Network Security Just Got Easier for SMBs, Schools, and Nonprofits

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Tue, Dec 31, 2019 @ 03:39 PM

Online security is a massive concern for businesses because it's vital to be able to store and to access sensitive data safely. There are myriad security products and services out there, but it's crucial to choose a trustworthy network security solution. The cybersecurity needs of small to medium businesses, schools, and charities (all of which generally have limited tech support) can be complicated. When it comes to finding the most appropriate security solution for an organization operating within a limited budget, the prospect can be a challenge.

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Stevie®-winner Untangle is an innovative cybersecurity company that was founded in 2003 in San Diego, California, United States. It focuses on providing creative network security solutions. The company ethos is built around four central principles: loyalty, excellence, agility, and determination, or “LEAD,” as they’re referred to. By focusing on listening to both customers and staff, Untangle can develop user-friendly ways for smaller companies to protect their data. They do so through easy-to-use products and great follow-up care and support.

Community Minded

untangle_logoAs a company with a social conscience, Untangle is continually on the lookout for ways they can positively impact their communities. This is why they offer Nonprofit Complete. Identical to NG Firewall Complete, Nonprofit Complete is provided to qualifying not-for-profit institutions at a reduced price, and it includes all available updates. Charities, schools, and religious organizations are as vulnerable to cybersecurity breaches as any other institution, and it can be hard for those nonprofits to protect themselves.

Cerebral Palsy of North Jersey (CPNJ), based in New Jersey, United States, recently got in touch with Untangle because they desperately needed an update to their web protection, which was relying on basic firewalls only. CPNJ needed Internet security protection for a large number of locations, including two schools, three adult training centers, fourteen group homes, a twenty-four-unit apartment complex, and an administrative office. Their IT director needed to ensure the children were protected from accidentally accessing inappropriate websites but couldn't find an easy-to-install system that was suitable for their needs.

As a nonprofit, CPNJ needed to balance budget issues with a security solution that was easy to deploy and easy to manage. The charity also needed to solve the problem of filtering inappropriate content for the schools while also allowing the marketing and administrative teams access to a wider range of websites and applications, such as social media pages.

Katie Bochenski, the director of information technology at Cerebral Palsy New Jersey, now has complete visibility and can easily keep an eye out for any problems. CPNJ was pleased they could get the Internet security they needed with a support team on hand to advise, all at an accessible price.

Personalized Service

Untangle prides itself on delivering top-quality enterprise-level protection to every client. This protection is also tailored to clients’ specific needs. For example, Untangle was recently able to help its client Bridger Valley Electric Association in Mountain View, Wyoming, United States, securely connect twelve remote locations. The main challenge was to implement regular vulnerability assessments while proactively blocking and protecting the network from threats. Untangle was able to set up real-time compliance reporting and install layer 7 app filtering to block undesirable websites and apps. The client was looking to securely allow third-party access to the network, so Untangle worked with them to create detailed policies that control and monitor outside access.

Dirk Morris, founder and CPO of Untangle, sees the position of the company in the cybersecurity market very clearly.

“Untangle is one of the only network security solution providers worldwide focused on offering SMBs a dedicated solution that fits their needs and budget restraints. We specifically innovate and create products designed for businesses with limited IT resources, ensuring their networks stay secure, no matter who is connecting where.”

International Award Winning

The company’s passion for accessible Internet security has made them a multi-award winner, most recently receiving several Stevie Awards. As a winner of a Gold Stevie Award in the Network Security Solution category at The 2019 International Business Awards® and a Gold Stevie in the Network Security Solution category at The 2019 American Business Awards®, their commitment to providing a world-class product is clear. The company’s Silver Award in Customer Service Department of the Year at The 2019 American Business Awards also showcases their continued drive to provide an excellent customer experience.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, International business awards, new product award, The International Business Awards

Does the Rise of Artificial Intelligence Spell Doom for Young Workers?

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Tue, Dec 24, 2019 @ 09:00 AM

When it comes to the job landscape of the future, much speculation exists about how emerging technologies will affect those just entering the job market. When people ask the specific question of whether artificial intelligence (AI) is going to be a jobs killer, though, it’s important for young people to realize the answer isn’t a simple yes or no. The latest statistics and studies show it’s less about killing or eliminating jobs and more about evolving them.

