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.”

JUNCTION CEO PARTICIPATES ON ATLANTA BUSINESS RADIO X’S INAUGURAL “TUESDAYS WITH COREY” RADIO SHOW

Julie Cropp Gareleck, CEO and Managing Partner, Junction Creative, participated in Atlanta Business X’s Radio Show “Tuesdays with Corey.” Gareleck shared insights from her days as a waitress in Gettysburg, PA to her current position as the CEO of her Atlanta based firm.  Corey Rieck, President and Founder of The Long Term Care Planning Group, sponsors the show each month, highlighting women entrepreneurs, CEOs, and executives.

When asked about her experience growing up in a family business, Gareleck shared that her goal was to become a reporter like Barbara Walters.  Unbeknownst to her, the passion she held for people and helping people drove her to launch Junction Creative, a hybrid between a traditional consulting firm and an advertising agency, melding intellectual insights with creative execution.  To listen to her journey, forward to 30 minutes into the full interview.

“I greatly appreciate being included as a member of this panel alongside Barb Giamanco, Barbara LoRusso, Corey Rieck, and the team at Atlanta Business Radio X,” comments Gareleck.  “The collective knowledge sitting around the table made for a great conversation about some of the critical elements for success in business.”

Click here to listen to the entire show!

More information on each panelist is below:

Corey Rieck is the President and Founder of The Long Term Care Planning Group, a firm that specializes in delivering Long Term Care education and coverage to companies, high net worth individuals and large organizations. Since 2001, Corey has devoted his career to Long Term Care as a result of multiple personal experiences.  A neutral provider of Long Term Care Solutions since 2001, Corey brings a unique and comprehensive consultative perspective to this issue.  Since 2003, part of his commitment to the Long Term Care Industry includes his having trained over 3,500 advisors from San Francisco to Wall Street on how to properly position Long Term Care to clients through the CLTC organization.

Corey hosts a weekly show call “Tuesdays with Corey” on Atlanta Business Radio.

Barb Giamanco heads up Social Centered Selling. She’s the co-author of The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media and authored the Harvard Business Review article Tweet Me, Friend Me, Make Me Buy.

With a successful C-level background in Sales, Technology and Leadership Development, Barb capped her corporate career at Microsoft, where she led sales teams and coached executives. Through the years she has sold $1B in sales.

Barb is consistently recognized as a Top Sales and Business Blogger, a Top 25 Influential Leader in Sales, a Top 25 Sales Influencer on Twitter and one of Top Sales World’s Top 50 Sales and Marketing Influencers for the 3rd year in a row. And recently, Barb was named one of the Top 65 Business Influencers among other leaders such as Ariana Huffington, Melinda Gates and Sheryl Sandberg.

Connect with Barb on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Barbara LoRusso is the Director of Client Development for LoRusso Law Firm, an Atlanta-based civil litigation firm opened by her husband, Lance LoRusso, almost 10 years ago. Prior to this, Barbara was doing consulting and research work for a non-profit trade association here in Atlanta for almost 20 years. She has a Ph.D. in Applied Psychology from University of Georgia and went to Emory as an undergraduate.

Barbara has been an active volunteer with charitable organizations and currently serves on the board of SafePath Children’s Advocacy Center in Marietta.

Connect with Barbara on LinkedIn.

Julie Cropp Gareleck

Born into an entrepreneurial family, Julie Gareleck was convinced that business was not her passion and that becoming a reporter was more intriguing. At the age of 21, Julie punched her international card, in Paris, working for Angela de Bona, the top PR Agent, representing the top fashion photographers in the world. A venture to Philadelphia after Paris directed Julie to work for a leading entrepreneurship institute.

In a few short years, she was recruited to join a venture capital organization, focused on early stage companies in Technology, Biotechnology, among other industries, as its Executive Director. Julie earned her place in the Board Room at the age of 25.

A transition to Atlanta over 12 years ago enabled Julie to take her strategy experience and work as a senior strategist for interactive advertising agencies. It was here that Julie realized there was a gap between business-based strategy and what was defined as strategy at agencies. Junction Creative Solutions was born out of the need for strategies that intersect key business segments and the need for a firm that can manage the implementation. For over 8 years, Junction has worked with nearly 225 companies, helping do just that.

