Vladimir Jones http://vladimirjones.com Truth Creates Opportunity Wed, 18 Mar 2015 21:39:24 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 Careers @ Vladimir Jones http://vladimirjones.com/join-the-team/ http://vladimirjones.com/join-the-team/#comments Mon, 09 Mar 2015 16:05:59 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1413 The post Careers @ Vladimir Jones appeared first on Vladimir Jones.

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Juice Out of The Box: The complex relationship of marketing and energy. http://vladimirjones.com/juice-out-of-the-box-the-complex-relationship-of-marketing-and-energy/ http://vladimirjones.com/juice-out-of-the-box-the-complex-relationship-of-marketing-and-energy/#comments Sun, 08 Mar 2015 21:40:41 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1405 Over the years, Vladimir Jones has worked with a variety of clients and projects in the energy space; from regulated utilities, to government entities, to natural gas providers and others. We’ve studied the way consumers think about energy (as little as possible), how they interact with their energy providers (only when absolutely necessary) and how […]

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Over the years, Vladimir Jones has worked with a variety of clients and projects in the energy space; from regulated utilities, to government entities, to natural gas providers and others. We’ve studied the way consumers think about energy (as little as possible), how they interact with their energy providers (only when absolutely necessary) and how they react to their energy bills, energy outages, and energy anomalies (confusion, outrage, betrayal).

And what we’ve discovered is a complex, fascinating relationship that all too often feels like no relationship at all.

tile_how_can_we_loseThe truth is, people think about energy differently than other commodities that they buy. This might very well come out of the reality that there is seldom any choice in the matter; in the vast majority of cases, it is very difficult to “opt out” of being an energy user. On one project we worked on at VJ several years ago, the energy-sector creative team put up a sign: HOW CAN WE LOSE WHEN OUR KEY COMPETITORS ARE “HYPOTHERMIA” AND “DARKNESS?”

And so, yes. On the most basic level, the energy industry prevents people from freezing in the dark. So they must love us, right?

Well…

In fact, the urge to hate on one’s energy utility seems instinctive, almost primal. One can easily imagine a primitive couple standing outside their cave, staring up at a solar eclipse and wondering “Who do we complain to about this?”

Once, with an absolutely straight face, we counseled an energy company that their major marketing objective for the year should be “to make their customers cease to hate them like poison and move them to a neutral emotional state.” If this were a military operation, we counseled them, it should be called “Operation Benign Indifference.”tile_so_they_must_love_us

But over the years, the energy team at VJ has continued to study this evolving industry, and the changing dynamic of its customer relationships. We have spoken to stakeholders on all sides of the issues that are defining business success for energy companies today. Infrastructure. Environment. Price. Performance. Supply. Sustainability. Value. Corporate reputation. And much more.

We’ve studied the profound effects of digital and social on CRM in the energy space, developed and optimized programs to exploit them in new ways.

We’ve probed and pondered the question of what energy customers really want? And while it’s clear that hardly anyone is looking to take long romantic walks on the beach with their energy providers, it is difficult to build any kind of rapport when every interaction is a negative event (ie, a bill, an outage, a natural gas leak, a rate increase). There must be more.

And that is where the future lies.

What follows here is a small sample of what VJ knows about energy.

Just let us know if you’d like to hear more.

Energy Insight Trends

Empowering Engagement in a Low Engagement Category

Turn Them On: 5 Digital Strategies for Utilities

Let’s Talk Utilities

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Energy Insight Trends http://vladimirjones.com/energy-insight-trends/ http://vladimirjones.com/energy-insight-trends/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 23:43:16 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1377 What does a streetcar, having strangers over for dinner and a can of spray-paint filled with solar cells all have in common? They’re all featured in this edition of Shift Trends! Click below to investigate the latest in consumer motivations and uncover the greater forces affecting future forecasts. Download the full PDF here

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What does a streetcar, having strangers over for dinner and a can of spray-paint filled with solar cells all have in common? They’re all featured in this edition of Shift Trends! Click below to investigate the latest in consumer motivations and uncover the greater forces affecting future forecasts.

15-VJ-01157-2015 COMMUNICATON PLATFORM_TrendReport_ENERGYFOCUS_FNL

Download the full PDF here

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Focus on, and measure, only the things that matter http://vladimirjones.com/focus-on-and-measure-only-the-things-that-matter/ http://vladimirjones.com/focus-on-and-measure-only-the-things-that-matter/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 23:02:12 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1372 When a region or industry is on the upswing, it’s great news for everyone, right? Good news is good news. That is until the good news begins to cloud your focus. Peers and competitors alike see increases in revenue and traffic during an economic upswing. Unemployment is down, so more people are taking vacations. Gas […]

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When a region or industry is on the upswing, it’s great news for everyone, right? Good news is good news. That is until the good news begins to cloud your focus.

Peers and competitors alike see increases in revenue and traffic during an economic upswing. Unemployment is down, so more people are taking vacations. Gas prices are down, so people are driving farther to explore their bucket list destinations.