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How AI Could Affect the Future Job Market

When Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne, two Oxford academics, came out with a prediction in 2013 that a staggering 47 percent of US jobs were at risk of automation by the middle of the 2030s, this issue of AI as a jobs killer became a hot topic of discussion. Studies, surveys, and op-eds began pouring in on the topic, and the subsequent findings were significant.

For example, McKinsey Global Institute found that anywhere between 40 million and 160 million women across the globe would potentially need to change jobs by 2030. Why? The clerical work done by secretaries, bookkeepers, and schedulers—jobs which are done by women 72 percent of the time—are especially susceptible to automation.

The salient part of the study, however, was not that these women would need to change jobs; it was that they would likely be transitioning into higher-skilled roles. In this way, AI wasn’t depriving them of jobs. Instead, it was pushing them into more advanced roles—positions that require the expertise, understanding, and skills only humans possess.

Similarly, the World Economic Forum estimates that automation is on pace to displace 75 million jobs by 2022, but it’s also set to create 133 million new ones by that date. In another study, Gartner predicts 2 million AI-related net new jobs by 2025.

With such a complicated issue, however, many potential factors come into play, and just as many studies predict an overall net loss in jobs. Forrester, for one, estimates a 29 percent loss of jobs by 2030 and only a 13 percent job increase to compensate.

While there isn’t general agreement about the potential number of jobs displaced and then created by AI, one thing does seem to be clear: AI will push people away from largely automated jobs into more advanced positions, and this transition will require the new job force to be increasingly agile and able to learn core skills and adapt to new working models.

The Company-Level Response to These Changes

Just as young people entering the job market should be cognizant of the changes technology will likely have on the professional landscape, companies should understand this dynamic as well. To stay relevant, businesses within the technology industry not only need to embrace AI and its potential but invest in training their workforces (established and incoming) to adapt to these new technologies.

“IT is a highly innovative and changing industry, and because of this, we’re reinventing education for the era of AI,” says Andrea Knoche, a first-line analytics leader for a subgroup of International Business Machines (IBM) that’s based in Ehningen, Germany. “We’re making it a priority to prepare young people around the world for the jobs of tomorrow.”

IBM_logoAs IBM illustrates, success in a changing technology-based landscape is about balancing the adoption of new technology. A company can’t ignore or dismiss new innovations, but it also must prepare its workers to properly harness the power of those tools.

“Our subgroup of IBM is most interested in moving to a cloud-based environment and utilizing big data technologies and analytics strategies,” says Knoche, “but we understand our workers must be trained and prepared to implement those tools into their jobs. When trained properly, employees can make the available technology work for them to increase their efficiency and effectiveness.”

IBM earned a Bronze Stevie Award in the Information Technology Team of the Year category at The 2020 American Business Awards®. They also won several awards at The 2020 International Business Awards®, including a Gold Stevie for Company of the Year - Business or Professional Services - Large.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, company of the year, The International Business Awards, artificial intelligence

In Business, You Get What You Give

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Dec 18, 2019 @ 09:15 AM

Access to capital helps businesses create jobs and generate economic impact. Solely getting access to funds, however, doesn’t guarantee advancement for small businesses.

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As any entrepreneur knows, starting and maintaining a business can be an uphill battle, especially when it involves applying for a loan. If disapproved for the necessary capital, you can quickly feel stuck, and many face this common problem each day. Large banks deny nearly three-quarters of small business loan applications, and even small banks reject about half, according to the July 2019 Biz2Credit Small Business Lending Index.

Many companies are looking to address this issue, including Stevie-winner Lendio, which is based out of South Jordan, UT, United States. This company cuts through the noise by offering free online services to help business owners find the right business loan within minutes.

Lendio was a Gold Stevie® Award winner for Customer Service Team of the Year in the Financial Services category at the 2019 American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

lendio_logoLendio created a platform for thousands of loan brokers, establishing the nation’s largest small business loan marketplace in the process. With hundreds of loan products from a variety of banks and specialty lenders, Lendio has become a one-stop shop for thousands of business owners looking for capital to start, to operate, and to grow businesses.

Through data-driven algorithms that more accurately screen borrowers, the Lendio platform allows a small business owner to fill out a single application in minutes and then receive offers from multiple lenders.

