Ideas, musings and inspirations.

Each year Inc. magazine posts its Inc. 5000 list, which ranks the 5,000 fastest-growing private companies in the United States. The companies are assigned numerical positions in accordance with their growth rate over the past three years.

This renowned list celebrates innovators and opportunity-makers across 30+ industries from Advertising & Marketing to Travel.

This year, 165 of the ranked organizations, or 3.3 percent of the 5,000, were self-categorized as manufacturing companies.

Berkley, a molded fiber and custom packaging company out of Carson, California, was the highest ranked manufacturer coming in 17th place with a three-year growth rate of 9,249 percent. Key Safety Systems, ranked 4,261st, had the highest revenue of manufacturers on the list, coming in at $1.5 billion. Ranked 3,734th, Novae has been featured 11 times on the Inc. 5000 list, more than any other manufacturer.

California had the highest representation of Inc. 5000 manufacturing companies with 29 of the total 165; Florida had the second-highest concentration with 15. See the diagrams below for the complete dispersal of fastest-growing manufacturing companies by state.

Inc. 5000 Manufacturing Companies

Inc. 5000 Manufacturing Companies by State

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Snapchat

 

Snapchat is a social media super giant. With 26 million active users, over half of which are between the ages of 18 and 24, Snapchat is stealing hearts and seconds.

Snapchat is currently the most popular social media app among teens. In fact, 77% of college students are using the app at least once a day. I even have friends who claim to be “anti social media” that are using the app regularly.

Which begs the question, why aren’t more colleges and universities jumping on the snapwagon?

One of the easiest ways that colleges and universities can make their mark on Snapchat is through Snapchat’s custom, geo-targeted filters, or Geofilters.

Think of Geofilters as free billboards. Brands can work with companies like Elliance 😉 to create custom artwork that users can apply directly to the snaps they share.

There are two kinds of Geofilters, long term and short term (or as Snapchat has coined them, Community and On-Demand filters.) There are more rules and restrictions for the creation of free community filters, so I recommend that brands take advantage of the On-Demand option.

On-Demand filters can be created for special events, like freshman move-in day or commencement. They can be applied to athletic stadiums for game days, or to particular gathering places on campus just for fun. Have a special guest coming to campus? Welcome them with a custom filter. GREEK week? Celebrate it with a filter. Accepted Students Day? Filter.

Geofilters have the potential to raise brand awareness, encourage school spirit and increase student involvement on campus. Let us help you get started today.

Want more? We’ve talked about the benefits of Snapchat for higher education on Aha! before, here and here.

For an ad lover and athlete like myself, the olympics are like super bowl, but better — I get to experience great ads for two weeks straight.

(The only difference is the advertisement restrictions that the International Olympic Committee for non-sponsors but this isn’t a blog about those rules. This is a blog about the awesomeness that has unfolded in the last few weeks.)

I’ve shared my top three from the 2016 Rio Olympics:

Bronze: Samsung

Samsung took a bit of several national anthems — the parts that talk about unity — and mixed them into one song. Stuff like this gets me every time.

Silver: Google Photos

#relatable. #toorelatable.

Gold: Nike – The Iron Nun

Nike’s UNLIMITED ads knock it out of the park, and this one is my favorite. Their ability to combine together professional athletes with 9-minute-mile schmoes like me has forever earned my brand loyalty.

I love the concept of breaking the fourth wall. And how the narrator and athletes interact. Also watch the one where the narrator loses it as the athletes do crazier and crazier things.

See ya in 2018, PyeongChang.

I have this love for story — the hear and the tell — the feel that comes from being submersed in a good narrative.

I believe that I was born with this hunger for story, driven by a native curiosity to know and see and feel the world around me. That, paired with an unshakable desire and urgency to share with others the stories I’ve discovered, led me to pursue my career as a writer.

I’ve always loved the creative freedom that comes with writing — the instinctual aspect of the profession.

Almost instantaneously after starting my job at Elliance I began blogging — a service we perform for many of our clients, most often those in higher education, to help them expand their reach and better connect with their target audience.