Julie has created an environment that empowers her team and her clients to be the very best they can be, and success follows naturally. She has earned the respect of her peers not just for her shining personality, but for her authenticity, integrity, and drive as a business leader. Her portfolio includes measurable integrated strategies for prominent brands across various industries, including Yahoo!, Mailboxes Etc., National City Corporation (PNC Bank), GE Energy, Mohawk Industries, Schweitzer-Mauduit International, Inc. (SWM), and Alcatel-Lucent. Early stage companies in the portfolio include AcuteCare Telemedicine, 85 Broads, Intelaplay, Competitive Sports Analysis, XIOSS, Infinite Resource Solutions, Guardian Watch, Pro Diligence, Cost Management Group, the National Tennis Foundation, Saffire Vapor, among others.

Julie established the JXN Executive Roundtable in 2012 as a resource for entrepreneurs, senior executives, and marketing leaders to share industry experiences and insights. She remains actively involved in industry organizations often participating as an expert panelist or guest speaker.

Follow Junction Creative on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

What Does It Take to Build a Successful SaaS Business?

According to Gartner, Inc. the worldwide cloud services market will total more than $246.8 billion by the end of 2017, an impressive 18 percent growth over the previous year. Software as a service (SaaS) is defined as a subscription software licensing delivery model which is centrally hosted and accessed in the virtual cloud by subscribers over a web browser.  SaaS has become a common delivery model for many business operations applications that were once purchased and maintained by an organizations internal IT department. Today, SaaS has been incorporated into the strategy of nearly all leading enterprise software companies and has a significant profit potential for cloud providers. For software consumers, SaaS may offer a high value alternative to infrastructure systems. The growth in the SaaS business model has new providers eager to enter the marketplace.

Before entering the market eager entrants need to be aware of some of the challenges to successfully launching a SaaS portfolio including sales techniques, financial issues, technical considerations, cyber security and customer expectations. And while SaaS can benefit enterprise users by freeing up resources currently dedicated to in house IT systems, the transition to the cloud may cause serious integration issues. Just like all new ventures success often depends more on the preparation phase rather than the launch. Formulating the right idea to fill a real need is critical. Whether starting anew, forming a “White Label Partnership”, joining in an existing franchise or investing in an up and coming SaaS organization attracting the right technical talent and qualified management partners is critical.

For even the best prepared and most talented managers, starting a new SaaS business is no easy endeavor. As with any new business, personal intuition and great plans may look good on paper but more often than not can be out of sync with what the customer has in mind. Keeping the initial offerings targeted to providing simple solutions and unencumbered with unnecessary bells and whistles will enable new clients to understand the benefits of the service and implement the transition successfully. Focusing on serving initial customers with exceptional service will build a foundation for future success and growth.

“We are working with many SaaS businesses that are not just launching software but developing a sustainable business model,” comments Julie Gareleck, Managing Partner, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction).  “Our main focus with these companies is to clearly define how the software can be monetized by focusing a one-to-many approach.  For many in the industry, building the platform is top priority and making money is a secondary focus.  Our approach with clients has proven to be successful and it’s exciting to watch these companies gain market share in competitive industries.”

For more information on what it takes to build a successful SaaS business model, click.

Atop the List of the Most Monumental Failures

The event wasn’t really anything new. Like the occurrence of hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, wild fires and other major natural calamities, data breaches come around from time to time almost as naturally and expected as Mother Nature’s furious punishments.  Differentiated from one another by a numeric sliding scale that measure their severity and the totality of their mayhem on the populace, natural disasters are recognized as unavoidable as they routinely play havoc on populations all around the world.

Data breaches, while unfortunately common in today’s data driven world of commerce and social interaction, can be defended against by pre-breach, cybersecurity deployments that may lessen their impact or result in their total avoidance. Breaches of consumer’s private information are not yet measured by a numeric scale of severity, but the latest data breach at Equifax just may have raised the upper limits of the damage impact bar.

The recent Equifax incident resulted in the privacy of 143 million customers being violated, but the total impact may be much larger and may initiate additional unintended disclosures of financial information by hackers for some time to come. The domino effect may continue for years given that the most noted information stolen was customer’s social security identification numbers. With this one number, bad actors are capable of unlocking and laying bare all there is to know of an individual’s identity. Unlike credit card information, Social Security numbers are for life.