How to Help Yourself by Helping Others

Lendio is, by no means, the only company looking to ease the relationship between borrower and lender in corporate America. Many capital firms exist, such as Berkshire Partners, Cortect Group, and Frontier Capital.

However, the laser focus of Lendio on customer satisfaction drives thousands of five-star reviews and earns the company many repeat customers (the company’s repeat rate is over 50 percent.) Lendio prides itself on being a small business advocate, carefully vetting lenders to help customers secure the best loan available. In these ways, Lendio serves as a representative of the new wave of companies aiming to ease the loan process for small businesses.

Advancing community involvement is another pillar of the Lendio ethos, and it’s been shown this is a great way for any organization to build relationships, to boost visibility and brand awareness, and to appeal to customers. In fact, over 80 percent of US consumers consider corporate social responsibility when deciding what services and products to buy and where to buy them from.

Lendio and other companies understand how much community involvement benefits both the community at large and their own financial interests.

These healthy exchanges between local communities and businesses can also inform company values, which Lendio and many other successful ventures don’t view as something managers simply hang on the wall. Whether you’re looking to enter the investment space or you need to take a hard look at your current company, here are six tips from Lendio you can use to evaluate your company culture.

  1. Success starts with people and managers; invest in training them so they can reach their full potential. Formulate initiatives, such as remote work autonomy and unlimited paid time off, so people feel management's trust in them.
  1. Unite around one common goal: to help fuel the American dream. Managers should ensure every employee understands his or her role in boosting small businesses and, in turn, the economy.
  1. Be the CEO of your job. Managers should ensure every team member owns his or her job, giving employees the support they need to go above and beyond in order to deliver results. Outline weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly goals that align with company initiatives that help drive the business forward in measurable ways.
  1. Be humble and hungry. All employees, including management, should check their egos at the door.
  1. Like a little competition—or a lot. Play to win, whether it’s challenging a coworker to some Ping-Pong or getting that next loan finalized. Managers can use monthly sales competitions to keep teams motivated. Company-wide flag football games and holiday-themed eating contests keep the interdepartmental competition friendly and fun.
  1. Prioritize communication. Management should believe that candor, transparency, and communication accelerate success. Employees should then participate in weekly one-on-ones with managers to facilitate this openness. Monthly town hall meetings with the CEO can keep every team member in sync with company goals and initiatives.

These principles help Lendio motivate employees to continually improve and to adapt to the changing landscapes of business and life. To find values that work for your company, determine what makes your company unique, acknowledge potential areas of improvement, and then create your company principles based on those findings.

Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, Customer Service Team of the Year, Customer Service

How Experiential Leadership Training Builds Better Workplace Culture

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Dec 11, 2019 @ 04:38 PM

If your manager mentions a team-building and leadership training day, do you inwardly groan? Maybe you see it as a fun day out with colleagues but one that, ultimately, has no long-term benefits. Despite how employees often feel, though, research shows that if you take part in a professionally developed facilitated leadership experience program, the results can benefit you both at work and on a personal level.

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Soft Skills

If you've been part of an organized leadership experience before, it's tempting to be skeptical. However, you need to start considering the benefits of soft skills to leaders. Think about the benefits of enhanced communication skills, the bonds of shared experience, and the engagement of employees. All these can help every level of leadership and management improve strategies and techniques.

Communication

Too often leaders’ communication styles are routine and task focused. With leadership building and team away days, though, leaders are thrown into new situations that challenge this status quo. For example, say most of your office communication is done via email. If you’re put in a situation where you must spend time communicating verbally, this can be revealed as an area of necessary improvement.

After the leadership experience, you’ll be required to debrief your team and recap the day. This is an opportunity to ask important questions. Are your instructions clear enough? Are all the leaders giving the same message? Is there room for discussion in the action phase of the task? Through this process, you’ll also discover what your team already does well.

Dynamic Challenges

If you choose a dynamic, action-based leadership development day, you could find yourself performing a historical reenactment. This tests your mettle against great leaders of their times, such as Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln. Alternately, you could end up spearheading a virtual rocket launch.

Whatever the situation, you will have to lead your team, harnessing all their skills to complete the challenge in the time frame given.

This method of experiential, hands-on learning connects concepts like team building, leadership, and innovation. Traditional leadership education still has its place, but it can be reinforced for your whole team through an enjoyable out-of-office endeavor.

