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Starting an International Virtual Event from Scratch

  1. Starting an International Virtual Event from Scratch

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    TMD is always up for a challenge. When we were invited to help Farm Journal plan and market a new event called the Sustainable Produce Summit, we were thrilled. We had helped develop numerous live events from the ground up before and thought we would use our tried and true formula that had launched many a successful show in the past. Little did we know, 2020 had other plans!

    What we had intended to be a live event, quickly became a question mark while I was meeting with the great people at Farm Journal mid March in Kansas City. Once we were unsure, we had to immediately initiate a back-up plan, AKA a virtual event. As this was all happening fairly early on during the COVID crisis, a lot of live events were converting to the online world. We watched and participated in as many as we could. We picked up what we liked about the ones we attended, leaving behind what didn’t work, while trying to envision any technical issues that could occur. Once it became clear we couldn’t hold a live event, we put all of our attention to a virtual one.

    In some ways, as I am sure you have found if you have worked on a virtual event, it can seem to be more difficult to get people to commit and attend a virtual event than it can for a live event. Because of the natural networking value that live events have, you need to really focus on providing value on an individual level. This means finding topics, speakers, and formats that PET—Provoke, Educate, and are Timely.

    To that end, TMD assisted in the educational strategy, secured some well known speakers, developed a digital and print creative strategy that captured the essence of these characteristics. From email campaigns, to digital graphics, social media content to print ads, and everything in between, TMD created an aesthetic that had people not only signing up, but consistently engaging the streamed content from start to finish of the event.

    Key Metrics include:

    • Most sessions included several hundred people
    • The top session had 350 live viewers
    • People from 6 different continents participated
    • Well over 3,000 participants
    • Nearly 75% of people participated at least 2 hours in the event
    • The virtual booths had nearly 2,000 visitors

    “We couldn’t have been this successful without you and your team. We really appreciate our relationship with you and your team at TMD Creative,” said Matt Morgan, Executive Vice President, Produce (Farm Journal)

    Clearly, the first year of the Sustainable Product Summit was a hit by all of our metrics. We look forward to helping with a live event next year, and growing this event to be best in class. We had a wonderful experience working with the team at Farm Journal and can’t wait to make the 2nd Annual Sustainable Produce Summit even better!


  2. Cutting Marketing – Does this make sense?

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    It has been three weeks since the last sharing of my thoughts on subjects that impact our business and personal lives. Today I am focusing on an insightful article I just recently read titled “Is it time to Slow Your Marketing?

    I have touched on a similar topic several weeks ago, and since we as a nation are starting to open up again in an attempt to get back to “normal” (whatever that means), it is worth diving deeper into the subject matter. That being said, let me provide you a little context in an effort to clarify my approach to this subject. I consider myself not only a marketing professional but an educator as well. Having taught the subject for about 14 years at Hartnell College and having spoken at numerous industry events on various aspects of marketing. The thoughts expressed in this reflection are based on numerous case studies, grounded in science and my professional experience.

    Many business people are somewhat dismissive when it comes to marketing; thinking it is perhaps an optional tactical function of their businesses rather than looking at it as a science (a social science to be exact) and a critical function in the overall strategy of an organization. Perhaps marketers ourselves have hurt our profession because of what I call a “window dressing approach” to marketing. Meaning, just make it pretty and people will buy. This could not be further from the truth. Albert Einstein once said, “Creativity is intelligence having fun.” He, as you know, was a scientist. Marketing by its scientific nature is creative and creativity is intelligent. Thus having a solid marketing strategy is simply the SMART thing to do in every situation and circumstance.

    So going back to the question; Cutting Marketing – Does this make sense? The answer is an emphatic NO. During challenging times like we are in, it is instinctive to pull back certain business activities and sadly marketing is usually one of the first things business people cut. This is a counter intuitive reaction. Something that is strategically integral to the success of your business is not something that should be on the chopping block. What you change is your approach and messaging, and not the budget. Scott Bennett, senior account manager at MultiView said, “While you are trying to keep your business’ head above water, pulling advertising is like throwing away your life line.” As far as I am concerned as a professional and educator, he couldn’t be more right.