Surprisingly this was the third time Equifax had been hacked this year. To not learn from the previous experiences and enact additional safe guards to avoid additional breaches is a failure of leadership and culture as much as a failure of network security. “Equifax sits on the crown jewels of what we consider personally identifying information,” says Jason Glassberg, cofounder of the corporate security and penetration testing firm Casaba Security. “You’d think a company like that, guarding what they’re guarding, would have a heightened sense of awareness and that clearly was not the case.” Equifax has provided a website where customers can find out if they are impacted by the breach but has no intention on notifying consumers if they are impacted. The company will provide affected consumers with the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier for a period of one year.

With more than 2,200 data breaches occurring so far this year alone, companies need to step-up their preparations for responding to an inevitable breach.  To effectively secure personal information and networks, company leaders need to understand that that privacy and security are coequals. Applying concepts of basic cyber hygiene and realizing that cyber security is an integral part of the company’s overall operations is essential.

Prior to retiring, Richard Smith, CEO of Equifax said, “Equifax will not be defined by this incident, but rather, how we respond.” The comment was seen as wishful thinking at best. Equifax will most assuredly be defined by this breach and the disparate response to it for decades to come. Being at the top of the most memorable list is not a good or profitable place to be when it is the list of the most monumental failures. After two decades and millions of dollars spent on cybersecurity the saga of failure and the effects on consumer’s privacy is bound to continue. Maintaining the status quo is clearly not an option.

Are you prepared for your next cybersecurity failure?

Did Trends Become Reality in 2017?

Just as the green leaves of summer begin to turn color and fall from the trees, predictors of the coming year’s trends offer their insights as to how the most successful, leading companies will achieve their sales objectives in the months ahead.  Last year, Forbes cited important trends in business for 2017.   As we quickly approach the end of 2017, we wanted to see how those trend predictions materialized this year.

Reality: Subject Matter Experts Become the New Rainmakers

Once upon a time there were three sales approaches. The order taker, who called to fill a customer’s needs, the pitchman who focused efforts on remunerating product or service features and benefits to bag and ring-up the sale and the consultative sales person, the subject matter expert (SME), who approached the sale by utilizing advanced business experience and knowledge to close a deal.  Today executive B2B leadership is looking for folks that can provide experience and valuable insights to move their businesses forward.  While the days of sales representatives calling on the C-Level to get a meeting still has its venues, the future of sales lies with the SME Rainmakers.

In Process: Crowdfunding Validates New Products

The prediction that crowdfunding would replace venture capitalist (VC) in 2017, while gaining on more traditional sources of financing, appears to be encountering the learning curve.  Indiegogo CEO, David Mandelbrot says, “We’ve very focused on educating both entrepreneurs and backers of those campaigns. It’s definitely a challenge, but it’s also very new.”  Early analysis of crowd funding indicates a growing popularity among real estate investors and those entrepreneurs seeking to secure asset-backed loans from accredited investors and for supplementary capital for ventures that have been successful in raising funds from traditional VCs.  While crowdfunding has become popular with start-up entrepreneurs, it doesn’t necessarily validate the success of a new product.

Reality: Sales & Content Marketing Fully Integrated

“More than just a buzzword, content marketing has become one of the most powerful tools for attracting targeted customers, building loyalty, and driving profitability,” says Veronica Stoddart, the principal of VS Content Strategies. “If done right and properly integrated within a brand, content marketing will benefit a cross-section of departments, including marketing, sales, public relations, and even customer relations.” The predictor’s crystal ball clearly scored on this one.   The emergence of this digital economy, content has become a clear driver in the sales process.

Reality: Video Becomes Essential 

The combined top three social media networks, Snapchat, Facebook and YouTube are producing 22 billion video views every day. Marketers can no longer ignore video. Video is becoming the method in which to distribute content that will resonate with a broad base of audiences.

In Process: New Collaboration Rethinking Email

Despite all the new emerging digital marketing tools, email remains a persistent survivor. While popular tools like Slack are becoming more common in the workplace, email remains to be an important communication tool.

Reality: Brick and Mortar Loses Retail Stores

We have experienced major retailers closing stores and retooling location strategy in response to consumers’ increase use of online sellers.  Those retail companies that understand the importance of customer experience will continue to excel. Brick and mortar retailers must find ways to be relevant to its customers and continue to evolve the in-store experience.

