressive ROI is utopian until one realizes that only 24.7 percent of all emails across industries are opened by the recipient. Nearly two-thirds of emails are banished to unread status right after being sent. Still, the promise of making a connection with so many with so little effort is too good to pass up. So how can an email campaign successfully open a profitable dialog with consumers without the costly and inefficient “mud against the wall” approach?

As more emails invade customers’ inboxes, the quality and format of the message is critical in order to be heard above all the competing noise. Focus the effort on the campaign objective and tailor the message, both in content and structure, to gain the immediate interest of your consumer. What’s in it for consumers if they choose to open an email and start a conversation? Compose your prose in a manner that creates value to the prospect. With 68% of email recipients reporting that they identify most email as spam, getting the subject line wrong can be deadly.  Opening statements should elicit interest and evoke curiosity. Provocative “the aliens have landed” remarks will only scare qualified receivers off. “Every aspect of testing should be focusing on the “click to open rate” of the main call to action in your email,” says professional email marketing strategist Dain Hanson, Co-Founder of CYT Marketing.

Ever receive a message from a department, department title or mega-company? The “from” line of any email should be from a warm and real person, someone who is personable and welcomed. Your salutation should share your personal side, not your corporate image.  A Campaign Monitor study recently revealed that 62% of customers open emails due to a personalized subject line.

The most successful emails are clearly written, attract attention to the message purpose, are never dull or offensive, and are personal and designed to solicit an immediate action. Interesting graphics are very effective and all content must be viewable on desktop and mobile devices. Depending on the targeted audience, mobile email will account for 20 to 75% of email opens.

Email marketing should be about having a conversation with your ideal customer. Failing to edit your master email list to target specific customers with a tailored message will only serve to annoy disinterested customers and waste valuable marketing time and assets. Treating every prospect the same will only result in filling their “Trash Bins”.  The smart campaign will have different lists which focus on the varied messages of interests to a variety of customers. Connecting with an interested target market will improve your email “open rates” and produce future, mutually beneficial conversations.

For information on how Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) can enhance your email campaign efforts, call 678.686.1125.

Know Where You’re Going. Not Every Road Will Get You There

Perhaps one of the most used but underutilized terms in business is strategy. Add to the word planning, and the phrase tops the chart of importance in business success. It seems so simple and is unarguably a truly great example of common sense. Knowing where you want to go, mapping out a route and preparing to overcome the inevitable obstructions that may impede your progress along the way, seems like a true “no-brainer.” Having a clear vision is critical to starting and growing a business and while many celebrate the importance of the visionary in the start-up process, developing a clear and concise strategic plan to map the road to business growth and sustainability is often the most under-engaged promise. The fact that 50 percent of all new business ventures fail within the first three to five years is a testament of many of those businesses adhering to Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland fantasy strategy: “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

“While most business owners agree that strategic planning can provide a roadmap to drive their business growth, long-term survival and profitability, many fail to devote the necessary time, energy and resources to do it right, if at all.” Taking the time and making the investment to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for success involves establishing your value proposition; identifying and focusing on a market of customers; establishing a mission; setting forth a goal; enumerating your objectives; engaging the plan of action; measuring its progress and adjusting the plan along the way to address changes to original assumptions.

In this fast paced, technology driven world of commerce, competition is agile and refined, and the marketplace dynamic. While change has always been inevitable, today change is occurring at warp speed. Staying focused and tuned into the competitive environment is critical to survival and sustainability. Look to your competition to define what they are doing right, emulate their most successful actions and focus your strengths on doing those things your competition is unable or unwilling to do to meet the expectations of a new tech savvy consumer. The more specific the plan, the more likely it will be successful.

Many new ventures freely invest in infrastructure and tools of production. Far too few invest in the human talent necessary to meet the demands of growth. Some organizations fail to hire qualified employees to connect directly with their customers. The strategy should be to acquire people who are motivated and inspired to share the organization’s vision and who are dedicated to follow the path to accomplishment. Imagine if a restaurant were to purchase top of the line equipment but hesitate to effectively invest in the culinary and hospitality talent needed to produce an appetizing experience for customers. Don’t go cheap on attracting and inspiring the talent necessary to transition your vision into a reality.

A strategic plan should be a living, well-worn document. Its focus should be on where you want the business to be over time. Establish short term benchmarks of progress every 12 months to 24 months and long term, five year goals.  Be proactive; evaluate the strategies’ effectiveness over time. Support those efforts that are working and abandon those that fall short. Anticipate the failures, they are inevitable. Expecting them will make it easier to offset the negative impact they have on achieving the vision. Be mindful that there are forces in the business world that are beyond our control that may derail even the most insightful plan. Don’t overreact and make major changes based on any one day, month or quarter of events. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Never forget that the competition is always watching your progress and maneuvering to obstruct your mission.

