• The Power of Empathy, Part 2: Empathy in Business Relationships

    by Tim Reeder | Mar 25, 2019

    The power of empathy in business relationships

    A while back we posted the blog “The Power of Empathy, Part 1: Empathy in Business Networking,” which pertained to the power of exhibiting empathy when you are meeting businesspeople and prospects for the first time. This article, Part 2, focuses on how to communicate within and treat these relationships after these contacts have become our clients and customers.

    We have established at this point that empathy is our capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the ability to place oneself in another's shoes. When it comes to maintaining healthy, long-term, and mutually beneficial relationships, few skills or virtues are more valuable than empathy.

    Let’s be honest: business relationships are fragile. Both parties have wants, needs, domains they wish to protect, and expectations. Many times, large sums of money are changing hands for products and/or services. The success (or failure) of associated initiatives can even sometimes significantly affect someone’s career. So, how we act and communicate within these relationships is, quite frankly, critical.

    Empathy is often viewed as something intangible, a skill that you either have or you don’t. This is not true. Empathy is not a “soft” skill. Empathy is an often overlooked, yet essential, business skill that can be learned, practiced, and honed.

    These six tips can help you develop trust, compassionate empathy, and overall stronger business relationships with your clients.

    1. Be present and in the moment.

    We live in a fast-paced world of information overload, multi-tasking, being online all day, and a constant stream of distractions. As a symptom of this reality, studies show that people are having a harder time concentrating and are less empathetic today than they were in decades past. Underscoring the importance of social awareness, this now makes the art of being empathetic all the more valuable and powerful. To develop and exhibit empathy, you’ll need to learn to cultivate “being present” and “in the moment.” This means being in the here and now and focusing intently on the person in front of you, rather than allowing your mind to wander or allowing yourself to be distracted by unimportant peripheral stimulus. Only by being present and hyper-attentive to the person you are with can you be empathetic. 

    Some techniques to cultivate presence are having very clear goals and objectives going into a meeting, preparing a list of questions beforehand (and setting the expectation at the meeting outset that you hope to address all of them), committing to taking steady notes during the meeting, and remembering that it’s not about you—it’s about your client.

    2. Actively listen.

    Closely aligned with being present and in the moment, active listening is a communication technique that is used in counseling, training, and conflict resolution. It requires that the listener fully concentrate, understand, respond, and then remember what is being said. This one skill can vastly improve virtually every relationship you have and may be one of the most valuable skills you will ever learn in your lifetime. 

    Sometimes we just love to hear ourselves talk. On occasion, we all enjoy feeling important and showing how smart we are. However, often we come to conversations with assumptions, certain preconceived notions, ideas, thoughts, and beliefs. This causes us to not listen, and to not really hear—to take to heart—what someone else is saying. This is self-defeating and can even be insulting to others. 

    To the contrary, hearing what someone is saying as if you’re hearing it for the first time and with a genuine intent to learn something, will enable you to actively listen. You can practice this skill by listening very attentively to what someone is telling you and by looking for a connection—seeking some common ground—while you listen. Focus completely on that person and do not get distracted. Paraphrase things the other person is saying, and clarify what they’ve said with thoughtful questions, and you will witness firsthand the power of this skill.

    3. Seek first to understand.

    One thing we love equally to feeling important is feeling understood. Business, to a large extent, is about problem solving: one party has a challenge, the other aims to solve it. With that in mind, before you can solve a problem, you have to deeply understand what that problem is, why it exists, how it manifested in the first place, and what pain or inconvenience it’s causing your client. Albert Einstein famously said, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking about solutions.” The lesson? Ask good questions, listen more than you speak, and seek first to understand.

    4. Imagine what the other party is going through.

    The ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes is at the core of empathy. When working with a client, seek not only to understand what business objective they want to address, but to truly understand how they feel and think about the situation. What is their motivation? How is their current situation negatively impacting their job, their team, and their goals? Why is this initiative important to their charter and the company mission? What type of qualitative and quantitative improvements will indicate success? Drilling down on such questions will put the focus squarely on your client and convey that you are sensitive to their needs and concerns and are genuinely intent on helping.

    5. Be proactive, and take action.

    In the business world, when dealing with clients, we often say, “Please let me know if there is anything I can do for you.” There’s nothing wrong with that at its core. However, you are putting the burden on that person to think of something you can do for them and then to actually ask you for it. As an alternative, instead of just making yourself available, just do … something. Be proactive. Make it about them. Maybe there is some relevant data or thought leadership you can provide to your client. Perhaps invite them to a lunch and learn session or give them a Starbucks’ gift card. Give them an unsolicited endorsement on LinkedIn. If, instead of passively asking, you just do something, this will show that you are committed to really making a difference in their business life — not just paying lip service to the topic.

    6. How will this initiative benefit you personally within the organization?

    I find this question to be unique and effective in a couple of ways. Every company asks about business objectives and goals, which is an important, practical topic to cover. However, though practical, it is impersonal. But when you ask someone how they, personally and specifically, will benefit, that sets you apart. First, you can safely bet your competition isn’t asking that question. Second, this question conveys that you are interested in the well-being of the person across the table. It says that not only do you care about the business aspects being discussed, you actually care about the people involved too. This demonstrates emotional maturity, openness, compassion, and most importantly, empathy. 

    Empathy takes effort. Like strength training, for instance, it isn’t always fun, easy, or comfortable. Selfless social sensitivity and putting yourself in someone’s shoes can be a challenge, especially when their perspective may differ from yours. That said, it’s not about being selfless or nice, although these virtues are very positive unto themselves. Empathy is about connection, understanding, and deeper human interaction. And better yet, be encouraged that when you put in the effort and investment, empathy can be cultivated and the benefits substantial. For instance, these six tips aren’t just about connecting with customers—they can positively impact all parts of your business and personal life with family, friends, employees, partners, investors, suppliers, and more. 

    Mastering empathy will help foster creativity, enable you to retain clients and employees, help improve performance, reduce conflicts, and achieve more success. Give it a try! And if you have some other tips on empathy in business relationships, we’d love to hear from you—please share with us at

    Learn more about how Trellist approaches new and evolving business problems by checking out the rest of our blogs here.
  • A 5-Step Roadmap for Your Web Development Project

    by Primus Poppiti | Jan 30, 2019

    a 5-step roadmap for your web development project

    So you’re about to start a project to build a new website. And by website I really mean any digital property, such as an ecommerce site, intranet, mobile app, etc. Where do you start? Everyone usually wants to jump in the water and start building right away. But, build what? And why? These are critical questions that will help you compile a roadmap for your project. Roadmaps begin with fundamental high-level business objectives and end with a clear path for development. Below are the five steps to use to build that roadmap for your web development project. 

    1. Document Your Business Objectives

    Treat your business objectives as your bible for the project. These should be high-level, project business objectives, i.e., the business reasons for the project, which should come from the primary sponsor of the project and the various stakeholders and can be distilled from interview sessions at the very start of the project. These objectives should be written in business vernacular, so that anyone in the organization can understand their meaning. Normally, you should have between three to seven objectives for any given project. Once the objectives are defined and approved by the sponsor and stakeholders, every aspect of the project should be tied back to the overall objectives. Each Functional Requirement (see step 2) should connect to one or more objectives. This is a good test of the requirements: if it doesn’t meet an objective, it should not be a Functional Requirement. The rest of the project will flow from them, from UX and creative through development and test cases. You should also be able to determine your Key Performance Indicator (KPI) from the objectives. These also should be directly tied to one or more objectives. Your KPI should be used to determine your measurements for success of each objective. Therefore your success is based on your objectives.

    2. Document All Your Functional Requirements

    The next step is to document all your high-level functional requirements—the “WHAT” your project needs to do. They usually are written with the opening phase of “The system shall” or “The website shall." Similar to writing the objectives, functional requirements should be high-level and in business vernacular, so that everyone working on the project understands their meaning. Requirements should be succinct—don’t make them about more than one thing.

    Requirements are not the “HOW” something will be implemented. Those details should be left to design and architecture discussions. But, sometimes for practical explanation, a note of “how” can accompany the requirements (but not be part of the requirements).

    As noted above, all functional requirements should support a business objective. Now, that’s a nice little bow around this project.

    3. Prioritize and Add Additional Data Elements

    Now that all the Functional Requirements are defined, it’s time to add more data to them. Since there can be hundreds of requirements, this is a good point in time to categorize them. For example, if you are building an ecommerce system, you might use categories like product display, product recommendations, cart functions, checkout process, etc.

    The next vital piece of information is the prioritization of the requirements, which should be set by the business team and approved by the project sponsor. Use simple priorities like high, medium, and low, where “High” is a must have. Use this scale: “High” requirements are critical to the business activities; “Medium” requirements are important but not a business critical function; and “Low” requirements are “nice to haves.” This is a tedious but necessary step that can cause a lot of discussion and dissent among the business team. Provide an outlet for rationale of these comments.