Reality: Subject Matter Experts Get Sales Support

With the push for content, thought leadership, and marketing tools, organizations are embracing a new way to structure sales and marketing departments. Silos have existed between the two.  In today’s fast-paced digital environment, integration is critical.  Subject matter experts bring knowledge and expertise that can inform sales opportunities.

In Process: Narrow Segments Capture Attention

Understanding your customer segment is critical in communicating a marketing/sales message. However, spreading the message too thin isn’t being effective. “It’s less about narrowing the focus of segments but rather focusing on those segments that are actively making purchase decisions.  The overall effectiveness of this strategy will improve, says Julie Gareleck, Founder and CEO Junction Creative Solutions.” 

In Process: Recurring Revenue

Companies will continue to shift from single, up-front payments for products to recurring revenue for a service.  In B2B and B2C, the goal is to engage a customer on a regular basis, with an ongoing need for goods or services.

Gareleck comments, “This is always going to be a conversation about value.  I don’t see the entire marketplace moving to retainer relationships as a portion of businesses are still looking for the cheapest option available or the most cost effective.”

In Process: Millennials Groomed for Leadership

Ian Altman, a B2B Integrity-based sales and growth expert predicted, “Just like past generations, millennials will emerge as the next set of managers and executives. Top performing companies will work to magnify their strengths and build systems to compensate for their perceived deficiencies.”

Organizations often lack the middle-management layer that trained young leadership to rise and grow within the organization. While Millennials are going to become 50% of the work-force in the next few years, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are prepared for leadership roles.

It’s clear that there is accuracy with trends and predictions.  Some of these areas are evolving while others have reached mass adoption. It will be interested to see what forecasters predict for 2018!

Advice to Entrepreneurs: Spend Every Penny Like It’s Your Last

All new businesses share one common element regardless of the type or size of the endeavor; funding. Acquiring the necessary capital to get the shelves stocked, the doors open, and enough sales to get the cash flowing, remains the most difficult aspect of start-ups and the number one reason small businesses and startups fail. Most new business ventures take 12 to 18 months to generate enough cash flow to become financially self-reliant. While most new businesses rely on the entrepreneurs’ ability to pony up personal cash and assets, outside sources for capital are usually required. Traditional lender, investor and credit outlets are a staple of enterprise funding, but technology has made it much easier and cheaper to start a new business.

Crowd funding, the online availability of capital for emerging businesses, has become the go to location for those looking to fast-track the launch of the business. Trends in the startup and early-stage investor ecosystem continue to grow and are on track to become a major source of new business funding. The source and availability of new capital is not the only important aspect of financial challenges facing a new venture. Managing expenditures and unnecessary spending often is the major reason behind early stage failures.  Careful spending is important in any business. Music entrepreneur and guitar legend Zakk Wyldein says, “You have to pay attention, like with tours and expenses; you have to factor that all in. You want to play music for the rest of your life, you have to pay attention to all the things.”

Dedicating the bulk of spending for things that focus on attracting customers is the best capital spend to generate value and the next generation of funding; revenue. “I challenge you to achieve what you are doing with less capital,” says Mike Schroll, founder of Startup.SC.  Often a successful launch results in a euphoric mentality for those inexperienced and unaware that the most challenging time comes after the excitement of the start wears off.

Like a horse race, every entrant enters the gates with enthusiasm and confidence of a winning run, only to be tempered by the competition and the potential, ever present stumbles encountered along the way. It’s a long race, spending the winnings before you cross the finish line will result in your horse falling back in the pack and ultimately being left out of the race.

A large percentage of companies are squandering the easy cash, utilizing it in bad faith and spending it like it’s their own. Easy money comes with increased responsibility and a need for additional layers of accountability to ensure that investor capital is not squandered.

“I’ve been in or around the emerging business market for nearly 20 years and I have witnessed the good, the bad, and the ugly as it relates to funding,” comments Julie Gareleck, CEO, Junction Creative Solutions (Junction).  “I often see smart entrepreneurs with a solid business or technology waste money on salaries and expensive business trips.  In the companies that we have consulted with, we have realized more success with those entrepreneurs who have boot-strapped the business and put their own money on the line.  There is something to be said about using your own money. It’s more difficult but there is typically less wasteful spending. My advice to those start-ups who have been successfully raising money is to treat every penny as though it was your last.  Spend the investment on monetizing the business first.”