    In these multidimensional crazy times we are in, it is critical to get past the misguided fear and misplaced judgement and look forward with your marketing strategy while thinking about how what you are doing contributes to the stability (and sustainability) of your organization. “Advertisers should not be hiding during these hard times,” said Frank Rosenstern, platform manager at MultiView. “They need to be showing value, acting responsibly, and doing right by their employees and the communities they serve.” This is yet another important topic I shared with you several weeks ago. He added, “conveying this type of message shows their target audience they care about the world, their employees, and most of all their customers.” The most important you can do as a business leader is to convey a message to your target audience that you are still here and that your business or organization will continue to be here for your customers and community. “Without sounding callously optimistic.”

    As with the other articles I have written, I always provide some tangible takeaways and encourage you to look at how you can implement them in your organizations, given the current climate.

    Things you ought not change

    • Your mission – it is not a wise idea to change your mission, it is an ideal time to look at how you reach that mission.
    • Your work ethic/customer service/dependability – your reputation also proceeds, so you simply cannot stop providing value to your customers. We all want to maintain a happy, satisfied and loyal customer base.
    • Your Ad Spend – every professional I know would advise a client not to hit the pause button or cancel your advertising campaigns altogether. Rather, if you decide to make a change, re-allocating to other areas that support your strategic objectives is the wiser choice, ie: digital marketing or customer retention marketing.

    Thing you should change

    • Your marketing allocations – with so many people stuck at home, you need to adjust your strategy to meet your audience where they are at. If you need ideas let me know.
    • Your message – OMG this is critical! If there ever was a time to communicate and embrace empathy in your marketing, NOW is the time. By doing this you are not just supporting your brands, products or services, you are also quelling fear and spreading hope.
    • Your outlook – If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at will change. Think about resiliency and focus on now with an eye to the future. Saint Junipero Serra was famous for saying, “Always look forward, never back.”
    • Your visibility – In times of crisis, your customers need to see you! It is imperative that you keep your name out there, your message and your values updated and maintain that top of mind position in your customers minds.

    Times like these call for courage to advance versus retreat. Refocus your marketing efforts and strategy, stay the course, and don’t make decisions that will allow your competitors into your space and you become a distant memory to those you worked so hard to serve.

    Happy Marketing – there are better days ahead!
    Nicholas M. Pasculli


     

  3. Business Changes are coming Post COVID-19

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    Dear Clients, Partners, and Friends,

    Today I am sharing with you my reflection on an article I read the other day by Kenn Adach, on the potential changes we can expect in the business world and the potential for behavioral changes post COVID. It is my hope that you find these topics interesting and thought provoking. Hopefully they spark greater creative thinking within your respective organizations.

    Behavior Changes are a Certainty

    Beyond a shadow of a doubt, COVID-19 is dramatically changing both consumer and business behaviors over the last two (+) months. Undoubtedly (and perhaps sadly), some of those behavior changes will continue for a long time, possibly even after the defeat of the Corona Virus. These new behaviors will likely become permanent the longer they are in place. With this pandemic the primary human emotion at play is fear. The prominence of fear in our society accelerates and embeds the new behaviors we are seeing in people.

    Our companies really need to think about how the COVID-19 crisis will change our society’s long-term social interactions, industry events, personal relationships and what products and services will people gravitate towards in the “new” post COVID-19 world.

    “Many people will certainly have higher sensitivity to germs and the risks of spreading infections. This behavior alone will change many industries. Customers and workers will be more skeptical of close contact with others. Consumers travel, dining, entertainment and product preferences will be different tomorrow,” says Chief Outsiders contributor Kenn Adach.

    There will certainly be a very long list of changed behaviors and their impact will be equally long, as COVID-19 runs its course. The amount of changed behavior will depend on the number of people that are directly affected, how severely and for how long. In my view, many of these “new behaviors” will become normal as they are practiced and repeated over the coming months.

    All of the above beg the questions: “How will behaviors shift in your industry?” Customer behavior changes will very likely require you to develop new or modified products and services. “New market leaders will emerge while some past leaders falter. Many companies will struggle post COVID-19,” says Adach.