Morale Boost

Whether you’re a new team or you just want to build on the rapport you already have, getting out and completing an action challenge builds trust. This then boosts employee engagement and morale and fosters collaboration when you are back at your desks.

Fresh Perspective

Maybe you feel you need to reboot your enthusiasm for leadership and management, or perhaps you’re a brand-new leader. Whatever the case, it's always helpful to gain a fresh perspective. You will learn how the leadership principles of the Battle of Waterloo or the mentality required when coaching an Olympic team relate to your own experiences, and you can then see how to apply those lessons in your field.

Dick Richardson experienced this firsthand as his plane came crashing down over New York, United States. From his airplane seat on what later became known as the “Miracle on the Hudson” flight, he witnessed the importance of having a well-trained team.

Experience-to-Lead_logoRichardson went on to co-found Experience to Lead, which focuses on experiential learning in business. The company recently won a Gold Stevie Award for Entrepreneur of the Year in the Business and Professional Services category at the American Business Awards®.

When you’re planning your next training day, consider the benefits of what getting into the field and trying your hand at an experiential challenge can do for your team. Don't stop at the away day, though; make these opportunities to connect with your staff part of your workplace culture.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, entrepreneur of the year, leadership

Community Involvement Rewards Everyone

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Dec 04, 2019 @ 09:00 AM

It’s essential in today’s world to try to be part of something bigger than yourself, and this applies not only to individuals but to institutions. If your specialty is helping clients solve financial issues, for example, then you are particularly well placed to help out by problem-solving in the wider community.

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Many big companies have organized programs that encourage their employees to consider volunteering, and they facilitate these acts of service by giving their employees time to do so. Businesses find this experience of giving back continues outside of work hours as well, which creates an ongoing, committed relationship with the given charity or nonprofit. The relationship of the company to the community at large then often becomes an integral part of the corporate culture.

Volunteering Helps Company Culture

Some businesses tend start their volunteer work on a small scale. For example, some companies employ industry education, which helps other professionals excel in their respective fields. This sense of social responsibility often fosters a desire to do even more, which can lead staff members to give their time regularly to local charities.

Stevie-winner Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions, which is based in Houston, Texas, United States, is one business that describes their experience of volunteering as enlightening and something that has given them fulfillment and made their company feel like a real family with a shared purpose.

A Perfect Match

Wolters-Kluwer_logoThe Lighthouse, a charity that is a member of the United Way of Greater Houston, Texas, United States, helps over seven thousand blind and partially sighted people every year by giving members the tools they need to live independently. When Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions was looking for a place to volunteer, they came across this local charity, and it seemed like a perfect match. Both were looking for a long-term, meaningful relationship, and that has undoubtedly come to fruition.

Since 1939 the Lighthouse has provided social activities for the blind and visually impaired in the Houston, Texas, United States, area, and they love to welcome volunteers. By providing several volunteers to assist with craft sessions and reading activities during the working day, Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions proves an excellent fit with the Lighthouse. The partnership ensures the charity can provide sessions in the daytime, which is when their clients need them most.

Giving Back to the Community

Meeting new people and getting a unique perspective into the local community through the staff, volunteers, and service users at the Lighthouse is just one example of how Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions is committed to supporting its staff members’ communities. The work doesn’t stop with the Lighthouse, though. Employees have also volunteered at a wide range of other nonprofit organizations, such as Children of Military Members in Tampa, Florida, United States; the Nevada Children’s Hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States; and the Tulane Health System in New Orleans, Louisiana, United States.

Raja Sengupta, executive vice-president and general manager at Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions, is proud of how his team embraces the volunteering mind-set.

“The employees are keen to deepen their relationships with the communities in which they live and to take part in projects where they can get to know and help others,” says Sengupta.

This can-do attitude earned Wolters Kluwer Lien Solutions several Stevie Awards in 2019. For its iLien Motor Vehicle solution, the company earned a Silver Stevie®️ Award in the Financial Services category, as well as a Gold Stevie Award in the Legal Information Solution category at the American Business Awards®️.