The dark side of attracting investment is the reality that missed expectations can lead to unrest with investors. In some cases, investors can exercise their right to take ownership of your business or technology.  “If you’ve committed to investors, you have to deliver. No excuses,” comments Gareleck.  “Mistakes and missteps are a given in business.  Be responsible and take accountability for every dollar. After all, it’s their money.”

While not every entrepreneur can boot-strap the business, entrepreneurs must educate themselves on how to properly manage the investment dollars in the beginning.  It will serve as the benchmark for the future and viability of the business long-term.

Share your investment story with our network!

Is It Getting Too Complicated with Four Generations Comingling at the Water Cooler?

In the most recent years, marketers and employers have been attempting a multitude of strategies to figure out who Millennials really are and what their expectations about life, job and product are. For those who are still struggling to understand Millennials, and the most effective means to connect with them, Generation Z has reached the workforce.

While some marketers can at least claim a little success in cracking the millennial code, others have just given up and returned to re-focus on what worked to attract consumers in the past. Employers who have tried everything from ping pong tables, paid-time off for advocating for social justice issues and work from home models in order to attract, inspire and retain effective millennial employees are still evaluating the totality of their experiences. Are we now supposed to scrap everything and retool corporate strategies for the new generation?

Generation Z consists of those born in 1996 or later. They make up 25.9% of the United States population and are expected to contribute $44 billion to the American economy. By 2020, they will account for one-third of the U.S. population. The most tech savvy and information consuming generation in history, Generation “Z’ers” tend to be less focused on a single thought but are demonstrating an amazing ability to multitask and a lack of patience with a single subject; bad news for War and Peace sized novel writers and good news for publishers of an abbreviated Readers Digest.

This generation has grown up accustomed to the fast paced development of technology. They are perpetual in their use of smart, digital devices and spend less time watching TV than their forbearers. “We are the first true digital natives,” said Hannah Payne, an 18-year-old U.C.L.A. student and lifestyle blogger. “I can almost simultaneously create a document, edit it, post a photo on Instagram and talk on the phone, all from the user-friendly interface of my iPhone. Generation Z takes in information instantaneously, and loses interest just as fast.”  As result, marketers are experiencing a massive shift in advertising methods and content messaging in order to successfully connect with generation Z’s shifting values. “When it doesn’t get there that fast they think something’s wrong,” said Marcie Merriman, executive director of growth strategy at Ernst & Young. “They expect businesses, brands and retailers to be loyal to them. If they don’t feel appreciated, they’re going to move on. It’s not about them being loyal to the business.”

Gen Z-ers have digitally honed social insights but are more socially diverse and conscious. They are more likely to appreciate the face to face relationships than their predecessors. Wanting to do great work for an employer, they are predicted to be willing to invest years in a job that propels them forward to achieving their personal self-development. Many are shunning traditional routes to higher education opting instead for online education while they practice making a living.  According to Gen Z marketing strategist Deep Patel, “the newly developing high tech and highly networked world has resulted in an entire generation thinking and acting more entrepreneurially.” Generation Z desires more independent work environments with nearly 75% of Gen Z teens espousing an ultimate goal to start their own business. “Kids are witnessing start-up companies make it big instantly via social media,” said Andrew Schoonover, a 15-year-old in Olathe, Kan. “We do not want to work at a local fast-food joint for a summer job. We want to make our own business because we see the lucky few who make it big.”

But with all the hype and predictions of generational differences is the next mega market group really all that different from their parents and grandparents?

When developing a strategy to segment any market we must realize that no one generation does a market segment make. Each generation, while differing in the methods of making connections, will invent many new insights and social behaviors but also retain important aspects of connectivity from their predecessors. Generation X, Millennials, Z’ers and Baby Boomers are all occupying the same marketplace and sharing the same water cooler conversations at work.  It will require marketers and employers to maintain due vigilance as each generation continues to morph into the multitude of individuals they want to become.  How are you adapting your organization to accommodate 4 generations?

As Summer Heats Up, Airline Brands are Taking Heat from Customers

The spring buds had barely broken into leaf when United Airlines (UA) set into motion what is becoming a summer of brand destroying idiocies. The airline industry, not always praised for their customer centric approach to operations management, decided moving a few of their employees to another location was more important than several passengers who had paid for their passage and were boarded and preparing for departure. The flight was scheduled to depart O’Hare International Airport in Chicago for Louisville, Ky., at 5:40 p.m. but hundreds of other passengers were delayed two hours while UA flight attendants and crew members summoned some strong arms of the private law and forcibly assaulted and dragged an offending passenger off the plane.

