PepperMill September 2018

Tim Loves the Cubs

Yeah, it’s that time of year again—the stretch run for Major League Baseball.

Will our Cubbies rise to the occasion? With Joe at the helm, big bats in the order, and Javy the Magician, I think they have the best chance.

But it’s a process. Like any business, we can fill our rosters with strong character and skills. We can innovate by switching things up once in a while. We have to sweat the small stuff, but not dwell on mistakes. It’s a never-ending attempt at finding the perfect formula for success.

In Tom Verducci’s excellent book about the making of the 2016 World Series Champs, Cubs Way, he describes the Cubs management’s approach to hiring for character, versus skills alone. Add Joe Maddon’s leadership and I think you’ll agree: the team works on a different plane than most other professional teams.

Finding and retaining top talent these days is the biggest challenge according to a global collection of CEOs. At Pepper Group, we have developed a new Talent Marketing self-assessment tool to help our clients evaluate where they stand and identify gaps in order to continually improve recruiting and engagement.

You have to switch things up like Joe Maddon does with his batting order. He doesn’t want anyone to get complacent and he also knows putting someone in the leadoff spot can bust a drought. Our Creative Director, Cindy, likes to suggest we switch seats at weekly meetings so we can “appreciate a new perspective.” It’s also been shown to boost creativity.

The small stuff can serve as constant reminders of our dedication to details. While that grounder to second base looks like an automatic out, Joe’s boys run hard to first, nonetheless. There will be multiple times during a season where they can take advantage of an error by “Respecting 90” (Joe’s term for paying respect to the 90 feet between home and first). If a Pepper sees a little piece of something laying on the carpet, we pick it up, never allowing a guest to judge us on our pride for our workplace.

The Cubs’ manager never criticizes his players if they are taking calculated risks that fail. He knows that their intentions are good, their instincts are usually right, and they are sometimes going to make outs trying to stretch a single to a double. He never wants to extinguish that fire in their bellies. At Pepper Group, one of our Core Values is Scraped Knees Teach Us To Dance. In other words, dare to make mistakes if you want to truly learn to boogie!

As the Cubs finish out the regular season and hopefully head to the playoffs, consider the last quarter of 2018 your company’s playoffs. We can all be champions!

Tim Padgett

Switching it up this month, from quotes to baseball lessons …

Jim Abbott, born without a right hand, had a 10-year career as a major league pitcher, even throwing a no-hitter!

Bo Jackson is the sole American athlete named an all-star in two major sports—baseball and football.

Be Prepared—
Major League baseball umpires are required to wear black underwear in case their pants split.

Never Say Never—
San Francisco Giants’ manager Alvin Dark told reporters that pitcher Gaylord Perry’s hitting ability was so poor that “they’ll put a man on the moon before Gaylord Perry hits a home run.” Perry’s initial home run came on July 20, 1969—20 minutes after Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon.

Client Spotlight: Hitchcock Design Group

Hitchcock Design Group creates better places to live, work, play, learn and heal.

This is the idea the landscape planning and architecture firm wanted to communicate to their audience, but they needed help to achieve this. Pepper Group was in a great position to help, having previously worked with Hitchcock to develop their overall Brand Platform, which included the key strategic marketing messages and positioning for the company. The Brand Pillars identified as part of that effort—specialized expertise, purposeful creativity, caring relationships and responsible advocacy—are themes that we began bringing to life in a new corporate brochure, and were more than ready to carry forward to their new web presence.

We began by discussing the goals of the website with Hitchcock Design Group. Their current website was dated, difficult to maintain, not mobile friendly and did not communicate the growth that the company had achieved over the last few years. It was important that this new website not only illustrate the current brand look and message, but it also needed to be easy for visitors to navigate. Most critically, it needed to position Hitchcock Design Group as the leading firm they are today, with the capabilities and experience in key regions and vertical markets to confidently help clients make the most of their land resources. In addition to all of this, the website needed to showcase Hitchcock Design Group’s ability to create places that connect people with their communities through the beautiful, effective and impactful projects they had completed.

After defining these objectives, we got to work planning, writing and designing the site. This included architecting the sitemap and navigational structure, developing the desired user flow and experience, creating the site design and content, and programming and launching the completed website. The end result is an intuitive, image-rich website that has a robust project portfolio, enabling visitors to easily see the wide range of work that Hitchcock Design Group does—building confidence that they can also help with clients’ specific needs. We also included a team page and a social media feed directly on the site to highlight the culture at the company and the team’s expertise, while creating an ongoing platform for easily sharing news and generating excitement about what’s happening at the company.

