CCO Viewpoint: What Was New is New Again

Drew Hagen, Co-Founder and Chief Culture Officer, InVision Communications

InVision All Company Photo

In the news last week, wedged between stories on the latest political gaffes, alligators climbing fences in Florida (oh, Florida) and stock market swings, there was a story about a coalition of 181 CEOs—including leaders of companies such as Apple, Pepsi, and JP Morgan Chase—surprisingly stating that optimizing return to shareholders as the single guiding principle of business is perhaps an outdated concept. From the New York Times:

Breaking with decades of long-held corporate orthodoxy, the Business Roundtable issued a statement on “the purpose of a corporation,” arguing that companies should no longer advance only the interests of shareholders. Instead, the group said, they must also invest in their employees, protect the environment and deal fairly and ethically with their suppliers.

We agree. In fact, this has been our approach at InVision since its inception 27 years ago.

As young men working for one of the publicly-held “big agencies” and experiencing first-hand this shareholder-first paradigm of contemporary business, my then-colleague, now long-time business partner Rod Mickels and I felt that there might be a better way—at least one that better aligned with the values we shared.

Thus InVision was born in 1991 with a commitment by Rod and me to be “good people” both in life AND in business; that we would build an agency in which long-term client relationships take precedence over short-term transactional opportunities, a company where employees are treated like family and suppliers are viewed as valued partners in our success.

We’re proud to say that it worked then, and it works now.

Through a focus on healthy, long-term success rather than rolling 3-month metrics, we managed to build a solid foundation on which we’ve grown both with and for our client partners. Two of our client partners, Genentech and Oracle, have been with us from the very beginning, and several others extend beyond 15 and 20 years – a rarity in this business!

By establishing and nurturing a culture that respects and rewards employees, we’ve been able to consistently attract and retain top talent—truly the best in the business.* Retention of top talent enables our client partners to develop relationships not just with InVision the company, but with InVision the people**. Many InVisionites work on a given client’s business program after program, year after year, bringing invaluable accumulated experience that amplifies the power of the work and drives efficiencies at every turn.

Likewise, our suppliers are not vendors, they’re partners with whom we have long-standing relationships and a shared commitment to excellence. Because of the volume of work that flows through InVision and the strength of the relationships we’ve established and nurtured over years, we’re able to bring our client partners the highest quality of work AND efficiencies of scale that enable budgets to both work harder and go further.

Be Great, Do Good, Have Fun. This is our mantra at InVision—words we live by each and every day. While we applaud the Business Roundtable’s statement, we also hope that they truly mean what they say and take real action. If they do, I strongly believe they’ll see what we have: that integrity, transparency, and commitment to ‘good’ never go out of style.

Business Roundtable: Welcome to the party. We’re glad you’re here.

*Across our 130 employees, nearly half (48%) have been at InVision 5 years or more, 30% 10 years or more.

**Our people have been invited to many client’s weddings…and vice versa!

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Breaking Through the Noise With Unique Brand Experiences


How Unique Brand Experiences Can Break Through the Noise

With companies now going through two or three transformations a year, our clients tell us the same thing: Competing for attention in a noisy world is extremely challenging. 

Customers, partners, and employees are bombarded with multiple thousands of messages and distractions every day. It’s a struggle to identify the signal that can break through all that noise to engage a target audience’s attention.

Our media landscape is saturated, hitting people with multiple messages all the time. Whether it’s online, through company news, press and media, advertising, or even hearsay, there are constant distractions all day, every day.

What Is Noise in Marketing, and How Do You Overcome It?

All those disruptions blend together and create noise in the marketing communication process.So much “white noise”makes it arduous to focus on the right message. Worse, it prevents consumers from connecting with a brand that meets their needs.

So how do you break through the noise? With unique brand experiences that offer true value and engagement to an audience whose attention span has decreased from 12 to eight seconds in roughly the past 20 years.

It’s not enough to just communicate: Audiences must engage with the key messaging and information if you want them to retain it, feel ownership over it, and take action on it. Our approach to strategic communication is designed to get audiences to grab, touch, feel, chew on, cheer, comment about, emulate, encourage, retweet, share with a colleague, and get nerd-level excited about. We focus on audience engagement and reach that will move people to action.