    Optionally, a good piece of information is a high-level of estimated effort. This is somewhat contradictory, since we haven’t determined “HOW” we will accomplish the requirement. But it’s good for the business stakeholders to get a sense of the complexity of the requirements. If you want to add this information, at this point, use a very general estimation scale such as T-shirt sizes (X-Small, Small, Medium, Large and Extra-Large) or the Fibonacci sequence (1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13 and 21).

    4. Determine the Minimal Viable Product (MVP)

    In this step, the work you have completed to date starts to come together in a roadmap, which will have multiple releases. The first release in the roadmap is the Minimal Viable Product (MVP). The MVP will usually consist of the “High” priority items identified in step 3. But, due to some of the complexities of requirements, some may be removed from the MVP. Contrarily, requirements of “Medium” or “Low” may be added to the MVP if they are less complex or easier effort (low hanging fruit) requirements. This provides some quick “win” within the MVP. This process of determining the MVP should be a team effort but approved by the project sponsor. The requirements that do not make it into the MVP will be placed into other releases of the roadmap.

    5. Build Releases in the Roadmap

    Now that you have determined the MVP, this will be the first release of the roadmap. Now review the remaining requirements. Naturally, “Medium” priority requirements should be in the next release(s). This release(s) should also include the “High” priority, more complex requirements that were removed from the MVP. You may add some “Low” priority requirements that have dependencies in these releases. The final release should include any remaining “Low” priority requirements.

    There you have it: a functional roadmap for your business project. Now that wasn’t so hard, was it? If you’d like to discuss this in more detail and see how we can assist you, contact us at Trellist.

  • Artificial Intelligence: The Good and the Bad

    by Tim Reeder | Jan 15, 2019

    A yin and yang of artificial intelligence

    In July, we published an article on artificial intelligence (AI) in marketing called “The Future Is Now: AI-Driven Marketing.” AI is all around us these days; we give verbal commands to our automobiles, make verbal inquiries of our smartphones, voice-dictate text messages, verbally control the music we play, and much more.  

    Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Amazon Echo, Google Home, and other voice-controlled personal assistants will perform countless tasks for us – all we have to do is ask. Such convenience and power it gives us! It’s like magic. It’s cool and futuristic.

    But is it necessary?

    Just because we can…should we?

    And for all the convenience, what are the risks and drawbacks?

    I’m not going to attempt to answer all of those questions in one blog post, but I do have some relevant perspective to share.

    In the late-fall, my girlfriend and I were out walking our dog and we approached a party going on in a neighbor’s backyard. From a distance I could hear many people talking—some quite loudly—and it sounded like a good time. As we got closer, I could clearly hear virtually every word being spoken.

    “Alexa, play ‘Uptown Funk’!”

    Five seconds later, from another voice, “Wait, Alexa, play Lady Gaga, ‘Poker Face’!’” 

    Literally, seconds later from another guest, “No, I have a better one…”

    As we walked on by, I casually mentioned to my girlfriend, “That was interesting. They were quite fascinated with the voice-control of Alexa. They jumped through 3-4 different songs in the span of about 30-seconds!”

    Having walked about a 1-mile loop, we headed back home and found ourselves again upon this party and the voices of the guests, still making song requests.

    For at least 15-20 minutes, instead of engaging in some level of constructive social dialogue, all they were doing was trying to one-up each other in a contest to see who could play the best song—something they were never going to come to any consensus on—while never allowing a song to play for more than 15-20 seconds. I can only assume this must have been a brutally unpleasant auditory experience for some of the guests. It seemed like a social experiment gone annoyingly awry.

    Do you see the conundrum here? Not every technological advancement is necessarily going to improve the norms and rituals we’ve come to know, love, and hold sacred.

    The above observation, admittedly, is not a flattering look at AI. However, just as Paul McCartney often brought light and positivity to John Lennon’s darker view, I do see the other side. I’m actually excited about artificial intelligence in the bigger picture. AI is a powerful, emergent force that big tech companies are fawning over—and for good reason.

    One of the most appealing attributes of AI is the endless possibility for applications. Its foundations, based on heuristic algorithms and recently combined with more refined and structured architectures, can be employed to solve a wide variety of problems—and the limitations here are largely unknown. Major advances in AI are happening in voice recognition, image recognition, deep learning, data prediction, pharmaceuticals, machine autonomy, military, radiology, and design. My Alexa example (voice recognition + deep learning) is just a small fraction of the breadth AI encompasses today.

    Let’s examine one example where AI is positively impacting the banking industry. The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has partnered with McAfee to evaluate just how much cyber-crime is costing the world. They estimate the global cost was somewhere around $600 billion in 2018, up from ~$400 billion back in 2014. This increase of ~50% over four years poses a huge risk and potential money loss for banks all over the world. Thus, banks are looking for smarter ways of detecting fraud, along with preventing users from experiencing a false-positive fraud alert while making legitimate purchases.

    Financial institutions are turning to AI to help with this problem. Along with better credit card technology, like EMV chip cards, banks are building integrated heuristic-based systems to monitor and report in real time on the transactions being made everywhere. This additional level of validation could potentially save billions worldwide (~$150 billion in the USA alone).

    These solutions, commonly known as machine learning or artificial intelligence applications, essentially learn purchasing behaviors of individuals, groups of people, and nations as a whole, then consolidate this information to perform a set of validation checks against transactions to determine if they meet the criteria of being considered fraudulent. These applications can also learn from their mistakes; as false-positives or missed fraudulent actions are reported, the algorithm can automatically adjust accordingly.

    These tactics are somewhat vulnerable to ‘new’ fraud strategies, but consumer feedback can quickly help to thwart new threats, as these artificial intelligence algorithms can adjust quickly based on a relatively small sample of consumer feedback.

    Such use cases are obviously contingent on our successful improvement and application of artificial intelligence, but we’re slowly getting there. Despite my negative anecdotal story regarding Alexa at a neighborhood party, emerging tech advances lead me to believe that AI might possibly be one of the most important and innovative technological advances in our lifetime. Really exciting!

    Have you had any interesting AI experiences recently? We’d love to hear from you—please share with us at


  • The Power of Employee Ambassadors and Micro-Influencers

    by Neil Dougherty | Nov 06, 2018

    The power of employee influencers in marketing

    It’s no secret that achieving marketing success in today’s digitally-transformed world requires looking beyond traditional communications and media channels. Regardless of your industry, simply pulling the same levers you always have in earned, owned, and paid media will only get you so far. Yes, you may have a standout website, top-notch marketing collateral, and growing social media presence. But so does everyone else in your space.

    To drive additional awareness and build trust in your mission and products, you should also be focusing on influencer marketing. It’s a buzzword that’s bandied about often – and for good reason.

    Seventy percent of millennial consumers are influenced by the recommendations of their peers in buying decisions, according to a survey of 14,000 consumers by Collective Bias. In comparison, channels like digital ads (4.5 percent), print ads (4.7 percent) and TV ads (7.4 percent) have a declining influence. These millennials are taking this mindset into the workplace, where they rely on peers and trusted influencers to help them make purchasing decisions.

    Act Locally: Tapping into Employee Influencers

    One of the first places you should start to build your influencer marketing efforts is in-house with your employees. The advantage of starting here is that 1) it can be lower cost than building an influencer marketing program outside of your walls, and 2) you have control over the message. However, this doesn’t mean it’s particularly easy to be successful.

    At Trellist, we helped our global specialty chemicals client pioneer an employee influencer program to build awareness of the brand and its innovation stories among customers, investors, fellow employees, and the media. We achieved this by helping them build their Social Media Ambassador Program.

    The effort started with the vetting of existing employee social media profiles to recommend an initial class of ambassadors. This review was both quantitative and qualitative: Did they have a significant or growing number of followers? Were they engaged and sharing regularly? And was their activity aligned with the brand’s values?

    Trellist also developed strategic training and guidance, published content, monitored performance of the pilot program, and created a leaderboard to analyze program participation.

    As a result, the client experienced:

    • A 2X increase in monthly published content
    • A nearly 2.5X increase in total engagement with the content each month
    • A 3X increase in the reach of that content
    • Recognition as a Fortune 500 company by 2017 — and now has more than 34,000 followers on LinkedIn and more than 5,000 followers on Twitter

    Choose Your Influencers Wisely: Go Micro

    It’s tempting to go “all in” when building your influencer marketing program. After all, who wouldn’t want someone with a million followers talking about your brand? But the questions you should be asking are whether or not they’re the right million, and is the influencer you’re working with the right one?