Wolters Kluwer received three Silver Stevies for Female Executive of the Year - Business Services - More Than 2,500 Employees on behalf of Jennifer Cronin, VP of Customer Service; Female Executive of the Year - Business Services - 11 to 2,500 Employees on behalf of Alyza Tarmohamed, General Manager; and Most Innovative Woman of the Year - Technology on behalf of Karen Abramson, CEO at the 2019 Stevie Awards for Women in Business.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, Stevie Awards Women in Business, 2019 Stevie Awards for Women in Business, financial awards

The Traditional Travel Industry Is Booming, but the Future Is Unknown

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Nov 27, 2019 @ 09:10 AM

How have modern conveniences changed business and leisure travel in 2019? What are the most desirable destinations? How do travelers prefer booking flights and hotels?

Anyone who searches for travel deals now is met with an onslaught of recommendations about where to visit, where to stay, and exactly what to do.

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As the mobile experience becomes more personalized, it’s easier than ever to book exactly what you want. Travel research, however, shows travel agents are doing more than just surviving. The overall US travel agency market is projected to reach $127 billion by 2021, which is up from $112.8 billion in 2017.

Despite having access to their next vacation right from their pockets, it seems customers are still eager to pay someone to take care of all their needs.

Northstar_logoStevie-winner Northstar Travel Group, based in Secaucus, New Jersey, United States, is one of the leading B2B marketing solutions companies serving all segments of the travel industry. Despite the tech boom in travel, Northstar continues to flourish as a connector of buyers and sellers in global travel and hospitality products.

It’s All about Building Relationships

Northstar firmly believes in the importance of helping professionals in the travel industry meet face to face at exciting events. 

“We’re dedicated to connecting the next generation of travel buyers and sellers. We want to get to know each other through unique, collaborative content sessions; outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and yoga; and social events full of local flavor.”

That’s Victoria Halpin, a marketing associate at Northstar. She asserts that having everyone come together helps professionals gain insight on how the current generation will influence the future of the travel industry. Halpin says this is also a great way to help everyone build relationships for life.

Competitors, such as Questex, WATT, and Adara, also make an effort to include career-building programs and social activities during retreats, but Northstar likes to differentiate itself by providing additional value through data and benchmarks.

“In addition to over eighty-four face-to-face events in more than eleven countries related to retail travel, hospitality and hotel investment, corporate travel, travel technology, and sports travel, we also provide research and business intelligence to serve the fastest-growing segment of the travel industry: online travel distribution.”

All these efforts result in engaging more than 1.4 million monthly website visitors and over 2.7 million content customers. No other content and marketing services provider serving the travel and meetings industry approaches this scale, reach, or market share.

Although the industry is strong, several challenges still lie ahead.

Digital innovation continues to create entirely new opportunities for the market. Companies are competing for your dollars and offering alternative “off-the-beaten-path” experiences. Airbnb has become a popular way to stay in foreign countries because of the authentic cultural experiences afforded by staying with locals.

This is forcing travel brands to ramp up cost-cutting strategies and to devise more efficient ways of doing business in order to improve revenue and to sustain market leadership.

Time will tell how this evolving workforce will attract tomorrow’s talent and dollars, but Northstar and similar companies look poised to continue to refine business practices and to support their customers.

Northstar Travel Group won three Stevie® Awards at the 2019 American Business Awards®: a Gold Stevie in the Brand & Experiences - Launch Event category, a Bronze Stevie in the Brand & Experiences - Interactive Outdoor Event category, and another Bronze Stevie in the Corporate & Community - B2B Event category.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, event awards

The Rise of Live Brand Storytelling—and Why It Works

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Nov 20, 2019 @ 03:33 PM

With every passing year, it seems more and more people spend an increasing amount of time staring at screens. From cell phones to tablets to smart watches, there’s no shortage of screened devices to amuse, to delight, and to distract people.

Given that, it would stand to reason that marketing agencies should ramp up their online campaigns. Find people where they live, right? According to the research, though, not necessarily.

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With instant access to a nearly unlimited amount of information and a glut of available content, one major sacrifice in the consuming population has been attention span. It’s harder than ever not only to grab but to maintain the interest of consumers. This makes it incredibly challenging for marketing agencies to devise ways to stand out. Enter the rise of live brand storytelling.

What Is Live Brand Storytelling?

Live brand storytelling is a marketing technique wherein a company crafts a compelling story related to its brand or product and then delivers that story via a live experiential event.

