See How Clients Rate Our Passion for Their Business

Surveying your customers in order to gauge their satisfaction with your products or services is nothing new—and applying that same principle to a PR, marketing and communications agency such as ours makes perfect sense. And we’ve been measuring client satisfaction for 11 years. The results, as you might expect, help us assess our strengths and weaknesses, and they form a strong foundation for determining the agency’s to-dos, whether that’s to build on our ability to drive new sales for our customers or polish our storytelling capabilities.

Instead of purely bragging about our results, however, which you can see a select sampling of here, we challenge you to assess your own PR/marketing/communications agency on the following criteria:

1) Is your agency an extension of your own team? By this I mean does your agency work efficiently and effectively with your staff? Do the two teams have a solid rapport and bullet-proof communication? Does your agency enhance your own capabilities (versus creating redundancy) and complement your existing skillset (versus replicating key abilities)? If it didn’t violate any contracts or policies, would you hire the staff at your agency as employees? Do they have the same (or complementary) core values, work ethic, personal style (and even sense of humor) as your strongest team members?

2) Does your agency demonstrate a passion for your business? Let’s face it—it’s difficult for anyone to know your business as well as you do—but a good agency can come damn close—and should. Your perfect agency should demonstrate complete immersion in your industry, including knowing your competitors, understanding the key issues and having a familiarty with the major players, trends and developments. We’re not talking about a quick refresh before your next in-person visit or conference call—we’re referring to a deep  and ongoing knowledge of all your strengths, weakenesses and paint points—internal and external. In a word, your agency should be a subject matter expert in your company and your industry.

3) Does your agency work proactively on your behalf? Someone once said you can’t teach people to be proactive—they either are or aren’t. In my opinion, the best employees are wired to take charge and think ahead—they try to solve problems ahead of the curve. The flip side, naturally, is less desirable—the reactive (versus proactive) employee waits for your orders before they move. Seems pretty clear which type makes a better partner, don’t you think?

4) Last but not least, and perhaps most importantly, does your agency help drive new sales? Is your agency connecting you to qualified leads? Yes, a large part of PR, marketing and comuinications work involves building a brand, whether that’s through thought leadership (contributed articles), social media (Facebook likes) and/or media coverage (Wall Street Journal). But is your agency working from a strategic point of view, directing, managing and integrating all the efforts, from content creation and media outreach to social media, ongoing measurement and reliable follow-up, in order to drive new business into your hopper?  At the end of the day, just answering that one simple question may be the truth you need.

Barbara Call is director of content at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraCall1

A Robot in Every Home

The South Korean government has a lofty goal—it wants to put a robot in every house by 2020. As part of this grand high-tech plan, which is designed, in part, to protect South Korea’s economy for the future, the Government is considering investing hundreds of millions of dollars to build a robotics innovation center in one of three locations: Massachusetts, Georgia or the west coast. If the South Korean Government selects the Bay State (timing TBD), the upside would be huge—an enormous influx of capital would help drive local robotics innovation and product development, two activities that are already happening in at least two universities (Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute) as well as at dozens of startups around New England.

Equally important is the impact such a visionary investment would have on creating jobs.

While traditional New England manufacturing operations for such industries as shoes and toys has moved offshore, advanced manufacturing, which the robotics industry requires, creates new, high-paying jobs. In fact, advanced manufacturing is the fourth largest employer in the Bay State, according to Ted Acworth, founder and CEO of Artiac, speaking at a recent Robotics Cluster gathering sponsored by the Massachusetts Technology Leadership Council.

Earlier this spring executives from several local robotics companies and state legislators hosted a South Korean delegation in order to “pitch” the Bay State as the perfect location for the new center; next month delegates and legislators are expected to dine with executives from local robotics companies in order to continue the conversation.

It goes without saying that all robotics companies in and around Massachusetts, from HydroidiRobot and Harvest Automation to Symbiotic and Heartland Robotics, stand to benefit from this potential development, as does our economy (new high-paying jobs equals stronger local economy).

Naturally I hope the South Korean Government selects the Bay State for its new center. And I encourage everyone—at robotics companies or otherwise—to get involved, if you can, with whatever it takes to win this prize. But at the end of the day, even if the South Koreans decide to build elsewhere, the new attention on the topic of robotics will only help fertilize this budding business. Layer in Amazon.com’s recent purchase of Kiva Systems for $775 million and I believe we’re sitting on a rocket ship that’s about to take off. And yes—I can see robots driving that rocketship to Mars and beyond, can’t you?