As I began to write, I would find myself in the zone, really getting a good flow going in the copy and focusing on telling a brilliant story. That’s when I would hear the words that, although I have now come to value and respect, at first bred frustration: “Don’t forget the keywords.”

I quickly learned that there is a second part to writing when it comes to the world of marketing. That along with instinct must come strategy, and that the two do not need compete but must work together hand in hand to see success in any marketing campaign. It is both story and reach.

I learned the importance of creating copy that is baked with SEO. Because the truth is, you can write the most beautiful piece in the world, but what is the purpose of publishing if no one will ever see it? SEO does not hinder me as a writer, it amplifies me and those I am representing. It is a tool that gives reach, makes that blog or web page more easily searchable for key audience members, and helps bump the clients we’re representing further up on page one of Google search.

Our Director of Brand Development, Craig recently shared a unique perspective on this topic, paralleling the similarities between reaching humans and the Google “bots.”

Originally I saw keywords as clunky roadblocks to the flow of my words, but my perspective has changed. I now see keywords as an exciting challenge: How will I get creative and innovative with these words? How will I incorporate this information so that it does not sit on top of the story I’ve written, like oil and water, but so that it becomes part of the story and flows naturally.

Optimization has been a vital part of reaching our projected audiences and expanding the number of views and shares that these blogs receive, leading to an increase in awareness of our colleges and universities — instilling a sense of connectivity, influencing student and alumni engagement and heightening enrollment numbers.

This has challenged me to become a better writer and has taught me much in my career. The more I write the more I realize that there is a certain harmony that must be maintained between instinct and strategy, heart and mind.

Everyday I am still learning to find that perfect balance between writing style and optimization strategy, and with every blog I come a little closer.

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Rediscovering the Value of Liberal Arts

As the product of a liberal arts education and the mother of a college senior studying political science and history, I get a little defensive about the singular focus on STEM and the perceived lack of value in more generalized studies.

In this economy, demand is high for graduates with specialized talent in science, math and engineering and, undeniably, jobs in those fields top the list for attractive starting salaries. However, as recent reports illustrate, the outlook for college graduates across all fields of study is promising.

According to the Washington Post, for the first time, graduates of four-year colleges comprise a larger share of the workforce than those with just a high school diploma.

Of the 11.6 million jobs that have been created in this post-recession economy, 11.5 million went to prospects with at least some college education with the lions share, 8.4 million, going to workers who held a bachelor’s degree or higher.  However, while liberal arts majors may take up to six months longer to find jobs, workers who hold a college degree experience lower overall rates of unemployment and have higher median salaries than those without.

But liberal arts graduates bring more to the table than just their degrees.

In a survey of executives conducted by the Association of American Colleges & Universities, 93 percent said that a demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly and solve complex problems—soft skills in which most liberal arts majors excel—are more important than any particular degree. In fact, 74 percent would recommend a liberal arts degree to their own children or college-bound student.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that CEOs with liberal arts backgrounds lead many of the largest corporations in the U.S., including Starbucks, YouTube, Chipotle, Whole Foods and HBO.

The reality is that no college degree—STEM or otherwise—comes with a guarantee of a great job, good salary and an executive title. Individual circumstances, talent and ambition, far more than a major or a degree or lack thereof, define the future.

As more companies gain a newfound appreciation for liberal arts graduates and their skills, it is clear that the best path forward for many students lies beyond STEM.

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When I was eighteen, I joined the United Auto Workers Local 677 to earn money for college. I wore a hard hat, safety goggles and steel-toed shoes and was paid three times more than the current minimum wage.

Coming home sweaty, smelly— and if I worked on the axel line, covered in grease —was well worth it. Manufacturing paid very well.

It was on that Mack Truck assembly line that I saw the value of teamwork—what I did or didn’t do directly affected my co-workers—something essential for every employee, in every type of work setting.

This important lesson stayed with me in the decades since, but so did my misconception that manufacturing is still a boring, dirty profession.