Start Developing Unique Brand Experiences

Marketing above the noise ultimately depends on understanding what differentiates you from the competition, then executing your brand faithfully and consistently. If you’re a brand struggling to reach your target audience, hopefully these methods give you an advantage over the 4,000 to 10,000 other messages people are exposed to every day:

  • Gain alignment on your objectives and set expectations.
  • Know your audience and understand their careabouts.
  • Make it personal to create an emotional connection between you and your target audience.
  • Develop a multichannel campaign to deliver your message at the right time and place to the right people.
  • If you have a call to action, make it clear.
  • Execute your brand faithfully and consistently — both visually and verbally — across all platforms and channels.

With unique and compelling strategies behind your messaging campaign, your brand will have both prospective and existing customers homing in on your signal.

To learn how InVision’s integrated approach can help you break through the noise, check us out at iv.com or contact us at info@iv.com.

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Getting Supercharged Creative from your Agency

“Cold Dead Fish” or “Sushi?”

By Jimmy Verrett, Senior Creative Strategist, InVision Communications


“Creative,” (to paraphrase a well-worn phrase), “I can’t tell you what it is, but I know it when I see it.”

Defining “creative” (as a noun) is never straightforward, but it’s especially nebulous in the experiential B2B space. Some people might say it’s an event’s overall “idea.” Others might define “creative” as the way a meeting theme is brought to life in a ballroom or arena. Others still might describe “creative” as a visual look, a stage design, or an opening experience.

Or–something else entirely.

In truth, creative is all that and more. It’s Emotion. Engagement. Action. Desire. Interest. Craft. Thoughtfulness. Awareness.

It’s the difference between “cold dead fish” and “sushi.” Which would you rather have?

Assuming you’d prefer the latter, what can you do to supercharge the creative output of your agency? Plenty. But let’s start with these six:

1. Articulate clear objectives – for the event, for the experience, for the business.

We’ve found that creative ideas built on clear objectives and sound strategy make the difference between a “just OK” experience and a truly outstanding one. To design and execute a program that resonates with your attendees and positively impacts business downstream, you need to ask yourself a few questions. What are you hoping to achieve? What business objectives do you wish to address through this program? What do you want your attendees to do, think or feel as a result of their experience? A thorough understanding of the “what” and the “why” gives your creative team valuable insights and unlocks their ability to develop a thrillingly inventive “how,” ensuring that the creative output is on-point and purposeful.

2. Formally brief your agency team, ideally in person.

A strong, actionable brief enables your agency team to develop an insightful creative strategy—the real foundation of supercharged creative. Through articulation of program parameters, goals, objectives, audience profiles and, most importantly, the desired downstream actions and behaviors of audience members, we’re able to develop strategic (purposeful) creative themes, touchpoints, engagements and messages that work synergistically to optimize both impact on audience and value of the investment. While we’re thrilled to receive any quality brief – by email, conference call or web meeting, an in-person, face-to-face briefing is ideal. Why? Because dialogue. Because body language. Because relationships. Because teamwork. You’ll read more about the value of collaboration below (spoiler alert!); an in-person creative briefing is the perfect place to start!

3. Understand your attendees.

We believe that individual audience members share three universal desires: 1) a desire to learn, 2) a desire to grow and 3) a desire to succeed. Fundamentally, this is why people choose to attend an event or engage in an experience. As part of our briefing process, we attempt to understand and articulate these motivations within your particular audience and the context of your particular initiative, then use it to inform creative development. By seeing things from your audience’s perspective, you can design engagements and experiences that deliver real VALUE to your attendees. This is when the creative really sings!

4. Provide sufficient time for the idea to be discovered, developed and nurtured.

When will the lightning strike? When will that incredible idea spring forth? Today at 3:00? Tomorrow at 9:00? I wish I knew! What I do know is that much like preparing a good steak, allowing time for everything to marinate increases the likelihood of an outstanding experience. Creative development takes time, but this is business. After all, timelines must be met! We agree – so let’s set timelines that optimize our likelihood of mutual success. How much time is the right amount of time? This, of course, depends on the ask, the project, its complexity and a whole host of other factors, so let’s sit down and discuss it. Let’s arrive at what makes the most sense together; let’s find a way to give sufficient space and time for inspiration to strike, and for ideas to develop, tighten and become truly outstanding.

5. Trust the process.

With considerable pressure to deliver on both the agency side and the client side, demanding schedules and plenty of unknowns, creative development is a daunting task. We both want to “get it right,” and we both feel a strong desire to do so as quickly as possible. But, outstanding creative ideas rarely (if ever!) arrive fully-formed and ready to implement. Initial ideas will nearly always be either too obvious, too weird or too impractical. But—this blue-sky thinking is the first step in the path toward supercharged creative. This process is essential. It opens the mind, it uncovers new areas to explore, it reveals tangents that lead to other fertile grounds. By trusting the process, by recognizing that it’ll be very fuzzy at the start and that’s okay, you add real value to the creative process. The blockbuster idea is on the horizon, but you need to get there organically.