    You will hear nightmare stories about brands who have tied themselves to the wrong influencer, only to have their brand reputation tarnished in the process. Keep in mind that a person doesn’t need millions or even tens of thousands of followers to be influential. In fact, the data on social media engagement bears out that micro-influencers may be higher value on a per-dollar, per-campaign basis than celebrities with millions of followers.

    This study found:

    • Instagram users with less than 1,000 followers received a like-rate of 8 percent, and accounts with 10 million+ followers only had a like-rate of 1.6 percent
    • Users with 1,000 to 4,000 followers received 4.5 percent engagement
    • Influencers in the 10k to 100k follower range offer the best combination of engagement and broad reach

    We believe it’s a better move (especially for B2B brands) to adopt a micro-influencer strategy. Traffic may be smaller in absolute terms, but activity has the potential to be more engaged, more targeted, and less costly.

    If you’re considering your own employee advocacy or micro-influencer strategy, contact to get started.

  • How Trellist’s workhome benefits clients and employees

    by Zach Losco | Oct 17, 2018
    Illustrating Trellist's workhome

    At Trellist, we operate in a sociable, personal, and professional environment—what we call a workhome—where we strive to meet each other on common ground and that serves our clients and employees. 

    A workhome is a place where our employees feel safe and respected and where collaboration and free discussion are encouraged. It’s where they are unfettered by the trappings of a typical corporate hierarchy and can self-manage, because they exhibit strong judgment and work based on clearly communicated foundations. 

    This environment allows us to develop and maintain more sociable relationships than you may find in a standard politics-laden office environment and to compartmentalize between serious business and friendship mindsets so that work is always keenly prioritized. This, in turn, creates strong bonds. Our shared bonds not only make the environment more kind and enjoyable, but it also means that clients are working with people who are passionate about those they work with and are committed to doing right by them. 

    When it comes to creating a workhome, accountability, emotional intelligence, and social maturity are priorities. These are in addition to the high standard of expertise we seek when bringing potential employees through our doors for an interview.

    Trellist’s workhome environment encourages employees to be vocal and set their own boundaries with each other in an authentic, sociable manner. It also equips them to actively engage with each other according to their interests and personalities, in a way that transcends typical strict departmental architectures. This builds true relationships among our employees. And it also enables critical problem solving and an environment akin to a “teaching hospital,” where employees experience accelerated learning on any number of topics, supplementing their inherent talent and expertise. Every person becomes additive, enriching the collective whole. And because we realize this kind of environment isn’t for everyone, there are seldom hard feelings when something doesn’t work out long term.

    Our clients benefit from our workhome because we’re completely agile and can quickly pivot to complete projects much faster and, many times, at a lower cost than other companies. This leads to smoother communication, fewer project bottlenecks, and a greater degree of efficiency and efficacy for all concerned. We think like business people to clearly understand your objectives, and we personally invest in the work as an extension of your team. 

    Here at Trellist, we believe that a workhome positively impacts the experience of our clients and our employees. Connect with us today to learn how you might fit into the picture.
  • The Power of Empathy, Part 1: Empathy in Business Networking

    by Tim Reeder | Aug 23, 2018

    Empathy in business networking
    Excellent technical abilities, much like a strong grasp of modern marketing strategies, can take you a long way in your career. However, little can impede your upward career trajectory faster than a lack of people skills. Being able to effectively communicate with others is paramount to navigating the business world.

    Understanding and practicing empathy—both in personal and in business relationships—can significantly improve your existence. In fact, I can safely say that empathy has played a central role in helping me build a successful career and a rich life.

    What exactly is empathy? It’s the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within their frame of reference, i.e., the ability to place oneself in another's shoes.

    When it comes to business networking, empathy will help you significantly elevate your game. I don’t know about you, but over the years I’ve had a love-hate relationship with business networking. Forcing conversations in a large room full of complete strangers isn’t exactly what I would call “fun.” But it doesn’t have to be a source of anxiety. 

    These 6 tips for practicing the power of empathy can turn business networking into a tolerable —maybe even enjoyable—event.

    1. Take a Deep Breath, Relax, and Smile

    There is nothing more disarming than a smile. When you smile at someone, you’re saying, “It is safe to speak with me,” “I am your friend,” and perhaps, “We’re in this together.” Smiling in the context of networking says, “I understand you are as uncomfortable as I am right now, but let’s talk for a minute and have some fun with this.” And remember, smiling just feels better—to you and to everyone around you. So relax and lead with a smile, and you’ll be off to an excellent start.

    2. Make and Maintain Eye Contact

    The eyes may be the window to the soul, but I would argue further that the eyes are an indicator of a present and empathetic soul. These days, when people are often disengaged, staring at their phones, you send a powerful message by looking someone squarely in the eye. You are saying, “I am paying attention,” “I am here,” and most importantly, “I am listening to you.” This simple skill will not only make you feel more confident and appear more empathetic, but it will make the person you are speaking with feel important.

    3. Ask Questions

    Don’t be a “Me Monster.” In almost any social setting, the quickest way to turn people off is to talk excessively about yourself. “I do…I think…my company…” This is the antithesis of empathy. Instead, ask numerous questions—about their company, their role, and their customers. Non-business questions are fine as well, such as asking about their interests or their hometown. There is no better way to endear yourself to someone than to simply give them the floor to talk about themselves for a minute. As you listen, look for common ground. Does your company work with similar clients? Do you deal with similar challenges and responsibilities? Are you familiar with the area where they live or work? Keep the focus on them and look for commonalities within your dialogue.

    4. Make Your Elevator Pitch Relevant

    You are at a networking event to make business contacts and promote your skills and/or company. So you’ll want to practice your 30-second elevator pitch so it rolls off your tongue effortlessly, succinctly hitting the most compelling highlights of your value proposition. And make it relevant. Do you work with any clients in a similar vertical to the individual you are speaking with? Do you work directly with people who have similar roles? Does your company or your work dovetail in any way with their business? If so, noting those commonalities and tailoring your pitch accordingly will show you are astute, thoughtful, attentive, and interested in them (even while talking about yourself).

    5. Aspire to Active Listening

    Empathetic communication requires an element of active listening, which involves listening with all senses and giving full attention to the speaker. It includes strong eye contact, smiling, mirroring, and attentive posture and body language. It requires full concentration on what is being said, avoiding distractions. You don’t have to be a master at active listening; simply understanding what it is and aspiring to it will make you a memorable communicator. Like an excellent elevator pitch, being a great listener—an active listener—takes practice, but the rewards can be immense.

    6. Remember Their Name

    It sounds so simple and obvious, but remembering someone’s name is a big deal. How many times have you heard, or said, “I am terrible with names”? The fact is, forgetting someone’s name is a sign of self-importance and mental laziness. One easy trick is to call someone by their name several times during the conversation. Another is to quickly associate their face with someone else you know with the same name. If you want to make someone feel important, make the effort, concentrate, and remember their name.
    These 6 tips may help make business networking less stressful, more fun and productive, and might even propel your career. Give them a try! And if you have some other tips on empathy in business networking, we’d love to hear from you—please share with us at

    Learn more of how Trellist approaches new and evolving business problems by checking out the rest of our blogs here.


  • Best Practices for Digital Asset Management

    by Victoria Silow | Aug 01, 2018

    Digital Asset Management

    “What platform should we use to manage our digital assets?”

    It’s a common question bandied about in many an executive meeting, and you may have heard it in your own organization. While there’s nothing wrong with this question itself, it has to be asked at the right time. So many organizations put the proverbial cart before the horse when it comes to managing their digital assets, looking for the right tech solution before they’re actually ready. It’s akin to charging ahead with marketing tactics without having your strategy set.

    Before answering that question, you need to stop and take a look around your organization to determine the best place to start.

    Take Control of Your Digital Assets First

    For many organizations, the optimal starting point is taking control of their digital assets. What does this mean? As organizations grow and corporate structures become more complex, a once-well-oiled and streamlined asset management process can quickly breakdown. Things spread quickly, version control grows out-of-control, and no one in the organization has a good idea of what exists, and where.

    Start with one simple question: Who in my organization needs access to these assets?

    While it’s true that the marketing team will need the company’s digital assets for projects like product catalogs and promotions, others in the organization may need access to the data as well. You may also have distributors or vendors outside of your office walls who need the latest information to accurately represent your product in the marketplace.

    Step one is to identify all of the potential stakeholders and gather requirements from them, in order to develop a true and accurate picture of the digital asset landscape.

    Coordinate Communications

    Coordinating how you communicate new digital assets to these stakeholders is an important consideration that will influence your path forward. Explore how you are currently providing information about updates to existing products, new product launches, and even changes to individual product features.

    It’s not simply about making sure the digital asset itself is communicated accurately, but that the stakeholder gets the appropriate education about this new information. A brand representative with incomplete knowledge about a product can be just as dangerous and damaging as one with no information at all.