This all changed last year, when one of our clients, Aerotech, gave me a tour of their facilities. I was shocked. The place was clean and quiet. And, as they told me the tasks the workers performed, it became clear that this was a far cry from the repetitive work I did during my summer at Mack Trucks.

Apparently, more people would benefit from touring a modern manufacturing plant.

During a House Committee on Small Business hearing this past spring, Steve Chabot, chairman of the committee said, “This is not your grandfather’s or even your father’s industry anymore. It’s high-tech; it’s skills based; and it provides good jobs with good benefits that can provide for growing American families. We must do better job educating young people to improve the perception.”

Spending one summer in a plant obviously does not make me an expert in manufacturing. Yet I do know one easy way companies can improve the perception of manufacturing is via their website. A company controls the narrative on their website so great care should be spent making sure the photos and copy tell a compelling story.

According to the Pew Research Center, 68% of Americans in 2015 reported owning a smart phone. This means a large percentage of people—both potential customers and potential employees—visit a company’s website via their phone. If your website isn’t built to be viewed on a computer, a tablet and a phone, what type of message are you sending?

Another great way to change perceptions is to present facts.

SME, a professional association whose purpose is to advance manufacturing and attract future generations, created this powerful infographic to bust the myths surrounding working in manufacturing. These are great statistics to share with anyone exploring how they want to make a living.

manufacturing myths infographic

If you want help in changing perceptions, learn more about manufacturing marketing services at Elliance.

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It used to be that a face-to-face meeting and a classic hand shake was all it took to seal the deal. Nowadays, manufacturing marketers realize that it takes a bit more to land a lucrative contract and is why digital is playing such a large part in manufacturing marketing strategy.

According to The Content Marketing Institute (CMI), digital content marketing which includes social media, video and email newsletters has become the fastest growing segment of results driven manufacturing marketing and sales.

In 2015, CMI told us that manufacturing content marketers relied heavily on the following three digital marketing channels:

MMSM1 320
YouTube was the top social media tool for manufacturing content marketers in 2015.

SM1 320
Manufacturing content marketers named the following social media platforms the most effective for their 2015 campaigns:

MM3 320
So this year, hop on the manufacturing marketer trend wagon by elevating your social media, video production and e-newsletter output. Learn more about manufacturing marketing strategy and how to improve lead generation and sales conversions at Elliance.com.

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Recently I was reading an interesting SME article about 3D printing technology and its emergence in the medical industry. Stryker Orthopaedics, a leading medical technology company, is partnering with hospitals to manufacture a 3D printer that will allow for the creation of customizable implants for patients.

The long-term vision is to have 3D printers in hospitals, where 3D “print engineers” will have the ability to receive patient data, design a unique implant, print it in six hours, sterilize it, and send it off to a surgeon for implementation.

3D printer for healthcare manufacturing

How cool is that. A customized, patient-specific implant designed to comfortably fit a person’s body. I imagine this adaptive solution will lead to a more effective product and a more satisfied recipient.

This got me to thinking about Elliance and how, similar to custom implants, our most successful manufacturing marketing campaigns are those that are user-specific. We know that marketing is more effective when it “fits” a person’s digital activity and lifestyle.

Consider this scenario: a user visits your manufacturing site looking to potentially engage with your company. After a few minutes of browsing, they download a gated product information brochure and leave the site.

The download signifies a deeper interest. You can either hope they reach back out, or start an intentional user-customized marketing campaign.

  • Send drip emails triggered by their behaviors, like email opens.
  • Embed a link to relevant site content in these emails so more information is easily accessible.
  • Place dynamic retargeting ads of the product pages they visited to remind them of their options.

All of these actions show you’ve identified the user and their specific needs, and you’re ready with a custom solution for them.

manufacturing marketing touchpointsRead about how Elliance helps manufacturers deliver their brand messages through solutions like inbound marketing, social advertising, creative design, and web applications.

Have a manufacturing marketing success story? Tell us about it in the comments below.