6. Collaborate!

We believe that the best, most powerful creative ideas are developed not in a vacuum, but in close, active partnership with our clients. Here’s why: Your agency will never know as much about your business as you do and you’re unlikely to have the expansive, cross-functional perspective of your agency. When combined, these two perspectives present immense value to the creative process. Your high-resolution line of sight into your company, customers and culture, which can only be gained from living it from the inside each and every day, can fuel stronger briefs and actionable feedback that enables creative infused with an elevated degree of sophistication and nuance; touchpoints and messages that resonate strongly with your audience because you “get them,” and downstream behaviors and actions that move business forward because you know how your business moves forward. Your agency team, on the other hand, can leverage knowledge, experience and best practices gained from working with clients in various categories of business, size, budget, culture and purpose, bringing new ideas, new approaches, new opportunities for engagement and resonance that might be difficult for you to uncover on your own from the inside. These two viewpoints, working in active collaboration and leveraging the strengths of each, are a key to unlocking landmark creative. Collaborate!

Let’s make sushi!
You invest in live experiences to move audiences to action and to move business forward. So don’t settle for cold dead fish! Break out those chopsticks and let’s supercharge your creative!

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Make the B2B buying process easier for your customers—and for you.


“77% of buyers agree that purchasing has become very complex and difficult.”
SOURCE: 2019, Gartner, Marketing-Fueled Buyer Enablementt


According to Brent Adamson, Distinguished VP, Advisory, Gartner, “The hardest part of B2B solutions isn’t selling them, but buying them. Today’s buying journey has effectively reached a tipping point where it’s become nearly unnavigable without a significant amount of help.”

At InVision, we know that the key to understanding how to sell solutions is understanding how your customers buy solutions. It’s a complicated process that typically involves six to 10 decision makers, each with different challenges, objectives and budgets. We’ve learned a lot about the buying cycle by designing events and integrated programs for our clients, many of whom are leaders in the tech and health services industries. This experience has taught us how to facilitate the process not just for your customers, but for you as well.

From strategy and creative development to events and campaigns, we take a holistic approach to helping our clients successfully translate engagements into sales.

OUR INTEGRATED SOLUTIONS

– Stakeholder alignment
– Audience personas
– Communications and content strategy
– Training and learning design
– Program development and delivery
– Experience and visual design
– Metrics and measurement

To learn more about InVision’s integrated solutions, contact us today at info@iv.com.

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Cross-training Builds B2B Muscle

Best practice: Integrate cross-category experience for greater impact.

Athletes benefit from cross-training; exercising different muscles gives you greater overall strength, endurance and flexibility. It’s the same in business. Gaining experience across different verticals allows teams to expand their ways of thinking and solve for challenges with fresh perspective and best practices learned in other industries.

Every industry presents unique challenges and experiences. There are different audiences to satisfy, different cultures to cater to, different kinds of programs to design. The more you learn about one vertical, the more you can share or apply those best practices to other verticals. It is this integrated way of thinking that delivers the greatest impact for your business.

At InVision, we have long-standing legacy clients in high tech and biopharmaceuticals, not to mention accounts in financial services, gaming, manufacturing, retail and wine & spirits. These industries couldn’t be more different, but we’ve learned a great deal by working in all of them; in fact, our work is stronger because of it. By leaning on our cross-category experience and taking a more integrated view, we can bring all kinds of best practices into play—whether it’s in our strategic approach, creative concepts or production elements. And because we’ve been solving for a wide range of challenges, we’re more agile in our thinking, we’re more flexible in our approach and we’re ready to hit the ground running.

Cross-training definitely builds B2B muscle. This is how we make change, not noise. Want to see us flex? info@iv.com

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The Value of Integration

When it comes to providing integrated solutions, we carefully consider how to balance these three critical needs: The business need, the program need, and the audience need. At the intersection of these needs lies the ‘sweet spot’—an opportunity to maximize your impact across your event ecosystem. In other words, everything that happens before, during and after your event.

Integrating across your event ecosystem provides you with a very clear roadmap detailing what you need to do and how to best approach it: a messaging architecture that points to how all elements will tell the same story, a system of design that visually connects the audience to the experience and a creative journey that ties the audience experience together. 