Later into the season an IT outage at British Airways (BA) caused thousands of flights to be cancelled impacting more than 75,000 customers travel plans. Glitches and Murphy’s Law has been known to throw an unintended wrench into even the most well-executed software program before, but BA’s poor communication and resulting response was so inept that many passengers have vowed to boycott the airline.

Carmen Courchesne, a 74-year-old passenger was supposed to be flying from Massachusetts to Florida with help from JetBlue’s (JB) wheelchair assistance program when something went wrong at Logan International Airport. The grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, was left unattended at a gate in Boston for several hours before her family, who were waiting at the airport in Florida, became concerned and sought her whereabouts. Turned out many hours later she was still sitting, abandoned and unattended at Logan Airport.

These and numerous other industry-actors customer relations missteps has made the summer of 2017 a time of mind-blowing, brand busting odyssey. And if the actual incidences where not sufficient enough to anger and alienate their customers and severely injure their brand’s value, the reaction from the airlines employees and management in response to the problems left nothing on the table to cast doubt on where these airlines position their customers in their operations hierarchy. Initially, UA responded to their passenger assault by attempting to explain why overbooking flights and reallocating human resources topped passenger service when it came to the company’s bottom line. BA’s response gave a; so what, these things happen, we’ll do better next time public impression. JB’s seaming flippant response to botching their passengers with disability customer service did very little to appease the concerns for the family of the disabled grandmother, much less add value to the company’s brand or reputation.

Customers have long been told that they’re never wrong, that customer sovereignty trumps all things when it comes to making connections with a responsible marketer, even when a consumers behavior spills out of the envelop of common decency. In reality, “Customers are not always right, but they are always the customer”.

Is it possible that the answer to theses errant reactions lies at the foot of another business management mantra, “What gets measured gets done”? In today’s high-tech, data harvesting, benchmarking, number crunching world, it is becoming clear to airline consumers that airline employees’ performance evaluation matrix does not include so much of a bullet when it comes to the art and science of customer centricity. Either that, or a whole lot of company associates failed to get the memo.

Regardless of the specific reasons, the summer of the “War on the passengers” is an indication of a systematic problem, perpetuated and promoted by those at the very top of the corporate labor chain. Expectations and examples all start at the top and at the top of every subsequent management level. It then matriculates down to where the end user meets with the company’s product or service. And while no associate can completely be held accountable for the poor and despicable actions of a few consumers, each of us who make our life’s work from connecting with consumers must put the misbehavior in perspective and context of the whole of the experience. A company’s brand value and each of our personal values are ultimately on the line and on display for all to see.

The Importance of Understanding Your Customers

More than ever before, to be successful in launching or growing a business, success rests on the ability to understand consumer behavior, their needs, wants and beliefs. Customer behavior is changing almost daily as technology, advancing its influence over how consumers make their buying decisions. Fully understanding these shifts in consumer behaviors and beliefs will help you unlock fresh insights to drive your business forward. The traditional marketing and sales approach to creating “target audiences” of creating a profile based on gender, age, demographic, and geographic data alone is an approach that will cripple your ability to reach target audiences in an effective way.

Personal factors such as individual interests and opinions are influenced by demographic data such as age, gender, culture, profession and background, but psychological factors like perceptions and attitudes can play an even more important role in a consumer’s ability to process and comprehend information. Extensive social media interactions and personal relationships with family and friends is an increasingly significant influencer on customers purchasing decisions. Identifying and understanding the most critical factors and influences that affect your target audiences’ buying decision is essential to making a successful connection. How does your customer consume information and what sources do they get it from?

Just as technology has changed human behavior, entrepreneurs and business owners must adapt to the new approach to marketing and sales strategy. Consumers have unprecedented access to information from multiple and more mobile sources than ever before. The speed of change and the rapid introduction of newer technologies are impacting consumer behavior more quickly and some businesses are unable to adapt to the frenzied pace. Those who are too deliberate in recognizing and responding effectively, run the risk of being left behind in the marketplace. Brian Vellmure, in his article “How Technology Is Reshaping Human Behavior (And What You Should Do About It)” said, “As I look around, I see too many companies still wrestling with solving yesterday’s problems, woefully doing their best to survive, while the speed of technology renders their efforts irrelevant.”