Barbara Call is director of content at Greenough. Follow her on Twitter @BarbaraCall1

Not Quite Ready for Social? Let's Talk Trade Shows

There are those who will argue the trade show is dead, and while I've witnessed some decline of the industry event over the past few years, let's assume for a moment that the trade show is still an unquestioned staple of B2B marketing.  Bear with me now…

A typical story might go like this: Mike Marketer picks four or five important shows to attend every year. How does he know they're important?  Easy. Everybody who's anybody in the industry sector is there, and, of course, it's teeming with prospective customers who might be in need of the innovative, best-in-class solution from Mike’s company, TechTitan.  There are usually a few current customers at the events, as well to whom the TechTitan event team might want to show a little love.  Mike's usually part of that team, as are a few of TechTitan's product geniuses and sales wizards. 

Mike starts planning months in advance.  There are booth graphics and slogans to design; he usually picks an event or two to pour extra money into so TechTitan can grab a speaking slot for thought leadership; and then there's the question of getting everyone interested.  Usually this involves spending a little extra for give-aways, preferably the latest i_____ (insert Apple product name here).

Visibility, a thought leadership platform, conversations with prospects, and new leads for sales are the reward for Mike's time, energy, and budget if all goes well at the event.

What if jumping into social media weren't really all that different from including an event in your marketing program?  We hear a lot that companies don't see the value or don't have time.  Often, they don't really know how either, or they want to just jump right in because how hard can it really be to write 140 characters?  It may seem like a far-fetched comparison, but social media might not be all that different from the old staple of marketing – events.

A couple lessons about social from events:

1.  Go because your target market is there

This was the first reason I started thinking about the comparison.  In researching social media for a client, I was surprised to see how many people were saying "I need an innovative, best-in-class solution," or "Does anyone know about TechTitan? Do you like their products?"  Okay, no, they weren't saying that exactly, but they were asking for solutions and product advice. It makes sense to show up at the shows where your customers and prospects are showing up.  If they're showing up on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn, why shouldn't you show up there?  (If they're not, then by all means, stay away from social media.)

2. Give something away

You can't actually hand someone an iPrize through Twitter (though you can certainly raffle one off), but just like at events, people love free stuff.  Give them help!  Give them information they can use!  Share your network!  If you do, they'll come visit your booth social media profile again.  They might even bring their friends back to visit.

3.  Please don't show up and start screaming.  It's not very becoming.

At an event, if you want a captive audience to listen to your presentation, you can get it in one of a few ways.  One, you're pretty darn smart and cool, so event coordinators want you to speak.   Two, you pay up for a speaking slot or to host your own side-ring event.  Or, three (which is becoming increasingly rare), you're articulate and have an out-of-this world idea and you earn your speaking slot.

You don't just walk out onto the event floor and start yelling about how awesome your company is and expect a crowd to emerge from the woodwork.

Along the lines of giving something away, in social media, you can't expect people to just spontaneously converge into an audience.  While you can't buy your followers/fans/connections (at least just yet), you still need to be so cool people want to hear you (think Steve Jobs) or willing to invest (a lot of time and effort) or you're articulate and share great ideas.  Usually, reality requires a combination of the latter two, just as Mike Marketer probably sponsors some shows and tries to earn speaking slots at others.  And of course, being cool never hurts.

4. You need a plan

Mike from TechTitan puts a lot of planning effort into his events.  Social media requires the same.  What's the personality of your booth/profile?  Who's on the team at the show/online?  Ideally you've got a cross-section of people.  Which shows/channels are best for reaching customers?  For reaching analysts?  What give-aways/content types really get prospects excited?

I'll stop here to avoid continuing the argument too far.  Yes, it's somewhat of an apples-to-oranges comparison, but my hope is that it will help raise a few questions about why we're sometimes so quick to write off social media as not applicable for B2B marketing, in particular in the tech sector.  And, while I do strongly believe that social media should not be solely a marketing initiative, that's often where it will gain foothold first.  Any other ways one of the oldest tools of the trade and one of the newest may not be so different?

Contributed by Catharine Morgan.  Follow her @c_morgan.