We encourage our clients to take an integrated approach, understanding sometimes that we’re complementing solutions provided by our clients internally, or by other client agency partners. When you’re integrated across the event ecosystem, you can cut through the clutter of multiple messages and resonate more effectively with your audiences.


There is tremendous value in taking an integrated approach across an event ecosystem, including:

  • Consistency of messaging and brand
  • A seamless experience for the audience
  • Maximized impact across utilized channels
  • Increased efficiencies in processes, which translates to cost savings

To learn more about InVision’s integrated approach, check us out at iv.com or contact us at info@iv.com.

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Taking an Integrated Approach

(Download PDF)

Filling 3 Key Needs
At our core, we believe engagements are most effective when they drive action and modify behaviors. This is why we take an integrated approach to our solutions.

There are three critical components one must consider to successfully provide integrated solutions. And they’re needs-based, ensuring the solutions we offer are purposeful in creating change.

Business Need
The business need is all about the client. Taking corporate initiatives, goals and obstacles into consideration, we recommend how to overcome challenges and achieve success.

Program Need
The program need determines what role elements of the program play in helping meet business objectives. We pride ourselves on getting everyone aligned on what a program needs to achieve so we only propose effective tactics.

Audience Need
To meet an audience need, we must know who they are, what they feel and need to hear. This understanding informs how to shape the most worthwhile engagements.

We listen, scale, create and deliver. Make change. Not noise.

 


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A Note from Our Founders

Drew Hagen and Rod Mickels in 1991 (left). Drew Hagen and Rod Mickels today (right).

We founded InVision with a specific goal: to provide superior customer service, inventive thinking, and industry-leading production execution while being “good people” in business and in life. Unwavering commitment to this principle has been a driving force of our continued growth—evidenced by the trust placed in us by our clients.

This proven model has allowed us to retain client relationships for decades or more, compared to the industry average of three years. Since being founded in 1991, we’ve evolved from an event production-focused company to an engagement solutions agency. We support companies in achieving business goals through the creation of impactful experiences by being insight-fueled and creatively driven.

At our core, we believe engagements are most effective when they drive action and modify behavior. And we believe great work, strong relationships, and integrity are key ingredients to success.

We listen, scale, create and deliver.
We make change. Not noise.

Rod Mickels, CEO and Co-Founder
Drew Hagen, CCO and Co-Founder


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Make Change: The Event Evolution is Here

By, Tracy Verrett, Director of Marketing and Brand Development


The concept we know as an event—the unification of people around a shared experience—is an old idea; one with roots extending through the course of history. Be it cave men planning the next hunt, a luxurious Royal Ball in medieval Bavaria, or a Global Exposition, the fundamental goal has been the same – unification. So, while the event concept has evolved to function as a business-building initiative, the notion of the “event” itself hasn’t really shifted. There is both an up- and a down-side to this.

The upside: Because corporate events have proven to be a successful place to inform, inspire, train and entertain, investment continues year after year with, in many instances, incremental budgets. According to Bizzabo’s 2018 benchmarks and trends report, 87% of C-suite executives believe in the power of live events and plan on investing in them MORE in the future.

The downside: Event-based initiatives are even now, often one- or two-steps removed from broader brand development and marketing activities; perhaps not even under the direct control of the CMO. Recent research by Oracle and Chief Marketer found that 47% of marketers do not have event marketing objectives tied to company business goals. Nearly half. Striking, is it not? This creates an environment where a multitude of messages are being conveyed and they’re not always aligned. This deluge of messaging is noisy and one that results in confusion for the target audience.

Especially in today’s world, any engagement with an audience needs to cut through the noise of unnecessary messages and information with clarity and simplicity. This is why at InVision, we’re challenging ourselves and our clients to Make Change. Not Noise. Over the course of 2019, we’ll be demonstrating how we facilitate change that moves people and business.

 


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Tips for Improving Your Audience Acquisition Through Better Emails


By Nicole Bojic, Group Executive, Strategic Solutions Group

We all know that email marketing and your event website are two of the primary workhorses in any audience acquisition strategy. But in a world where people receive hundreds of emails a day, how can you ensure anyone is even noticing your email, let alone opening and reading it? In this article we will cover 8 tips for improving the performance of your audience acquisition email marketing.