In a recent Inc. Magazine/Kauffman Foundation study, researchers found that five to eight years after appearing on the list, roughly two-thirds of the companies that made the Inc. 5000 list had shrunk in size, gone out of business, or been disadvantageously sold. Resolve not to be one of them.

To learn more about preparing a strategy that seeks to innovate product offerings and processes and take advantage of new opportunities to grow and sustain viability, profitability and long term growth, contact the experienced team of business development specialists at Junction Creative Solutions at 678.686.1125.

Junction’s Sales Automation Platform Can Streamline Your Sales Cycle

Sales automation is fast becoming a critical need in today’s hyper-competitive business environment. The process of managing sales efforts has long been fraught with challenges. Identifying premium sales targets, making a meaningful connection with the individuals who yield the most significant buying influence, presenting the pitch and closing the sale has always been a time-consuming process that routinely failed to produce optimum results.

Technology is providing a unique opportunity for companies to streamline and economize the sales process while increasing the quality and productivity of the overall sales and marketing effort. An integrated, customizable software platform, sales automation provides a set of tools designed to generate leads in target markets, track customer interactions and measure the success of the overall sales cycle. To achieve success, it’s critical to align all marketing and sales initiatives, whether traditional or digital, reaching target audiences where they are looking for information. “Junction Creative Solutions’ (Junction) Sales Automation Solution is a proprietary solution designed to automate sales prospecting utilizing social media platforms. Within the solution, we execute sales campaigns to view, visit, connect, and engage potential sales prospects with the intent on setting qualified meetings with these prospects,” says Julie Gareleck, Junction Founder and CEO.

Initiation to Junction’s Sales Automation process begins with a strategy workshop where key stakeholders meet to discuss: Mission, Vision, Goals, Stakeholder Insights, Target Audiences, Existing Sales Metrics and Initiatives, Performance History, Future Performance Metrics, Content, Milestones, Time Line, and Tactics. Junction’s experienced team will audit the client’s content inventory to identify critical opportunities and content gaps with the intent on developing additional content assets if needed to support sales automation efforts.

Customized databases, based on the requirements for each identified target audience, are utilized to design, develop and execute a singularly focused campaign. Based on the Content Audit, Junction will develop custom content for each stakeholder campaign in the Sales Automation Platform.

Junction conducts periodic testing prior to the launch of each campaign to insure accuracy and compliance to Junction’s strict quality standards and the client’s goals and objectives.  Inclusion of an optional, third-party application that syncs with the client’s calendar and allows prospects to schedule meetings directly with the client is available. Regularly scheduled meetings follow each engagement to review campaign performance and metrics.

“Since launching its Sales Automation Solution, Junction has worked with various companies across industry verticals to improve visibility in the professional marketplace, drive lead generation, and increase qualified business opportunities,” says Gareleck.

“As the sales and marketing landscape changes and consumer expectations evolve, it’s critical to remain ahead of trends,” concluded Gareleck. “Regardless of industry, Junction can provide a comprehensive set of automation solutions to improve and optimize a company’s sales and marketing efforts.”

For more information on how Junction is specifically suited to help optimize your sales and marketing processes, contact info@junction-creative.com or call 678.686.1125.

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.

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/.

Cost Management Group’s New Digital Presence

The Gartner Market Guide for Telecom Expense Management (TEM) Services in May 2017 reported a 45% increase in end-user enterprise enquiries concerning TEM since 2016. With IT costs rising, organizations need to more closely monitor and control the cost of technology. The report stated, “The continued growth and evolution of enterprise telecom services prompts many companies to evaluate TEM services for ongoing cost optimization and efficiencies, especially if they lack the internal resources to effectively optimize or have limited governance on telecom and IT procurement over a complex enterprise footprint.”

Being able to effectively scale solutions with the right balance of strength and agility, for enterprise-level organizations, mid-size businesses, and SMBs, is nothing new to Cost Management Group (CMG). Headquartered in Atlanta, GA since 1996, with additional offices in Virginia, North Carolina, Costa Rica and the Netherlands, CMG specializes in driving down the operating costs of its client companies by applying proprietary methods and tools, or those of its carefully chosen partners who possess a particular and uncommon expertise. CMG, as a leader in the industry, is committed to its vision, believes in its mission, and is driven by a set of core values.

When searching for a partner to assist in telling the CMG story, it was important to find an organization that shared a common set of core values and focus on quality, extraordinary attention to service and innovative solutions. Junction Creative Solutions (Junction) worked with the team at CMG to redesign its online experience that includes a wealth of content to engage prospective clients and partners.

Julie Gareleck, CEO and Managing Partner, Junction, says, “As the marketing landscape changes and consumer expectations evolve, it’s critical to remain ahead of design trends whether it is a website or a comprehensive set of solutions to support sales and marketing. We are proud to expand on our creative portfolio by working with an organization like CMG.”