    How can you implement a proactive approach in the Post COVID-19 World?

    Knowing your marketplace/customer/consumer needs as well as your competitors is always the best way to meet market demands. Come to the acknowledge that what you knew before may not serve you well in an uncertain tomorrow. Agile companies will adopt a proactive approach to understand what changes will occur and be ready to adjust their products, services and strategies quickly to meet current and future customer needs. This is especially true in the produce industry as consumers make choices. The challenge is to meet the consumers in their new state-of-mind.

    Three important steps you can to implement now:

    Debrief – gather key members of your team and debrief them on what they have been hearing from customers, vendors, and colleagues. This is something we have been doing here at TMD Creative since the beginning of the pandemic. Having a work session to identify what might be changing and importantly, what you don’t know about the “changes” will set the stage for the next step.

    Gather Insight – Develop a plan to “take the temperature” of the marketplace. How can we validate new behaviors we are seeing and hearing, and gather the information we don’t know? Don’t assume anything. Your customers can tell you what they will need, but you must ask them. These are unchartered waters, and in many cases your customers need help in areas they may not have identified yet.

    In the current situation our world is in, it’s critical to conduct customer interviews, surveys, market research or get customer feedback by other means. Gather the comments, attitudes and data, then analyze. It is critical that you be objective. In other words, be open to things you may have never thought would occur, and understand how these new changes can impact your organization!

    When interacting with customers during this period, make sure your team is equipped to have open conversations with customers who may be facing dire business circumstances. Asking empathetic questions like; “How can we help you get through this?” not, “Here’s what we’ve got.” In other words, lead with empathy not competence. Your goal should be to help develop a solution to their crisis, while also letting them know you are there for support.

    Re-Plan – [that 2020 planner you have — get rid of it 🙂 ] We all had our 2020 plans, but clearly COVID-19 requires us to forward think, develop new strategies and re-planning on many fronts. With all the new insights you’ve gathered from the marketplace, re-plan and prioritize strategies and tactics in all critical areas. This could include Food Safety, Sustainability, Manufacturing/Operations, Production/Harvesting, Sales, Marketing Communications, New Product Development/Innovation, Customer Service and other areas of your businesses.

    “Understanding what your customers will value in the post-COVID-19 business world and acting on it will ensure your survival and success and put you ahead of major competitors. This cannot be over-emphasized. Knowing the customer will sort the post-COVID-19 business winners from losers and also-rans.”, says Adach.

    It is important to not forget that your customers buy VALUE, and value comes from meeting their needs, which comes from understanding their needs, in words and actions. Focus on providing value, and revenue and profit will take care of itself.

    The question going forward for many of us is, when will customers come back? But even more important and more under your control is, what will you need to deliver differently in terms of product or service, features and benefits?

    Business Impacts we might expect Post-COVID-19

    Just looking back a few years in history can provide validation that major changes are coming. Just think back to 9/11 or even the financial crisis of 2008. The post 9/11 world brought us permanent changes in the way we travel with tighter airport security, the creation of the TSA and Homeland Security, and increased security at everything from sporting events and concerts to large office buildings in major cities. Behaviors changed, industries were changed and created, as they will again now.

    “Many believe that COVID-19 will affect more people and businesses directly and will have a more far reaching impact on businesses of all types than any crisis in the past half century,” says Adach.

    If we try to look at the bright side of this crisis, it is that change creates opportunity. The business leaders who act now, communicate with customers and take a proactive approach to their changing markets will likely do much better than those who take no decisive actions. Perhaps the most important things we can do is share more and cooperate more with each other.

    Stay well, Remain Optimistic,
    Nicholas M. Pasculli


     

  4. Trends that will Endure

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    Dear Clients, Partners and Friends of TMD,

    Since the shelter in place order was issued, I find myself doing a great deal of reading in the evenings and on weekends. I recently read an article in Advertising Age Magazine that discusses 5 Consumers Trends that will endure after COVID-19. These trends are very relevant to business and I want to share some insights I have had after reading the article.