    Supporting with Technology—Important Considerations

    Now that you have a better handle on these preliminary questions, you’re almost ready to choose a platform to help support your digital asset management. Consider these important issues when selecting that platform:

    • Implementation: Do you have the resources in-house to support implementing the platform, or will you need to hire a consultant to help get it running and support all of the touchpoints and stakeholders you’ve identified?
    • Integration with Existing Systems: What else is part of your infrastructure? You may have a CRM system, marketing automation tool, and a variety of other software and services that should be considered when choosing a platform,
    • Security: You don’t want to inadvertently open your organization to a potential security hole or flaw. While a well-implemented and maintained platform should not create any risks, it’s a question worth asking—especially given that a variety of users will be accessing the platform.
    • Usability: Speaking of users, usability should be a key consideration in your selection criteria. The best platform is the one that gets the most use. Sometimes an overly complex platform with all of the bells and whistles may seem like the best option, but it could overwhelm a typical user. You may want to bring a representative sample of stakeholders and users—not just your tech team—to the demos to get their impressions.
    • Cost and ROI: Every new technology is an investment. You’ll need to determine your break-even point to see if the ROI on the platform makes sense for how you’ll use it.
    At Trellist, we’ve helped organizations navigate the sometimes complex process of vetting a new digital asset management system.  If you have a hurdle you need to overcome as you explore your options, we’re happy to help—just contact us at
  • Creating and Maintaining a Healthy, Effective Marketing Platform Ecosystem

    by Claire Concowich | Jul 26, 2018

    Creating and Maintaining a Healthy, Effective Marketing Platform Ecosystem
    Technology has changed the capabilities of the marketing world, drastically enabling sales and marketing teams to work smarter while the technology works harder. Like most growing companies, you probably have the basics covered—including a website, email tool, and a CRM—so now you’re thinking about the next step: adding a marketing automation platform. By adopting this tool, marketing communications become more targeted, cohesive, and support the customer through their journey—and better targeting means stronger results.

    You’re not alone in embracing marketing automation and other marketing technology, and you’re also not alone if you’re running into a relatively steep learning curve when it comes to using it most effectively. In a survey of marketing decision makers by GetResponse and SmartInsights, 55% of respondents indicated that they plan to increase spending for marketing technology, with a staggering 20% planning to increase spending by 10% or more. However, when it comes to using it well, only 5% consider themselves experts.

    Collectively, we’re willing to take the next steps in our journey to martech sophistication, but we’re not realizing the full benefits in our execution. The integration of these tools may have been successful, but it’s not clear whether we’re using them to the best of their ability to deliver the highest ROI.

    A Healthy Marketing Platform Ecosystem—Driven by Your Data Fuel

    One area in which many marketers struggle is with their data.

    Your platform ecosystem is only as strong as its data structure and health. As you introduce new platforms into the ecosystem—such as a marketing automation platform—the most important thing is that they all connect to a central data repository. Keep in mind that your platform ecosystem can scale and grow over time, but it should never grow so fast that it negatively affects your data cleanliness.

    This data repository is critical. It will hold the ever-changing fuel for the network of marketing tools you use, and it’s where you’ll keep and safeguard vital information for leads, prospects, and customers. This is where all analytics associated with a specific user reside, whether you’re using Salesforce, HubSpot, Marketo, Eloqua, SharpSpring, a combination of a few, or another platform.

    With each platform introduced to your ecosystem, it becomes an absolute necessity to define how information within the data repository will be recorded, stored, and shared with other systems. It’s equally vital to maintain and update the data stored to ensure that it continues to fuel your ecosystem.

    An Efficient Ecosystem

    An ecosystem’s health is also affected by the efficiency of the platforms you’re using. For example, using a marketing automation tool and all of its features can make collecting consumer data easier and more effective. However, like all technology, marketing platforms are constantly evolving and often contain more bells and whistles than you may be able to use efficiently. So, do all those tools need to be used to solve your business problem?

    In spite of the growing budgets designated for marketing platforms, many companies are not fully utilizing the materials at their disposal to their greatest extent. A full 47% of respondents from the survey mentioned above don’t use their marketing automation platform at all, or are ignoring many of its features. This is not only a waste of their investment in marketing automation, but it also prevents the technology from working to its full potential.

    To ensure that you have an ecosystem working as efficiently as possible:

    • Clearly define the objectives for your marketing platform ecosystem
    • Map the existing systems in place and document areas that are not being utilized and how they connect to the data repository
    • Highlight gaps in your ecosystem and focus on areas of weakness to ensure the entire system delivers on the defined objectives
    • Continually update your knowledge on all the available tools offered through marketing automation platforms

    If you’re not sure how to ensure that your marketing ecosystem is as healthy as it could be, contact the Trellist Digital division. We’ll be happy to help!

  • The Future Is Now: AI-Driven Marketing

    by Jim Auer | Jul 19, 2018
    Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the effect on marketing

    We’re on the cusp of a radical shift in the way that marketers create, measure, and optimize the experiences we’re providing for our customers. Artificial intelligence and its applications in marketing are going beyond the proof-of-concept stage and emerging as a tool to drive real change within organizations.

    Companies are using AI today to make practical use of the customer data they gather. While businesses recognize the value of first-party data, they have not had the resources to quickly and efficiently analyze it and apply their conclusions to develop and test strategies. They are using AI to analyze the large volume of structured and unstructured data, at greater speed and efficiency than human resources are able to achieve. It helps them identify behavioral trends, determine the optimal set of variables for a campaign, test conclusions in the market, analyze the results, and optimize for improved performance. AI, for example, can determine the optimal bid for an impression and the message to deliver based on the prospect’s profile, the channel they are using, and the time of day. AI is lowering costs, increasing overall marketing efficiency, and shortening the path to conversion.

    The most visible applications of AI in marketing today are in media management and customer experience. Search engines and social media use AI to deliver the right message to the right audience, at the optimal price. Google’s automated bidding sets your bids based on your campaign objectives, resulting in more efficient final bid costs. Google will even apply this capability to enhance manual bidding for improved results.  

    AI is improving customer experience during routine interactions too. Chatbots, for example, can manage low and mid-level inquiries, reducing costs while increasing customer satisfaction. Marketers are now learning when to switch from a chatbot to a human interaction for inquiries where customers require a deeper response.

    And marketers are applying AI to content creation and curation, enabling them to produce and publish various types of content with greater efficiency and higher response. Recently, Alibaba released an AI-driven copywriting tool that it claims is capable of producing 20,000 lines of copy per second. AI can be used to guide writers in their efforts, identifying the types of headlines and themes that readers are more likely to respond to.

    If you’re not using AI now, you likely will be in the next few years. According to a recent study from PwC, 72% of business decision makers see AI as fundamental for future success and a significant business advantage. However, we’re not quite there yet. Only 15% of enterprises are currently using AI. Further, a recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that 75% of executives say AI will be actively implemented in the next three years.

    Today, many larger enterprises are applying AI. While these early adapters have the resources to apply the capabilities, cloud-based services from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba and others are evolving to make AI practical for SMBs as well.

    In short, marketers are accepting that AI will have a key role in the future of marketing, and we’re working hard to figure out exactly what that means for our organizations. At Trellist, we believe AI will prove its value quickly, and the adoption rate will be fast among organizations of all sizes. 

    Learn more of how Trellist approaches new and evolving business problems by checking out the rest of our blogs here.

  • Is Your Marketing Any Good? 3 Simple Rules to Find Out

    by Renee Cohen | Jul 09, 2018
    Is your marketing any good? 3 tips to find out 

    Anything worth doing is worth doing well. It’s great advice…but how does one measure “well”? A quick Google search on the subject will deliver exhaustive lists of “The Top 18 KPIs” or “The 50 KPIs Your Company Should Be Measuring,” spelling out different metrics that range from revenue attribution to social likes. It’s enough to leave anyone disoriented and unsure of where to start.

    At Trellist, we know that metrics are crucial for understanding performance, success, and future planning. And while there are literally hundreds of ways to measure your campaign, and even more ways to interpret your findings, we base everything we do here on just three simple rules.

    Rule #1: If you’re not measuring what you’re doing, that’s just dumb

    Every move you make, every line of copy you write, every piece of creative you design, and every form of collateral you produce should have a quantifiable justification for its existence. Even if that justification is “This didn’t work, but now we know.” Tracking your campaigns is crucial for future success.

    You need to understand what resonated with your audience, and what didn’t. Even those campaigns that “flopped” can provide valuable insights for others down the road. It’s called optimization for a reason, and striving to do better should always be what drives your decisions, even if better isn’t always the final result. If you learn enough from what didn’t work, eventually you’ll have a pretty accurate recipe for what does.