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emojis-emojis-everywhere

I’ve noticed more and more, emojis are showing up in my inbox. My favorite restaurants and retailers are tacking little images of suns, fireworks and ocean waves to their email subject lines. I found myself clicking on them more often, and got curious if others did too. Do emojis really trigger spam filters? As a major emoji enthusiast, a connoisseur if you will, of the best way to emojify my conversations, I had to know.

If there were badges for Google search proficiency, I’d consider myself highly proficient. My fourth grade librarian, Mrs. Williamson, would be elated to know that I’m still actively using quotation marks and plus and minus signs in my search fields.

So imagine my surprise when I searched Emojis + Spam Filters and couldn’t find a single reputable article from the last year with data to support that adding an emoticon to the subject line of an email would trigger the spam filter.

Mail Chimp makes no mention of emojis in their Knowledge Base article about avoiding spam filters. And emojis don’t appear on Remarkety’s list of 25 Ways to Avoid Sending Spam either.

In fact, in all my Googling, I found that emojis can actually increase open rates, when used strategically. According to Experian, 56 percent of brands that use symbols in their subject lines have a higher open rate. 😯  And according to Experian, emails with emojis in their subject lines get opened 45 percent more often.

Ad Age estimates that the average American consumer receives somewhere between 500 and 1500 brand messages every day. Forty percent of those same consumers are receiving more than 30 emails per day. Adding an emoji to the subject line of your email can help you stand out in a sea of Arial.

Of course, while emojis are the largest growing language in the world, you should still exercise caution when considering adding them to your e-marketing communications.

Here are a few tips to follow:

Know your target audience.
Grasshopper cautions that “businesses that sell B2B should probably avoid using emojis. But generally, if you have a fun, casual brand… emojis can help your email stand out against the black and white of a crowded inbox.”

Choose emoticons that compliment the subject line.
There are hundreds of emojis available, choose emojis that add emotion, humor or even a hint of sarcasm to your subject line.

 Here are a few examples of real email subject lines featuring emojis from my inbox:
email-subjects
Don’t replace words with emojis.
Treat emojis as garnish and add them only when it makes sense and they support the messaging.

Don’t overdo it.
The goal is to be noticed, not annoying. Use emojis only when it makes sense. Test them out in campaigns with a higher priority or during peak seasons when you need to stand out. Limit yourself to one, maybe two, emojis per subject line. While you may not trigger the filter, too many emojis will have you looking like a bedazzled jean jacket.

Know where to start.
Unicode provides a list of Unicode emoji characters with images from different vendors and versions to show how a particular emoji will render for different users. This is also a great place to see what’s available when you think an email might benefit from the addition of an emoji.

As a Front End developer, my job crosses over many disciplines, but this post is not about what a Front End developer/designer does (you can read a great article by Brad Frost on the topic to understand more about this balancing act). During the development of a web site, the front end plays key roles throughout the process. Traditionally the front end was reserved for the post-design states of a project, but more and more, we are seeing the front end discussed and thought about earlier. Depending on the organization or team, the front end can be introduced as early as the beginnings of content strategy, site map development, or wireframing.

These early front ends are usually grayscale websites with placeholder images and Lorem Ipsum text. The ‘polishing’ of a site with elements like color, drops shadows, gradients, and animations are usually reserved for later. But recently I have found myself adding more and more motion throughout all stages of the project especially the early wireframes. For the same reason we make responsive wireframes to review with a working site instead of printouts or PDFs, getting a feel for the site and how it moves and flows is important.

Now, beside the simple CSS transitions and keyframe animations I am still a novice, but thankfully there is a wealth of resources available for us to learn from:

Want to learn about animation? Learn from the master, Walt Disney.

Google’s newest design philosophy, Material Design, has a wealth of information on using animation to assist users throughout their software.

Similar to Google, Apple has their own philosophy on animations within their software.

Lastly, Val Head is a developer/writer/speaker that focuses on animation and has plenty of great resources out there, here are just a few

Introducing basic animations into a project’s early phase has a minimal cost but can increase the comprehension of a user in these somewhat abstract deliverables, like a grayscale wireframe. In the end, these animations should always promote and enhance the user experience not distract or deter … save the Emoji Fireworks for a special occasion.

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