    It is remarkable how the U.S. population has so readily and instinctively changed behavior in ways that will likely have lasting implications for brands. With these changes there are opportunities but also cautions for marketers, and we are all marketers.

     “When there are serious changes in lifestyle and life circumstances, there is a fairly dramatic change in preferences for brands that consumers use, and their perceptions about those brands,” says Peter Noel Murry, who runs his own consumer psychology practice in New York.

    As we plan for the future, we might do well to consider the following trends from Advertising Age, which experts expect to outlive COVID-19.

    1. Time-tested brands will shine
    As consumers change to adopt new behaviors and habits, they’re sticking by the brands they’ve long trusted to get them through and beyond the crisis. There will be a change from “novel and trendy” to “tried and true” will make it difficult for new brands to launch in this environment. The older brands/companies that have been around a long time have built the emotional brand equity up over generations.

    2. DIY gains ground
    Consumers are using their time at home to learn new skills, like cooking (pay attention Produce Companies), baking gardening and many more DIY activities. Food purchasing in the last two week has far exceeded typical Thanksgiving shopping. Bottom line is that we are going to see more people become self-reliant. This could forever change the restaurant and hospitality industry. Recently I attended a webinar and one of the speakers suggested that the restaurant industry may only recover to about 75-80% of what it was prior to the pandemic. 

    3. Comfort with digital offerings
    As media and research companies adjust from live events to virtual ones, so are consumers adjusting to digitizing their behavior. Some demographics, like older consumers who may have been unconformable are quickly adapting to making on-line purchases, especially for groceries and other necessities. Once they fall into a new routine  and get used to the ease of delivery at their door it may be hard pressed to return to brick-and-mortar, experts say. Think about the implications for the construction industry and even supermarkets. The medical industry is not immune to the change, especially as services like Teledoc become more accessible. If you didn’t think telemedicine was here to stay, think again. 

    4. Flexible work arrangements
    Many expect the current situation of so many Americans working from home will lead to a dramatic shift into more flexible  work arrangements as employers realize it’s not necessary to have everyone in the office to get things done. Employers may find significant benefits to employees working at home, not to mention the need for less office space, thus reducing overhead costs like rent and utilities. 

    5. Safety wins over privacy
    While consumers have grown more protective of their privacy and personal data in recent years, experts say that is changing during the current crisis. Many are deferring to the government and those in leadership positions to keep them safe even if it means giving up on their own privacy in the process. (I don’t know about you, but this trend makes me uncomfortable)

    So, what’s next for brands? I will discuss what I see happening next in my next message to you. In the meantime, stay safe and healthy.

    Sincerely,
    Nicholas M. Pasculli
    President & CEO


  5. Nick Pasculli Shares Web Design and SEO Tips at Cultivate’19

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    TMD Creative’s President and CEO Nick Pasculli headed northeast this past weekend to share insightful knowledge on web design and SEO at Cultivate’19, an annual conference and tradeshow hosted by AmericanHort in Columbus, Ohio. From nursery and greenhouse growers to interior plantscapers and florists, more than ten thousand attendees from across the world travelled to this premier event to connect with fellow professionals in the horticulture industry. 

    Now on it’s 90th year, Cultivate brings together industry experts and organizes more than 100 educational sessions and opportunities for growers, retailers, and more.

    “When I was approached by the team at AmericanHort to be a guest speaker, I was thrilled,” said Nick. “Sharing knowledge with an ecocentric community is time well spent.”

    Nick led two educational sessions — the first focused on performance-based web design, and how to utilize best practices in design and content creation to enhance the user’s experience and SEO.

    And how can you use Google to your advantage? The topics discussed in his second session focused on search engine marketing tactics that can increase your brand’s visibility in this powerhouse’s rankings.

    Attendees walked away from each of the sessions with actionable, yet simple, tactics to increase their digital presence and optimize their website design. Nick also shared his experiences in working in the horticulture industry and insight on new trends.

    “A key takeaway here was innovation.” Nick says. “Industry leaders, speakers and exhibitors presented innovative solutions to existing problems in horticulture and it was amazing to witness it all.”