    Rule #2: Don’t hold things to impossible standards

    In the world of marketing, there is always some new platform or tool that puts messages in front of audiences. But just because it’s lauded by experts as the next big thing in marketing, doesn’t mean it’s necessarily going to be a game changer by launching your brand into the realm of Nike, or turning your company name into a verb like Google.

    Marketing should be a well-thought-out combination of messaging platforms that tell the story of your product/service to the audience you want to reach. The idea that one social media campaign, or one tradeshow, or even one commercial is going to launch your brand from obscurity into a household name is unrealistic. Coca-Cola wasn’t built in a day.

    Rule #3: Set yourself up for success by defining success BEFORE you start

    This is probably the most important, and yet the most overlooked, rule when beginning a new campaign. If you ask the general public what the purpose of marketing is, most people will respond with something along the lines of “to drive sales.” Which, at a high level, is 100% true. However, there are a plethora of other ways to define marketing success and just as many means of getting there.

    Having a clear picture of what would constitute a successful campaign before it begins ensures that the actions you take and the strategies you implement align with your goals. This also manages performance expectations and offers a more definitive meaning to the metrics measured.

    Three simple rules. Hundreds of ways to follow them. Infinite success. For more marketing insights, or to find out how Trellist can help with your marketing goals—whether reaching them or defining them—contact our team at

  • 6 Marketing Tactics We Want to See End Now

    by Jim McAvoy | Jul 03, 2018
    Marketing Tactics that we want to see end now

    Have you ever rolled your eyes at the implausibility of a bombastic radio commercial? Or thought, “Wow! That’s just awful,” while watching a TV spot or reading a piece of mail? You’re not alone.

    We marketing and advertising folks have opinions. A lot of them, in fact. And we’ve had it up to here with some marketing and advertising trends that have simply become overused tactics. Allow my colleagues and I to elaborate.

    1) Chris McEntee, Marketing Communications:

    “I was already unsure about the concept of a commercial to promote your commercial that some brands have started doing for their Super Bowl ads,” Chris says. “But the new trend of teaser trailer before a movie trailer takes it to the next level. When a big movie releases its first trailer, it’s now preceded by or starts with a five-second ‘preview of the preview’ just so you know exactly what it is before having to watch the full two-minute trailer. Every major franchise is doing it.”

    Chris laments this interference with the natural progression of such things. “I understand that you need to capture attention instantly in the social media age. But this is just a pointless exercise to me. It eliminates one of the greatest things about a trailer – the buildup. Let the story unfold and then pay it off at the end of the trailer, to leave me excited for the actual product – the movie.” 

    2) Wil Spillane, Social Media Management:

    Wil thinks a lot of businesses miss the bigger possibilities that social media offers when compared with traditional advertising. “Personally, I believe a ton of opportunity is left on the table when marketers look at social as a space for paid media only. They are leaving out the opportunity to build and nurture potential and current customers in a real community. Social paid media is clearly a big deal, but social media can touch nearly every part of the business, and shouldn’t be looked at simply as the one-way conversation that advertising is.” Wil makes another thought-provoking point: “What are you going to do when people begin to engage with your ads? How do you support your community beyond your initial response to their comment?”

    3) Neil Dougherty, Marketing Solutions:

    Neil is not a fan of the “contrition commercials” that have become ubiquitous lately in today’s advertising landscape. “Recently I saw a bank, a car service, and a social network all run TV ads within the same commercial break that were basically apology ads with the ‘but we’re past that now and we’re going to come out of this stronger’ angle,” he says. “It shows that business ethics should be considered at all times and well before it gets to that level.”

    4) Holly Lee, Marketing Communications:

    Pre-recorded message telemarketing bothers Holly the most: “For me, it’s the worst.” She also finds radio advertising that uses adults to portray children cloying and dislikes “when someone says ‘smart’ to describe something that’s supposed to encourage me, like ‘Smart Marketers’ or ‘Smart Investors.’” Holly finds this to be the opposite of smart.

    5) Joe Kearns, Project Management:

    Joe is all for celebrating — but thinks that maybe not everything should be a sales opportunity. “Holiday sale emails for every holiday get to me. ‘It’s a Flag Day flash sale!’”

    6) Jim McAvoy, Marketing Communications:

    For me, there’s one guy that takes the cake. If you’ve watched TV or listened to the radio since the mid-2000s, then chances are you’ve experienced the “Dumb Dad” phenomena. This perpetually befuddled stock character has appeared in scores of commercials for products such as charcoal, laundry detergent and many, many others. Simply type “Dumb Dad” into YouTube and watch as tens of thousands of results appear. You’ve seen him in sitcoms and films too. In fact, this representation has become so prevalent that a few years ago an advocacy group protested the portrayal of fathers in a Huggies Diapers TV commercial. Surprisingly, the commercial was then re-edited to become a more positive portrayal of fathers. Bottom line? It’s high time we retire this guy.

    These are just a few of the overused tactics that have gotten under the skin of some of the veteran marketers here at Trellist. But there are scores more that can render your marketing ineffective and unoriginal.

    Stand out from your competition with insightful marketing strategies and tailored campaigns. Contact the Trellist team at

  • SharePoint as a Multimedia Communications Tool

    by Todd Metzger | Jun 26, 2018

    SharePoint as a Multimedia Communications Tool
    It can seem like change is the only constant in today’s business environment. The pressures of globalization, technological innovation, and competition continually drive the need for transformation across the organization. Uncovering new business models, revamping and streamlining existing processes, and modernizing technology and infrastructure are the keys to surviving and thriving.

    Leading organizations anticipate the forces that will require these kinds of organizational change. Even under ideal circumstances, significant revisions to your operations, vision, and principles can be difficult to communicate. When you’re an industry leader with tens of thousands of employees, it can seem like an impossible task.

    Executed poorly, organizational change can create chaos that has a real and lasting effect. Employees can lose sight of the company’s direction, their efficiency may plummet in the face of unfamiliar new processes, and morale takes a hit. In fact, according to McKinsey and Company, 70 percent of large-scale change programs don’t reach their stated goals. It happens when employees are not engaged, management fails to support the initiative, there’s little or no collaboration between teams, and no one is held accountable.

    Managing change correctly and efficiently requires a different approach, one that puts leadership, management, and employees on the same page. It’s only achievable when everyone receives the message about changes at the same time, and more importantly, that they actually hear, internalize, and understand that message.

    This is why tools like SharePoint are so important as a communication tool. It makes the change real for employees, and helps them decipher the signal from the noise so they can truly understand what’s important.

    SharePoint in Action for Internal Communications

    At Trellist, we recently helped a leading global agriscience company embrace digital technology to transform their business model. Such a radical transformation required an equally aggressive strategy for communicating changes to employees. SharePoint, which is globally accessible in the cloud through Office 365, was the optimal tool for supercharging employee communication and collaboration. The primary goals were to help the organization communicate:

    • What it means to be digital
    • Their transformation journey
    • Their digital roadmap
    You may think of SharePoint as a document management and sharing tool, but in this case it was equally adept at enabling consistent internal communications, video streams, and the presentation of interactive organizational charts. The media-rich environment we helped them create improved employee engagement, strengthened their internal communications strategy, and gave their executive team a voice that resonated more clearly with employees.

    Is SharePoint Right for Your Organization?

    Yes, it’s powerful, but it’s not all that it can be right out of the box. In order for SharePoint to truly help you communicate your brand message and strategies in the same way it did for the agriscience company we worked with, it needs the right UX and design to generate engagement and traffic. We’ve helped organizations across a variety of industries implement collaboration tools like SharePoint. If you’d like to explore how we can help your organization, contact us at
  • Career Pathing: Employee Growth Benefits Our (and Your) Business

    by Zach Losco | Jun 20, 2018

    One reality of our shifting workforce [see 3 Ways Millennials Redefine Marketing] is that younger people think about careers differently from the older generations. Careers don’t consist of a single position at a single company with incremental raises and promotions. Rather, they tend to focus on pursuing a skillset or particular expertise, bouncing from organization to organization to develop depth and – naturally – better pay and benefits. This makes hiring at traditional companies run by traditional leadership and management theories tough: how do you hire for longevity while reality demonstrates that your workforce is likely to cycle every two-to-five years? At Trellist, we accomplish this through a practice called Career Pathing, which is central to how we approach growth at the architectural, products/services/solutions, and, of course, individual levels. 

    Career Pathing: Benefiting You and Your Business

    I started at Trellist as a business administrator, hired to help organize the CEO’s thoughts, document policies and processes, and take some of the more mundane and tactical work off the shoulders of key leaders. At the time, I was regarded as someone with potential who lacked field experience, but who could also challenge the organization’s thinking by bringing in a new perspective from a different line industry altogether (in another life, I worked as a real estate paralegal, and as a phone salesman before that). Within 6 months, I found myself in an administrative human resources position, an expertise I never once had considered prior, but which suited my innate skillsets and served as a means for broadening my experience. In the intervening years, I’ve held positions in acquisitions, employee advocacy, contract review, change management, general administration, events coordination, and even served as a sort of internal spokesperson.