The site launched on August 6th and has been well received since. To visit the new Hitchcock Design Group website, check out

“We appreciated the custom process and approach that Pepper Group took to helping us create our brand platform. Due to the time and effort that they spent with us, as well as our clients during that process, they already understood our culture which allowed us to transition seamlessly into having them develop our new brochure and website.”

—Dawn Jones, Business Development & Marketing Manager

Melissa Troha

The B2B Customer Journey is More Like a Tower than a Funnel

“If you’re thinking about your customer journey as a funnel, new research suggests you are wrong,” says a new article in Forbes.

Most current B2B customer journey frameworks show the buying process as a linear path from awareness leading to consideration leading to purchase. New research from Gartner, however, shows that this is a flawed view. The journey is not linear at all. And it’s definitely not a “funnel.”

Not only is the journey not linear, but it’s also not isolated, as the funnel framework implies. In addition, frameworks such as the funnel ignore influencers and referrals, they don’t account for the strength of the messaging and design, and they somewhat hilariously make it look like gravity is on your side—as new customers just fall out of the bottom. The biggest factor, however, is that it’s marketer-centric and not buyer-centric. If anything, as a marketer, you are the one who’s being put into your potential customer’s funnel.

The Forbes article shares a new concept from Gartner and CEB. It explains that there are three common sets of “jobs” that comprise the B2B customer journey. These jobs are: finding information about what’s out there and how to solve the problem; validating that information; and aligning internal stakeholders (an average of 7 per decision!). These jobs happen concurrently.

The conclusion is very enlightening and the overall illustration interesting, but the complexity of the illustration makes its practical usefulness somewhat limited. There already is, however, a proven framework that illustrates the B2B customer journey in a way that is directly supported by this new research.

This need for a more accurate, yet still highly practical, B2B marketing framework was the driving force behind the conception of the Revenue TowerTM by Pepper Group in 2014. Rather than move the B2B customer through a linear process, the Revenue Tower concept is to continually “attract and elevate” where content is crucial and creativity is king. It recognizes that buyers jump in and out in the time it takes to load a web page, and it reinforces that you can’t just rely on gravity to do the job. The Revenue Tower also accounts for the value of strategic messaging (the foundation of the tower), and helps prioritize resources and identify opportunities to repurpose marketing assets for maximum return.

If you’re not familiar with the Revenue Tower, you can download a free eBook here.

George Couris

How Many Words is a Picture Worth Anyway?

Everyone says a picture is worth a thousand words, but that may be doing pictures a disservice.

According to Business 2 Community, a picture is worth just around 60,000 words. They base this on a study that indicates the brain processes images 60,000 times faster than it does text, and that 93% of all human communication is visual.

So why do we need copy in advertising at all?

If you scan a magazine, or a website, or your social media feed, chances are the visual will grab you first. That’s why 60% of consumers are more likely to click on a business whose images appear in search results. And videos on landing pages increase average page conversion rates by 86%.

Yes, visuals rule the day—at least to get your attention. But, honestly, how many online links are you going to click when all you have is a picture and no headline? How many business leads are you going to make on your website with a bunch of photos of your dog (even if your dog is like, super cute)? The key is to grab attention with the visual, and reel them in with the headline or copy. If you see a compelling visual without a mutually interesting headline, one that is relevant to the picture and intrigues you—that’s artwork. A compelling visual with a headline that gets you thinking, that urges your finger to click the mouse or pick up the phone? Well, that’s art that works.

In the creative department here at Pepper Group, we understand that a visual doesn't make great marketing, but neither does great copy. It’s the marriage of the two that creates attention-worthy, action-provoking advertising. We know that the best ideas are those where a great visual is enhanced and explained by the headline or copy, and a great headline or copy is propelled by the visual. They aren’t redundant, but neither do they clash. Think of it as 1 + 1 = 3, sort of.

Speaking of numbers, that brings us to the question I asked at the top: how many words is a picture worth anyway? 10,000? 60,000? 600,000? I suppose the answer doesn’t really matter. Because what’s more important is that the words a picture is worth, may not be the words that matter most.

Allan Woodrow

YouTubin’: Spider Goats

Stronger than steel and Kevlar®.

Genetic engineering can be both wildly fascinating and wildly frightening. Researchers have known for a long time that spider silk is one of the strongest substances on earth, but it couldn't easily be manufactured on a mass scale. Sounds like a job for science!

In the past few years, genetic engineers have successfully added a small portion of a spider's genetic material to a group of goats so that they can produce silk as a component of their milk! This opens the door to endless possibilities for new super-strength materials. Check out this segment produced by PBS/Nova for a clearer understanding.

Got some YouTube videos of your own you’d like to share? Just send them my way!

Todd Underwood