Whether direct to consumer or B2B; online or brick and mortar; today’s consumers are better educated and technological savvy, and freely utilize multiple mobile devices to demand improved purchasing interactions with their product and service providers. Dave Parro, partner and vice president at Walker Sands, says, “The priority for retailers no longer lies in increasing the number of consumers who shop online, but rather improving their experience—whether it is online, in store or across different product categories,”

In order to respond to this rapid disruption to traditional purchasing processes, it is advantageous for businesses and entrepreneurs to gather important insights and perspectives  by aligning with strategic partners who understand the evolving dynamics of consumer behavior – – not just in your industry – – but across industry.  “The insights and data should drive your overarching strategy. This is critical to not only increasing awareness for your business or the product and services you provide, but also identifying those that are in the market for your products and services”, says Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO of Junction Creative Solutions.  “This can significantly impact the length of the sales cycle and can reduce costs and time spent on securing these customers.”

Are you effectively reaching your target customers?

Traditional Agencies and the Importance of Being Relevant

Change is inevitable and the one constant among a universe of constants that is destined to be changing perpetually. Business models once thought to be permanent, only needing occasional refinements, are learning that nothing is forever, and in today’s fast paced technological era, nothing is forever for very long.

Legacy advertising agencies, historically a model where marketers hired well established teams of “Mad Men” types to create thirty-second television commercials and high-gloss magazine pictorials, are finding that even their vision has to change. To resurrect a familiar automotive advertising tag-line from the past, “It’s not your father’s Buick anymore.”  A long time industry veteran and CEO of Speakeasy Guild, John Winsor, recently said, “Advertising agencies are no longer the valued partners they once were.  In fact brands don’t really even need agencies anymore.  It’s not just their work that’s losing relevance; the ad agency business model itself may now be defunct.”

Like many other industries, advertising agencies of the future will find it necessary to become far more focused on their client’s need to satisfy their customers and less around the brand or the channels utilized to connect with consumers. Digital has disrupted the status quo of every market player’s business model, creating new pathways to consumers, opening up the market to new competitors and instilling significant and challenging innovations in organization and methods at an ever increasing speed.  Mark Read, CEO of WPP’s Wunderman and of WPP Digital says, “We’re going to need to be much more accountable to our clients for results, by which I mean sales. Part of this means we need to use technology and data to track our work to sales. It also gives us the opportunity to build new capabilities and expand our offer into e-commerce.”

At the mega brand PepsiCo, Brad Jakeman says, “The most effective creative will come from the integration of content creation and distribution, and greater in-house content publishing resources. For a brand like Pepsi, it was once sufficient for us to produce four pieces of content a year — mainly TV — and we could spend about six to eight months developing that one piece of content and spend $1 million on each piece of film. Now, those four pieces has turned into 4,000; eight months has changed to eight days and eight hours; and budgets have not gone up. Maybe [we have to publish] so quickly and efficiently that it needs to be more of a content-publishing group that sits inside the company and augments the work done through [agencies].”

What is required of agencies to remain relevant to its clients? Arthur Sadoun, the new CEO of Publicis, says “……”clients have three challenges: low growth, pressure on costs and a need to restore trust in their brands. All three are forcing them to transform their businesses and change the way they deal with customers. This is a race. It’s a race to be relevant. The big difference between today and yesterday is speed. You need to be much faster on the execution.” Mr. Sadoun is now faced with the cultural challenge of integrating and scaling up this business model.

Marketers and agencies are racing to get ahead but given the quick pace of technology – it’s a head to head challenge many are finding difficult to encompass. Julie Gareleck, founder and CEO Junction Creative Solutions says, “It is clear that we are in a new world and a new era. We have to adapt to entirely new marketing channels, make important decisions every day on how to invest our efforts and capital in utilizing new technologies in order to compete on an expanded global economy. Our firm was founded on a hybrid approach – valuing strategy and execution.  You need to be able to show value in terms of dollars, as opposed to just the number of overall impressions.” To Gareleck’s point, the impact that traditional management consulting firms have on the life of agencies is evident.

What is happening in so many industries today is a real game changer. It won’t be enough to tweak the old model around the edges. Agencies who fail to identify the new dynamics in the environment and react in a timely manner risk being left behind.