8 Tips for Better Email Marketing of Your Event

1. Only Send to Opt-In Emails. Never buy a list!
This isn’t just a best practice, it’s the law in many places. With the advent of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), companies who do business in and market to individuals in the EU must obtain explicit opt-in consent before collecting personal data. But there’s an even better reason for utilizing an opt-in email list. By limiting your outreach to only those individuals who are actually interested in your event, your engagement rates are likely to be higher (due to inherent relevancy) as will efficiency. That means you should never buy a list of emails, which are unqualified at best and completely irrelevant and inaccurate at worst.

2. Personalize, personalize, personalize.
Segment your audience (and your lists) and then map key messages to each audience. For example, if you’re announcing a new product, your email messaging around that product announcement might be more technically oriented for a developer audience and more business objective-oriented for an executive-level audience. Same product announcement, different messaging. On top of that, you can add true personalization, such as the recipient’s name in the greeting and/or the subject line. By targeting and personalizing the content of your emails, you’re more likely to grab the attention of your reader. In fact, according to Campaign Monitor, emails with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.

3. Plan messaging by attendee status.
Just because a prospect registers for your event doesn’t mean you should stop communicating with them. You’ll want to keep them excited about the event (especially if the event is free) to ensure they attend, but this outreach should happen at a different cadence and with different messages than what you would use with prospects. Create a dual-path email plan and use nurture messaging to drive registrations and engagement messaging to drive excitement and attendance as shown below.

4. Be emotional. And specific.
If you want to capture the attention of your reader, you’ve got to resonate. To resonate, you’ve got to appeal on an emotional level. Segmenting your audience will make it easier to pinpoint what they care about, and then you can leave a curiosity gap or appeal to their emotional triggers (e.g., fear of missing out) to hook them. But you also need to balance all of this with a level of specificity that gets to the point as quickly as possible. This is especially important with your subject lines as that is the first engagement barrier you’ve got to cross. Consider these examples: 1) Hurry! Only 15 Seats Left for ExpCon with Michelle Obama Speaking; or 2) Join Us at ExpCon – Register Now! Which of these two subject lines would capture your attention?

5. Follow the rule of 7.
It’s going to take a lot more than a few emails to convert your prospects to attendees. In fact, multiple marketing research studies have shown that, on average, it takes seven touches before someone will take action on something. And, when messaging doesn’t resonate with a lead, they’re less likely to move along the funnel, which means more touches may be needed. Some research says that it takes 8, 13 or even 20 touches to convert a prospect.

Building a comprehensive communications outreach that incorporates the rule of 7 is a key factor in your success. But the emails must be unique, relevant and compelling. Your customers don’t want to get two save-the-date emails and five registration reminder emails. Your email campaign should tell a story that aligns with your event narrative. The effect on the prospective attendee should be one of an experience that builds and becomes richer with each communication.

6. Invest in design.
The emails you send should have an attractive design that is consistent with your event branding and website to ensure a cohesive experience. They should also be designed to render flawlessly on desktop and mobile, including the range of mobile devices, email clients and their various versions. The best way to achieve this is through responsive email design, but if you’re unable to deliver on this, we recommend focusing on perfecting the default preview widths (about 600 pixels) to ensure the most important content is viewable as desired.

7. Use images.
It’s probably no huge surprise that people prefer pictures over words. And in fact, research shows that images can actually significantly boost your click through rate—as much as 42% higher than emails without images. So, it’s worth it to take time to select relevant, compelling images and integrate them into your email designs. These could be images from last year’s event (to show the overall experience), an infographic (to show a concept), portraits of speakers (to put a face with a name), location and venue shots (to illustrate the environment and create a mood), and so much more.

8. A/B test your subject lines for better open rates.
I introduced A/B testing in my last article on audience acquisition strategy because it’s a great way to optimize your efforts. When A/B testing with email subject lines, you compare two different versions of a subject line within one email campaign to determine which version produces better open rates.

Let’s say you’re offering a special registration rate but are not sure the best way to message the promotional offer. You could offer the lower rate to the first X number of people to register, or you could provide a specific window of time. Testing both options could not only give you valuable information about which option people respond to better in email, but also which promotional offer they prefer. Other things you could test are various types of personalization. You could even compare one subject line that uses emojis and one that doesn’t.

Improve Your Email to Drive Audience Acquisition

Think of your email campaign as a rich story you’re telling prospective attendees as a prelude to your event. You’re providing a peek into what the experience will be with the goal of creating desire. Need help in pulling it all together? InVision has the full-service team to deliver. Read our press release or contact us to learn all about our comprehensive audience acquisition offering.

 

 


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