Because consumers aren’t distanced from the brand through a screen or a printed page, they are able to connect with that brand and to truly immerse in the crafted brand lifestyle. Depending on the event, consumers can learn about the brand or the company ethos through the senses, seeing, hearing, or even tasting the kinds of real-world experiences the brand wants to associate themselves.

Live Brand Storytelling—By the Numbers

For any sceptics who believe live brand storytelling is a fad or a trend, the numbers paint a very different picture. Event Marketer released a 2018 report stating 85 percent of consumers were likely to make a purchase from a brand after attending one of their live events, and an impressive 91 percent asserted they felt more favorably about the brand after engagement in a company-sponsored live experience.

It’s not just consumers who appreciate the tactic either. C-suite executives are fully on board as well. According to a Bizzabo report, 87 percent of C-level executives believe these kinds of live experiential marketing events will become increasingly important to their brands.

Why Is Live Brand Storytelling Effective Today?

The idea of conveying a brand’s message or promoting a product through storytelling is nothing new in the marketing world, but the increasing popularity of live brand storytelling speaks to the changing demographics and buying mentality of today’s consuming population.

INVNT_logo“In recent years, we’ve seen the strategic relevance of live events increase dramatically. Marketers are reaping the rewards of engaging with their audiences in face-to-face environments,” says Scott Cullather, CEO of INVNT, a global live brand storytelling agency based in New York, New York, United States. “Marketers have also realized that Millennials and Gen Zs, who favor experiences over material objects, are gaining greater spending power as they enter the workforce and move their way up corporate ladders.”

For marketing agencies to continue to enjoy success, however, it’s important they think of live brand marketing not as the final solution to connecting with an audience but simply as the next step in an always-progressing chain of marketing evolution.

“The marketing industry is constantly changing, and we’ve found that truly integrated marketing campaigns are now key,” says Cullather. “We look to create holistic campaigns that encompass both live events and branded content and ensure a brand remains top of mind long after an event ends.”

INVNT recently won a Silver Stevie Awards at the 2019 Stevie Awards for Women in Business for Female Entrepreneur of the Year in the Business Services category (11 to 2,500 Employees) on behalf of Kristina McCoobery, Co-Founder and COO.

They also won two Gold Stevies at the 2019 American Business Awards: One for Company of the Year in the Advertising, Marketing & Public Relations category and one for Founding Team of the Year - Business Services Industries. Other awards include a Silver Stevie for Marketing or Advertising Agency of the Year in the Advertising, Marketing, and Public Relations category.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, branding, 2019 Stevie Awards for Women in Business

How to Leverage PR to Build a Strong Business Brand

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Nov 13, 2019 @ 02:48 PM

Every new business or product is launched with the hope it will eventually become a big brand. However, getting the amount of reach and recall that goes into building a recognizable brand is no easy feat. Barring a few exceptions, most brands are built over several years of persistent marketing and strategic public relations (PR). However, many businesses are so busy building and perfecting their offerings that they forget to dedicate time to think about marketing and PR.

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How PR Can Help Build a Strong Brand

Some businesses associate PR with crisis management, and they think it’s only to be called in when a company’s reputation is at stake. Crisis management, however, is just one of the many aspects of public relations. PR, when done well, can lay the foundation for a strong brand presence and can help grow the business.

PR firms and professionals today use an ever-evolving mix of tools and strategies. These include standard approaches such as press releases, conferences, and trade shows, as well as new-age tactics such as social media, influencer outreach, and disruptive technology. These firms also tend to have authentic relationships with the media, influencers, and other partners that might be valuable for businesses.

All these channels, though, are really just facilitators for PR. The true power of PR lies in its ability to build an impactful story around your brand.

“At its core, the art and essence of PR come down to one thing: storytelling,” writes Craig Cincotta, senior director of marketing communications at SAP, in an article on Entrepreneur. “Every brand, technology, product, and person has a story to tell. Whether you are a business of five people or a Fortune 50 company, you need to know how to tell your story the right way, at the right time, to the right people.”

All these channel capabilities and the ability to create authentic stories allow PR firms to help businesses launch, build, and maintain their brands. Also, public relations is often an immersive and time-consuming task that requires consistent efforts. Therefore, it makes sense for many companies to bring in people with PR experience to help with brand building instead of just winging it.