    Not all of those roles suited me, and few were in line with where, as a 25 year old, I saw my career heading. All the same, I can say with surety that each position has sharpened my skills, improved my critical thinking and business sense, and contributed to who I am and what I do today. Besides contributing to my growth, they’ve also helped the company by filling in key positions that were unoccupied, saved us the cost of hiring new headcount, and ensured sustainability by training someone with deep ties to the Trellist ethos.

    In short, I’m an excellent example of the benefits of Career Pathing.

    Trying to explain the “what” and “how” of Career Pathing would merit its own blog post, so I’ll stick to the very basics here. Trellist’s structure and culture require an ongoing conversation between our employees and the company-at-large. These conversations lead us to understand individual wants and needs over time. By understanding those wants and needs, we can make moves (be they planned, on-demand, or opportunistic) to ensure personal growth and scalable company evolution. Career Pathing encompasses having those conversations, and making those moves in a way that the employee’s wants and needs more frequently converge with the organization’s vision. We’re an all-for-one, one-for-all organization; while we may not be able to accommodate every ambition, that mindset and Career Pathing conversations mean that we should always be trying to succeed collectively.

    The “why” of Career Pathing involves a number of factors, both practical and philosophical, the most obvious of which is, of course, staying relevant and competitive as an employer and retaining key employees. Any company has to have at least an inkling of this concept if they have any hope of success.

    But Career Pathing has its roots in Trellist’s Charter: to build wealth for our clients and employees, to create a workhome environment, and to do interesting work and projects. Specifically, I’ll focus on the idea of doing interesting work. At Trellist, we often hire lifelong learners who want to not only be engaged in doing the work they have today, but the work they’ll be doing years from now. With a space as varied and evolutionary as professional services, that means escaping the confines of linear promotion and understanding that you have more than a single path forward. We charge our leaders to serve the employees, and we do that by insisting on cross-function conversation when it comes to our people. The more the employees are served in their career paths, the more excited they tend to be in thinking like owners and empowering the company-at-large. This in turn allows the company to serve everyone (clients included) to the best of its ability.

    When the employees who understand what Trellist is all about are empowered, the company is in turn able to serve, protect, and cultivate its core values for the further benefit of our employees and clients. So Career Pathing isn’t just about attracting and retaining talent, it’s about making sustainability endemic to who we are, and pushes our culture of openness, engagement, and sustainable growth to kick into high gear – and that’s an ethos we look for in every employee.

    If this work environment sounds right for you and your career goals, then send us your resume at We also apply this philosophy to the people we hire for our clients, so if your business could benefit from our help, let us know at  

  • Virtual Reality as a Live Event Marketing Tool

    by Primus Poppiti | Jun 13, 2018

    Virtual reality. The very phrase probably conjures up images of a futuristic, computer-driven landscape  you might see in your favorite sci-fi movie. It’s less likely that you’d associate the next-gen tech with a disconcertingly  up close, flea’s-eye view of carpet piles in your virtual living room. But that’s exactly what we built for a client who wanted to make an impact at an industry trade show The result? A booth packed all day with visitors itching for a chance to immerse themselves in the experience.

    Trade shows are a tough racket. So many factors can make or break your success. But for one leading animal health care company, creating a virtual reality experience was the differentiator they needed. Here’s how we did it.

    Trellist example of virtual reality as an event marketing toolThe VR “Wow” Factor That Packed the Booth

    When the client approached us with the idea of a VR experience at their upcoming trade show, the requirement seemed nearly impossible. They needed a deliverable that was high-tech and impressive, while also inexpensive to implement and reusable.

    The client manufactures and distributes products and services intended to treat pathologies common in “companion animals”—yes, that’s right, fleas. They needed to make an impression with veterinary professionals and suppliers at one of the biggest industry conferences for learning and networking. The stakes were big, and the competition was steep.

    To help them stand out, we built a VR experience that begins with the conference attendee donning a pair of Google Cardboard (googles) and headphones, which were hooked to a smartphones loaded with the VR app.  By clicking on the top of the Cardboard, the experience is underway.  The attendee finds themself standing in a virtual living room as gentle music plays.The furniture looks comfy enough to sit on and the fireplace crackles with the sounds of a roaring fire.  A barking sound behind them as causes an instinctive reaction of turning their heads to find a dog playing with a ball, trying to get their attention.  Suddenly, the music changes to sinister, as the attendee being to shrink and descend down into the carpet, à la Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.

    The carpet is teeming with flea eggs and larvae from the homeowner’s favorite furry friend. It’s the gross-out factor that drives home just how damaging these pests can be, and helps the attendees understand the value of the client’s product. After all, who wants their family rolling around on at a carpet overflowing with flea larva?

    The experience ends with the viewer zooming back out of the carpet to see the client’s key branding messages.

    The tradeshow was so successful that the client took the VR experience on the road, bringing it directly to veterinary offices around the nation.   The Google Cardboard was branded with their logo, which made for a sweet swag. 

    Methodology and Process

    To create this VR experience that helped our client exceed their marketing goals at this tradeshow, our methodology included:

    • Storyboarding and Estimation: We defined the storyline of the virtual experience in order to finalize the cost estimate. This included concept development, storyboard development, requirements documentation, solution architecture, and pricing and timeline development.
    • UX and Design: We created the visual elements of the script including scenes, images, interaction, and sound in order to develop a working 360-degree virtual reality prototype. This step included direction and blocking; copy and script development; imagery, music and object selection; prototyping and shooting; and creation of a deployment plan.
    • Development and Implementation: We built the final app needed to deploy to the smartphone and to YouTube (which can play 360 and use Google Cardboard), so the user could download the VR app from the app stores or play on YouTube. This involved post-production and editing, mobile app development, quality assurance, user acceptance testing, storefront preparation, and deployment.

    VR is one way to stand out from the crowd at a trade show, but your goal should always remain at the forefront of your priorities-- not just the technology we use to help you reach it. If you’d like to explore an innovative approach to your next trade show, contact us at

  • Recruiting Success in 2018

    by Tom Falgiano | May 30, 2018

    Portions of this blog were adapted from a previous Trellist article on recruiting by the author, titled “The Importance of the Kingmaker.”  

    Successful recruiting is one of the most important components of your organization’s health and wellbeing. Like proper nutrition for your body or premium fuel for your car, your people and your teams are what keep your organization moving in the right direction. Unfortunately, many organizations don’t spend enough time on the recruiting process or fall into one of the common, and usually avoidable, pitfalls when vetting a new hire.

    When you get recruiting right, your team moves forward, gains a competitive edge, and moves closer to your goals. Get it wrong, however, and you can bring your organization to a halt, at least temporarily. After all, you’re making a huge investment of time and money to find, interview, train, and integrate a new hire into your organization.

    At Trellist, we place a premium on the recruiting process—for our clients as well as for our organization . It’s how we build teams that collectively create better solutions. Here are a few of the “secrets” to successful recruiting.

    Recruiting Success in 2018

    Look for Cultural Fit

    Hiring for skills is important, but unless the skill you need is highly specialized, there are likely many candidates who can perform them adequately. If you narrow your search to two candidates – one with slightly better skills vs. another who is a better cultural fit – you’re more likely to see better results by selecting the person who will integrate with the team more easily.

    Tip: Make sure candidates meet members of the team they’ll be joining. If it’s feasible, do this outside the office as a coffee meeting or lunch, since you’re more likely to get a feel for their personality than you would in an office environment.

    Don’t Always Stick to the Script

    You should have a set of standard questions to ask each of the candidates applying for the position. These questions should serve as your “control” so you can compare answers between candidates. At the same time, keep in mind that no interview is completely linear, and you’ll think of new questions as the meeting progresses. Don’t be afraid to vary from the script.

    Tip: Every good interview should be a conversation. Don’t interrupt the flow just to get your questions answered. You can always come back to your planned line of questioning later in the meeting.

    Identify Red Flags on a Resume

    Candidates have the added advantage of online resources to polish their resumes, so you’ll see a lot of sharp-looking CVs pass your desk. Sometimes, a well-designed resume can overshadow some of the red flags you should be looking for. Keep an eye out for candidates who miss the basics, including major gaps in work history, someone who bounces around from one job to the next, and the standard mistakes (grammar, spelling, etc.), especially if you’re filling a detail-oriented position.

    Tip: If a candidate looks great otherwise, don’t automatically rule them out based on a minor question about their job history. It’s worth hearing the explanation, at least during a phone screening. The way they answer the question about a gap can reveal their integrity and ability to think on their feet.