    Stay tuned for more of TMD in horticulture. To see what our team is up to next follow us on Instagram and Facebook!

  6. TMD Creative Continues to Grow Its Team

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    The Salinas-based marketing and creative firm has welcomed two new members to its growing web and design teams. The TMD Creative team is excited to welcome Thalia Villalobos and Cristina Cachux, both graduates from CSUMB.

    Thalia joined TMD Creative’s web team as a web developer. She will work closely with the senior and lead web developers to help clients build beautiful websites that provide a pleasant experience for the user. Before joining TMD Creative, Thalia was an intern at New Relic, a San Francisco-based software analytics company where she created custom data feeds for clients and stylized the user interface to match the company’s brand.

    “I enjoy creating custom solutions from scratch – it’s like adding color to a blank canvas and creating beautiful art.” said Thalia. “I look forward to growing professionally and learning everything I can from everyone on the team.”

    Cristina joins TMD Creative’s design team from Marich Confectionery, a family-owned business in Hollister, Ca. She comes to TMD Creative with experience in print, web, and packaging design, as well as web development. She will work closely with both the web and design teams to design digital media.

    “I am excited to work on my two areas of expertise: web and design.” said Cristina. “Work in web and design is ever-evolving and never done, and I love the challenge of learning new ways to solve problems, while staying relevant in this industry.”

    Thalia and Cristina are two out of the four new employees TMD Creative has added to its team within the past year, as the firm approaches its 20th anniversary in October 2019.

    “As TMD Creative expands, I am delighted to welcome two talented, young ladies to our team. They bring a breadth of new, fresh ideas to TMD from their diverse backgrounds, and I am convinced that their unique skills will bring tremendous value to our clients.” said TMD’s President and CEO Nick Pasculli.

  7. Produce Industry Braces for Mexico Border Shutdown

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    In an effort to stop illegal immigration, President Trump threatened to shut down trade from Mexico last Friday, March 29th. Produce growers, shippers, wholesalers and retailers across North America are bracing for the impact this decision would have on our economy, a drastic measure that would disrupt the flow of food imports in the U.S. from Mexico.

    “You couldn’t pick a worse time of year because Mexico supplies virtually 100 percent of the avocados in the U.S. right now,” said Mission Produce CEO Steve Barnard, in an article from USA Today.

    Avocados, tomatoes, berries, peppers – some of our most favorite fruits and vegetables are imported from Mexico.

    Top Imports from Mexico (2017):

    Avocados: $2.3 billion

    Berries: $2 billion

    Tomatoes: $1.8 billion

    Peppers: $1 billion

    President Trump has not announced a deadline as to when this decision would be enforced; however it highlights the importance of agricultural literacy in our own communities. Where our food is grown, and how it gets to our stores is a process many Americans know little about. They experience food as an industrial product that doesn’t look much like the original animal or plant.

    Education is key in understanding the impact agriculture has on our own local economy. Did you know one in every four jobs in Monterey County is dependent on agriculture? Visit the Monterey County Farm Bureau for facts, resources, and opportunities to participate in local farming organizations.

     

     

  8. Facebook Prioritizes People Over Pages

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    Facebook has reconfigured their algorithms, significantly changing the way content is ranked in users’ news feeds. The social media giant’s recent announcement that it will be prioritizing content from friends and family has left many brands wondering how they can still effectively reach their followers.

    Mark Zuckerberg explains what prompted the change:

    “We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. That’s why we’ve always put friends and family at the core of the experience. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness.”

    This means it’s time to evaluate your digital marketing strategy.

    Top 3 Tactics for Brands:

    1. Creative Content

    Develop and execute a content strategy that allows people to have meaningful conversations.

    2. Alternative Tools

    Utilize Facebook groups for connecting with your community. Sharing more live videos, events and news that encourage engagement will give you higher visibility within users’ news feeds.

    3. Smart Advertising

    Reaching out to your targeted customers as a brand is still possible using Facebook Ads. Spend more effort on crafting your message, so it stands out among the rest.

     

    Still have questions? Reach out to our team at 831.758.6425 for a consultation.