How to Choose a PR Agency for Your Business

If you have employees with great communication and people skills and who are knowledgeable about how PR works, you may choose to do PR in-house. However, if you don’t have the resources or time to spare and want to work with external PR firms or consultants, it pays to do your research and carefully consider who you want to work with After all, you’ll be handing over your brand and image for them to mold.

Here are some pointers as you begin your search:

Look for passion. The firm should be excited about what your business does and should be invested in your growth. Look at their past successes and clients. If they’ve helped other businesses like yours scale and improve reach, that’s a point in their favor. Some firms are specialized and cater to specific business categories. Look for those with experience in your field. Proven expertise and knowledge of the latest innovations or trends in PR are important as well. When you zero in on an agency, ask around. Consider testimonials that speak toward results as well as negative reviews.

ChicExecsLogo-1ChicExecs, a full-service branding agency based in San Marcos, California, United States, checks all these boxes for their clients. Their team of over 50 people helps companies with PR, marketing, and retail strategy.

“We're not an agency that started just to do PR and marketing. We started because we have such a passion for our brands,” says Amber Masciorini, a senior PR account executive at ChicExecs.

Prior to starting ChicExecs, the founders built ChicBuds, a product line that made it to Target, Nordstrom, Bed Bath & Beyond, Neiman Marcus, and several other retailers. They were also featured on The Today Show, in People and InStyle, and other media outlets.

“As entrepreneurs themselves, the founders know how difficult it can be to start a product line and build it into a successful brand,” says Masciorini. “By garnering exposure in the biggest media publications and placements in major retailers, they had a bird’s-eye view of what it takes to appeal to buyers and the media. They then duplicated their recipe for success and created ChicExecs.”

ChicExecs recently won a Bronze Stevie Award in the Corporate Communications, Investor Relations, & Public Relations Categories for Public Relations Agency of the Year at The 17th Annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, public relations awards

Can Tech Start-Up Driven E-Commerce Sites Compete with the Big Guys?

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Nov 06, 2019 @ 12:08 PM

One of the Internet’s initial promises was that it would finally democratize the world of commerce. Two decades later, however, there’s serious talk about whether web sellers like Amazon are monopolies. 

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The web has certainly lowered barriers in one critical sense: a business no longer needs huge amounts of capital to open a storefront and to start reaching customers. Part of the reason the likes of Amazon, Walmart, and Alibaba are dominating market share, though, is their sheer logistical superiority. There’s simply no way most small or even medium-size businesses can ship as quickly and cost effectively—or to as many countries—as their larger rivals.

A company with headquarters in Brooklyn, New York, United States, is hoping to bridge that divide. Launched in 2015, Stevie-winner Easyship offers a platform that helps small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) more efficiently meet their logistical needs.

“We believe any business, regardless of size, should be able to sell worldwide,” says Jacqueline Ostrov, head of growth at Easyship.

easyship_logoBy integrating with the Easyship platform, e-commerce sites can offer a wider range of international shipping options to customers around the world, and because the rates couriers charge through Easyship are already negotiated, the firm says clients save an average of 40 percent off their shipping costs.

“We've saved our brands over one hundred thousand dollars each in shipping and fulfillment alone—all while expanding their networks and sharing really cool products around the world,” adds Ostrov.

The company also helps sellers manage international duties and taxes, which is a notoriously complex challenge for smaller ventures. Its platform calculates those charges automatically, meaning sellers don’t have to worry about their products encountering problems at customs or finding themselves having to pay unexpected costs.

“Merchants need to understand that the post-purchase experience is as meaningful as customer acquisition,” says Ostrov, whose company earned the 2019 Gold Stevie® in the transportation category of the Web Achievement Awards for the American Business Awards® . “With that in mind, Easyship not only cares but wants to make your customer experience both exceptional and easy.”

The “Aha” Moment

For a growing number of e-commerce sites, overseas sales are becoming a critical part of their growth strategies. According to a survey last year by the intelligence firm Digital Commerce 360, as many as 80 percent of respondents stated that cross-border e-commerce was “a critical source of our e-commerce growth in the future.”

Among this group is Satisfye, a small US-based company that makes accessories for the Nintendo Switch gaming system. Initially, the business only sold to two countries and used just two couriers to manage shipments.