    Review Work Samples with a Critical Eye

    Samples of work are critical to many creative jobs, but they can be manipulated. You have no real idea what parts of someone’s portfolio actually represent their own work or the output of a creative team. Review these samples with a critical eye and ask questions about their role in creating them.

    Tip: When possible, have your candidates produce something during the interview process – a written test, design piece, or section of code – to get a more accurate view of their work.

    Make It a Collaborative Process

    In addition to meeting their team, the candidate should meet other people in the organization as well. At Trellist, every candidate meets with our variety of leaders so they can be vetted from different, valuable perspectives. Likewise, this gives candidates a holistic view of the organization instead of a static (and likely incomplete) look.

    Tip: Have candidates meet with employees at different levels in your organization. It’s acceptable to ask them to return for multiple visits if they are qualified and interested.

    Always Be Recruiting

    Just finding the right candidates for your business isn’t the only important practice for a recruiting-savvy business. Replacing a full-time employee can cost anywhere north of 150% of that employee’s salary, making the loss of even a $50,000.00 employee cost closer to $75,000.00. Considering the trend continues to see highly skilled employees job-hopping every 2-5 years in search of higher salaries and greater benefits, employers may be reeling as they try to avoid turnover costs. At Trellist, we engage in a living culture with our employees, having frank conversations when it comes to matters such as performance and pay expectations, in-office perks, benefits, and ideals that speak to our company’s identity and foundations—not unlike what you’d expect to take place during an interview. These conversations fuel continued engagement with employees across the company, and encourage them to take ownership of their employment.

    Tip: Just because the interview’s over doesn’t mean you can (or should) stop recruiting your candidates. Having frank, candid conversations and asking the hard questions throughout an employee’s lifecycle creates mutual investment: employees know they have a path to action and that they’re cared for, while you are able to better understand employee needs.

    Following a few of these “secrets” will help ensure you find the ideal employee when interviewing your next new hire.

    We can also help you find your perfect fit, as a candidate or a partner. To start the conversation, contact us at

  • 8 Web Recommendations for GDPR

    by Primus Poppiti | May 24, 2018
    8 Web Recommendations for GDPR

    For many organizations, the ticking of the countdown clock for General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance is growing louder as the May 25th deadline approaches. While many of the world’s largest brands have made huge strides toward compliance, most businesses still have significant progress to make. In fact, a recent survey shows that up to 60 percent of companies will likely miss the deadline.

    Unfortunately, the consequences of this could be catastrophic: fines up to €20 million or 4 percent of a business’ global annual revenue, whichever is greater. 

    At Trellist, we’re recommending that organizations start their compliance efforts by creating a data privacy team lead by a data privacy officer (DPO) to oversee GDPR activities and raise awareness; if you do not already have this in place, do it fast. The DPO should review current security and privacy processes in place and, where applicable, revise contracts with third parties and customers to meet the requirements of the GDPR. They should also focus on these eight key areas of compliance that affects web properties. 


    The Eight Areas of GDPR Compliance for Your Website

    The first steps of a complex journey are sometimes the most difficult, and GDPR compliance is no different. Follow these guidelines to help your business fulfill all the requirements: 

    • Step 1: Active Consent. Provide a website overlay that ‘follows’ the user on every page of the website until accepted. Provide an active consent on the overlay and keep that consent for 45 days to 1 year; when the consent expires, the overlay should appear again.
    • Step 2: Clear Cookie Language. Provide a link to the cookie policy that has user friendly language. Develop a separate cookie policy page since the privacy policy could contain legalese. Explain the types of non-essential cookies that you use for ads and tracking, how you use that information, and if that information is shared with third parties.
    • Step 3: Refine Your Data Collection Process. Identify the Personally Identifiable Information (PII)/Personal Data that is being collected and analyze how this information is being processed, stored, retained, and deleted. You will also need to assess the processes with third-party vendors with whom you disclose data.
    • Step 4: Provide an Easy Way to Opt Out. The opt-out process should be simple for users. You can streamline their ability to opt out from non-essential cookies by categorizing types of cookies and providing an opt-in/opt-out mechanism for each.
    •  Step 5: Meet User Requests for Information and Changes. Establish procedures to respond to users when they exercise their rights to request information. Provide a clear way for users to contact you to request information collected, a mechanism for users to provide changes to their information, and have an internal process to correct their information in all locations.
    • Step 6: Communicate a Data Breach. Consider a Dark Site for crisis communication in the event of a data breach; you can make the Dark Site live if and when needed. If a breach/unauthorized access of personal data takes place that is likely to “result in a risk for the rights and freedoms of individuals,” the public must be notified within 72 hours of becoming aware of the breach.
    • Step 7: Communicate Changes. Consider proactive communication to customers to explain how your company is addressing privacy. This can be as simple as emailing customers to explain the new changes.
    • Step 8: Require Parental Consent for Children's Websites. Any website or industry that could cater to children under 16 years old will need to have child-friendly language and require parental consent.  If you do not cater to children, you may need to adjust your privacy policy to move your age of consent from 13 (as afforded under the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)) to 16 under GDPR.

    We’ve helped organizations large and small with their GDPR compliance roadmap. Let us help you figure out your next steps:

    Disclaimer: Trellist does not legally represent our clients and we are not providing legal advice. The information conveyed through these recommendations is not intended to give legal advice, but instead communicate information to help you understand the basics of the topic.

  • Accessibility – Philosophy for Teams

    by Supraja John | May 16, 2018

    Accessibility is a philosophy that ensures a wide range of people are able to comprehend the content we create for businesses — even if they do not all access and experience the information in same way.

    This range of people include children, seniors, non-native speakers, and people with physical, cognitive, or sensory impairments.

    Nowadays, due to an increasing number of web accessibility lawsuits, there is more pressure to be accessible. In 2017, there was “an unprecedented number of website accessibility lawsuits filed in federal and state courts, and few courts [were] willing to grant early motions to dismiss.”*

    But creating accessible websites is not always easy.

    It seems easy to use available checklists of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG), and Section 508 standards, near end of projects to quickly try to pass QA. But implementing these changes at the end of a project — updating code, design, and content — wastes time and effort, and risks missed deadlines and budget overruns. And in the end, the results may not be helpful enough to improve the experience of the whole audience.

    This can cause businesses to conclude that accessible sites are hard to create, expensive, and even irrelevant to their targeted “normal” audience. But they should realize that there is no “normal” audience.

    Some may be situationally disabled. Imagine the plight of non-native speakers or new parents juggling a baby along with their already time-demanding lives trying to buy something from an ecommerce site. Or consider attendees at a crowded trade show trying to hear a speaker. They would undoubtedly prefer to have the information the speaker is giving on their phones to read at leisure, with the ability to follow up afterwards. And, consider the scenario of a person needing to perform financial transactions or dispute medical charges in a public environment — they would rather use online sites than speak with customer service on phone about their private information. 

    Some may be temporarily disabled. Imagine someone with an arm injury having to navigate sites with a single hand. Or temporary visual or auditory impairments that limit them from consuming videos or podcasts. Imagine suffering from a sore throat which makes them more willing to use online sites and tools to finish their errands rather than talking with someone on phone.

    While it’s tempting for businesses to think that the situationally and temporarily impaired users don’t need to be catered to, some users are permanently disabled. They may be deaf, mute, blind, or physically or mentally impaired. They still have needs and desires to buy a product online or consume information in blog posts, videos, podcasts and other avenues that should be made accessible to them. 

    More accessible experiences benefit people at several levels of disability.

    How does Trellist work with a philosophy of accessibility?

    Trellist shares this philosophy. Team members from various backgrounds such as project management, content, ux, creative, tech, and QA consider accessibility from start to end of a project.  

    To also ensure this philosophy is at the core of the team’s work, an accessibility-focused individual is placed in the team to guide, focus, and educate where needed from project scope till production. Focusing on users with various levels of temporary and permanent impairments helps us derive inclusive solutions that are beneficial to the situationally-impaired users as well. 

    At different stages of each project, we consider various representations of audience. We imagine them going through different disabilities — permanent, temporary, and situational. We try to empathize and evaluate whether any of the designed content could cause confusion to various types of audiences.

    Although there is much discussion among team members on different ways to present content, there is a shared goal which is clear to all team members. Thus, every decision is made in unity despite the diversity — quickly, effectively, and efficiently.

    We derive solutions that are best fit for the audience, project timeline, budget, and the business's goals and needs.

    For more information, please contact us at

    *Vu, Minh N., and Susan Ryan. “2017 Website Accessibility Lawsuit Recap: A Tough Year for Businesses.” ADA Title III News & Insights, Seyfarth Shaw LLP, 2 Jan. 2018,

  • 7 Tips to Optimize Your B2B Product Detail Page

    by Victoria silow | May 09, 2018


    Think about how you, as a consumer, make an online purchase. You probably know what you want and may have a product category in mind that fits your need. However, there are likely many different products available. So you do a search or visit your favorite online mega-retailer’s website to check out the product options for a potential match. What you find will ultimately influence your decision and make or break the sale for that brand.