Since making the transition to Easyship, Satisfye has expanded into more than eighty countries and now uses thirteen delivery services. In the process, it’s saved roughly $60,000 in fulfillment costs, according to Easyship.

The founders of Easyship, Tommaso Tamburnotti and Augustin Ceyrac, started their careers at the European e-commerce giant Lazada. As they worked to expand the site’s presence in places like North Africa and Southeast Asia, Ostrov says they quickly saw barriers that smaller firms had to face when looking to expand their businesses. She calls this an “aha” moment for the pair.

Over the next couple of years, Tamburnotti and Ceyrac set up a main office in Hong Kong and worked on developing a new platform and building international courier relationships. In that time, the customer base and physical presence of Easyship grew enormously. The company now has offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, including its new headquarters that opened last year in Brooklyn, New York, United States.

The company also recently closed a $4 million round of funding in 2018. Cofounder Tamburnotti told TechCrunch that the financing would help Easyship develop its technology and build on its network of shipping and logistics partners.

“The future of e-commerce is the enablement of hyper-local, as well as global and domestic shipping experiences,” Tamburnotti said in a statement. “Our goal is to give merchants back the control of a complicated supply chain with the best product possible so they can enhance sales and purchaser experiences.”

Easyship recently won a Gold Stevie Award for Best Transportation Website in The 17th annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: best website, The American Business Awards, American business awards, e-commerce awards

How Digital Transformation Helps Combat the Food Waste Crisis

Posted by Daniel Ferguson on Wed, Oct 30, 2019 @ 10:50 AM

Is your organization interested in digital transformation? Using digital technologies to change traditional ways of doing business has been under way for years, but recently this wave of digital innovation has come to the fresh food supply chain and post-harvest technology.

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The fresh food industry is currently in a state of dynamic fluctuation. Due to new competitive pressures, food safety issues, and changing customer demographics and buying preferences, Millennials are changing the way they purchase and consume food.

Online shopping is also changing grocery retailing, and the Amazon purchase of Whole Foods brought massive new competitive models into play. Naturally, this kind of increased competition among grocery retailers and food suppliers causes changes in business processes.

Zest Labs_logo-1Zest Labs, a post-harvest agtech company with proven solutions for shelf life and freshness management, is one company responding to these industry changes. For instance, the company utilizes advanced software to reduce food waste in the supply chain by 50 percent or more. As its solution reduces waste and improves margins, the company believes it is well positioned to have a significant, positive impact.

No Wasted Opportunities

Food is something eminently relatable. Who doesn’t know what it’s like to buy produce, such as a clamshell of strawberries, take it home, and be disappointed when it spoils the next day?

This happens when an item runs out of shelf life; it spoils prematurely. Zest Labs prevents this by providing insights about the actual freshness of products.

“Food waste no longer needs to be a cost of doing business,” says Kevin Payne, vice-president of marketing at Zest Labs. “We can reduce food waste by more than half with advanced technologies and new approaches to solving food waste. This helps us feed more people and improve environmental sustainability.”

As Zest Labs illustrates, new software and hardware solutions can truly improve business practices and the products offered to customers. Depending on whom you ask, digital transformation can provide some of the following benefits:

  • Improved supply chain visibility and traceability
  • Reduced food waste and costs and increased profitability
  • Enhanced food safety capabilities

At retail outlets, large percentages of fresh fruit is wasted. Most other industries would not tolerate this level of waste, yet this food waste problem persists, filling landfills, creating dissatisfied customers, and negatively impacting profit margins across the fresh food supply chain. With effective execution of digital transformation, however, these problems can be solved.

Another way to test if digital transformation data could benefit your cause is if that data would make it easier to record progress. Most companies have established patterns and cycles that, when everything goes right, work perfectly, but what happens when setbacks arise? Digital insights can reveal pain points so you can anticipate problems and situations can improve over time. Using the strategy put in place by Zest Labs, evaluate your goals to see if a similar approach would be applicable and beneficial to your business model.

Zest Labs recently won a Bronze Stevie Award in the Company/Organization Categories for Innovation of the Year - Business Product Industries in The 17th annual American Business Awards®.

Interested in winning a Stevie Award in 2020?

Request the entry kit here.

Topics: The American Business Awards, American business awards, innovation awards