    Virtually the same dynamic exists in the B2B space between manufacturers and their end customers, and your marketing efforts should be focused on meeting customers’ needs in much the same way. There are many ways to nurture a potential buyer through the sales funnel, but swaying their decision to purchase your product over a multitude of other options may come down to the strength of your product detail page. Having details about your product gets you in the game as a potential provider, but the strength of those details and the way you present them is ultimately what drives the conversion. Getting these pages right should be among your top priorities as a product marketer.

    These seven tips and tricks will help you identify areas to focus on, with steps you can take to make each of these elements a little better.

    1. Consider search volume when naming products and product pages

      When you’re naming a product and the related product detail page, consider the search volume for the term you’re using. Tools like Google AdWords Keyword Planner offer an easy (and free) way to identify closely related words and phrases that may be more popular among your customers based on search volume. Every term in your keyword planner will have a “more like this” button; click it to reveal even more potential keywords to use for your product name and product page title.

    2. Use the right keywords in product descriptions

      These same keywords should be fodder for your product descriptions. They’ll help your pages appear higher in search results and also spark recognition among customers who have those keywords in mind when searching for products like yours. However, always remember to write for a human audience, not a robotic one—even if SEO is an important part of your product marketing strategy. You’ll never out-game the search engine algorithms, so write descriptions that will engage the customers you’ve identified in your 1:1 marketing playbook.

    3. Include FAQs on the page to help users troubleshoot

      You’ve heard all the questions about your product before. Whether they’ve been fielded by your customer service team, discussed at a trade show booth, or expressed through an online contact form, you likely have a list of frequently asked questions at the ready. How does your product work? What comes in the box? What are the dimensions? All of these questions have been answered before, and providing them on the product detail page in the form of an FAQ section is another way to market all of the important aspects of the product. You should also provide an option for asking any questions that haven’t been answered, which is a great way to field additional market research about what’s important to your customers.

    4. Tell a story with videos and images

      Product detail pages are chock-full of information, but they don’t yet replace seeing and experiencing a product in person. The right images and videos can tell your product’s story in a way that helps bridge the gap between the real world and virtual one. These images and videos can focus on features that aren’t apparent in written descriptions, functionality that may not be obvious, or comparisons to existing methods that show how your offering is superior. People love a story, and this is your chance to tell a visual one about your product.

    5. Build the brand promise into the description

      Speaking of stories, the product detail page is also a place to tell your brand story and reiterate your brand promise. Since people may be deep-linking into your page from a search engine, they may not know much about your brand before they get there. The product description is your chance to talk about quality, guarantees, speed, and anything else that may set your product and your company apart from the competition.

    6. Maximize opportunities for conversion

      The product detail page is one of the last steps in the sales funnel, so you should do just that—SELL. Make sure it’s filled with call-to-action language and is clear about what the customer needs to do to purchase, including obvious buttons and streamlined order forms. You should also A/B test the varying colors, sizes, and call-to-action language to see how performance changes. Just be sure to change only one variable at a time to pinpoint what improves performance.

    7. Put away the cookie-cutter content

      Creating content for the product detail page is not the time to cut and paste; in fact, doing so will do more harm than good when all of your products start to run together in your customers’ minds. These pages should be unique and help differentiate the features and function of the product offering. Creating unique content can be challenging if you have a large number of products to define. If this is the case, focus on the top products first, and work your way to less popular products if and when resources allow.

    At Trellist, we help brands define their merchandising strategy and then implement it across a variety of channels, including product detail pages. We’re happy to share our best practices if you need help refining your approach.

    To start the conversation, contact us at

  • GDPR: It Affects You

    by Supraja John and Nick Cohen | May 04, 2018
    Does your company use customer data?

    Does your organization handle customer data? If yes, unless you exclusively cater to non-European audience, you're affected by GDPR. If unsure, then GDPR may impact you.

    What is GDPR?

    GDPR, or General Data Protection Regulation, requires businesses to protect the personal data and privacy of EU citizens for transactions that occur within the EU.

    It is a result of four years of work by the EU parliament due to the inadequacy of older data protection rules. Safe Harbor Privacy Principles of 2000 and Privacy Shield agreements of July 2016 had privacy components in them and outline respective responsibilities. But, they were not laws.

    Organizations can no longer self-certify without regulatory oversight. GDPR requires the data controller, (i.e. your organization), to have a Data Protection Officer (DPO) role. It also requires your organization as the data controller to provide notification of cybersecurity and data breaches within a set time.

    Unlike its predecessors, GDPR recognizes the importance of privacy in the current era. It was created with the idea that “identity is the new currency in our world” especially in the likelihood of a future cashless society (cryptocurrency anyone?).

    GDPR has three primary objectives:

    • Give people more control over how their personal data is used.

    • Provide tighter controls and tougher enforcement to improve trust in digital economy.

    • Give organizations clear legal environment to operate in, that is identical across EU.

    When is the compliance deadline?

    This regulation was adopted by EU parliament on April 15, 2016. Any organizations affected by this regulation have about 2 years to comply, making the deadline May 25, 2018.

    What are the impacts of noncompliance?

    Failure to comply with GDPR could have a significant impact on your finances. Should a data breach or any other form of noncompliance occur, a fine will be issued at the discretion of your business’s governing body. The amount of the fine depends on a number of factors, such as your company’s history, level of cooperation, data types, and more. Based on this criteria, the fine could be:

    • 2% of annual revenue (not net profit but all global revenues or 10 million euros, whichever is higher) or

    • 4% of annual revenue or 20 million euros (that’s almost 25 million dollars), whichever is higher

    There are other non-financial impacts that noncompliance can have as well. Should a breach occur, consider the effects it would have on your reputation. According to a recent survey, 29% of existing customers would discontinue their relationship with a company following a data breach. With privacy breaches occurring every single day, it is crucial to be proactive by having a crisis management plan prepared.

    How can you get compliant?

    Check back here soon for an upcoming blog post detailing GDPR compliance preparation from Trellist consultants Primus Poppiti (Digital Strategy) and Victoria Silow (Branding and Marketing Leadership). 

    For more information, please contact us at

  • 4 Smart Tactics to Increase Email Opens & Engagement

    by Jim McAvoy | Apr 26, 2018

    Is your business taking full advantage of one of the simplest ways to get your customers’ attention? After all, every email has a subject line. But how you put it to work is up to you. Assuming you have clean customer lists and are sending relevant messages to a properly targeted audience, here are some effective ways to set your emails apart and encourage customers to engage with them.

    Keep it brief

    A good rule of thumb for winning subject lines is to keep them brief, bearing in mind that emails are increasingly viewed on phones and mobile devices, where text is likely to get cut off. Generally, 30-40 characters (including spaces) is optimal. Looking at it another way, marketing industry website Invespo reports that subject lines with a length of 6-10 words receive a 21% open rate, while those with five words and fewer score 16%. Anything beyond 10 words scored lower. Of course, bear in mind the industry you are working in and adjust accordingly.

    Personalize it

    A person’s interest in something is peaked when they see their own name attached to it, and of course that extends to email. When you address someone personally in a subject line, it implies a relationship and garners their attention. And that may mean they place more importance on what you’re sending. Personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened than those that aren’t, according to Invespo. Other locations for personalization include the preheader, where more characters (typically a maximum of 80-90) are available, or in the email content itself.


    Inquiring minds want to know

    Take a look at the emails your inbox holds right now. Chances are, most have subject lines that are declarative statements like “Sale! 20% off today only” or “Sail away with 60,000 miles.” Try flipping the script with a question mark instead—it might help your email stand out. Marketing industry website reports that emails using a question rather than a statement as their subject line have an 11% higher overall open rate. But vet your choices thoroughly to avoid sounding “spammy” and ending up in the junk folder. For example, “free,” “credit,” “buy,” “cash,” and scores of other salesy terms have traditionally been known to trigger spam filters.

    Emote a little

    Like it or not, emojis are here to stay—they’ve even had their own movie (the less said about that, the better). But according to, brands using emojis in their subject lines have helped increase B2C open rates by as much as 31% (and 34% B2B). So, even if you’re not a big proponent of communicating with emojis, it may be time to take advantage of their ability to get people’s attention. 😇 According to an Econsultancy study, the top five emojis include a star, airplane, two kinds of hearts, and the good old smiley face. But employing lesser-used emojis may actually help your email stand out even more, so look for some different possibilities. Again, it’s a good idea to take into consideration the customers or industry you’re emailing for best results.

    There are many other ways to help your emails stand out. Want more information or other helpful marketing tips like these? Get in touch with us today.


    118 Critical Email Marketing Tips, volumes 1 & 2, (various reports)