It’s crucial that leisure travel and destination brands don’t get caught up in the shared success of a region and lose sight of their long-term strategy, or the metrics that are a direct and specific result of their efforts. Sometimes organic growth masks the real impacts that are a direct result of strategic marketing strategies.

So how do you know that your marketing efforts are working when the entire sector is looking up? Destination brands need to keep their strategy top of mind and focus on the road ahead, beyond the growth that occurs naturally in a sector when the economy has positive momentum.

Overall market growth can cloud the evaluation and optimization of your marketing. After all, it can be difficult to differentiate growth across your category from a successful marketing strategy’s direct returns.

It’s easier than we’d all like to admit to be seduced by the quick wins. Brands that try to become all things to all people end up focusing tactically rather than strategically to keep their profit margins in the black.

It takes a brand with guts to break through and do something different. To turn down opportunities for fleeting successes today or tomorrow and instead pursue the big, beautiful brand moment that people will talk about for years.

The key is to remember your brand goals and do your best to keep your blinders up to the collective successes around you. Stay grounded in your principles, prioritize and focus on what’s most important.

So what is most important?

  •  Positive Tax Revenues and Returns – Be critical and evaluate where the increase in revenue is coming from. Make sure that the target audience segmentation strategy and goals mirror the bottom line impacts that the marketing is designed to achieve.
  •  Margins – In a time of raised revenues, evaluate the impact on your profit margins. What adjustments can you make to ensure long-term success?
  • Competitive Differentiation – Why are you the best at what you do? Find your differentiators and ensure that they are at the heart of your strategy. If the tides change, the most self-actualized brands with well-articulated uniqueness will stand strong.
  • Smarter Engagements – Think critically about your customer experience. Where is there room for innovation and more meaningful dialogue? Make the most of every consumer engagement to build your brand loyalists.
  • Customer Value – How can your brand provide the most value to a consumer so that no matter how trends shift, consumers are still coming back to you? What is your customer value in good times and bad? Understanding how it can change will leave you ready to take on any situation.

Rising tides will always raise all ships. But we know that the market is constantly shifting and only smart, fearless brands will be able to ride the waves and come out ahead.

Want more insights into how we can help Wyoming travel and tourism? Head back to our VJ Knows Wyoming page.

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Empowering engagement in a low-engagement category http://vladimirjones.com/empowering-engagement-in-a-low-engagement-category/ http://vladimirjones.com/empowering-engagement-in-a-low-engagement-category/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 20:53:49 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1329 Social media is a powerful tool that continues to be recognized for its ability to connect businesses with their customers like never before. While utilities and other regulated industries were initially slower to adopt this new channel of communication, and often faced internal barriers to launching and managing their social channels, they are now recognizing […]

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tile_SM_1Social media is a powerful tool that continues to be recognized for its ability to connect businesses with their customers like never before. While utilities and other regulated industries were initially slower to adopt this new channel of communication, and often faced internal barriers to launching and managing their social channels, they are now recognizing the power of social media and are working to navigate this vast and ever-changing landscape.

The most successful utilities in the social media space have positioned themselves as a resource to not only customers but to the news media and other stakeholders. By providing vital updates and information during mass outages. By using social channels to quickly spread warnings about scams and tools to help protect against them. By helping customers manage their monthly bills and providing them with the resources to save energy and money.

We’ve found that people respond and engage most with outage information as well as energy efficiency tips and program information. We also know that we are able to elicit even more engagement from consumers, and open the door to more two-way communication, when we provide tips, program information, as well as other crucially important information, in a T or F, fill in the blank or quiz question format. Rather than speaking at consumers, we encourage them to engage directly with us.

tile_SM_2 As the space constantly changes with the never-ending introduction of new channels, platforms and advertising options, what do utilities need to do to continue to remain relevant, reach and engage their target audiences and be seen as leaders in the social media space? We believe it’s about looking at the channels and overall space in a different way.

Beyond establishing a strong presence and strategic plan, utilities need to start taking more risks, particularly with the way they allow their employees to engage. According to a recent report, Employees Rising: Seizing the Opportunity in Employee Activism, when given the opportunity, 50% of employees post messages, pictures or videos in social media about their employer; 20% of employees are estimated to be employee activists, and another 33% have high potential to be employee activists. So, utilities need to begin operating like social enterprises both internally and externally. They can do this by acting more like a big consumer brand when it comes to social media – opening up access to employees, identifying and training brand ambassadors and executives, and giving them a strong, relatable and real voice online to empower them to begin sharing.

tile_SM_3 When opening social media access to a larger group of employees, and encouraging them to engage, it is crucially important to set internal rules and regulations around that engagement. In addition, it’s crucial to stay in the know about the latest external regulations around social media like the recent FTC ruling against a big brand and its agency around deceptive marketing practices. After seeing this, we were able to quickly provide a POV to our clients about how to ensure they didn’t run into the same issues. Employing a simple hashtag for employees to use that helps to identify them as an employee of that brand is an easy and quick way to avoid issues.

Utilities also need to find ways to innovate quickly. The most successful social brands are moving quickly and companies need to try new channels and approaches without being afraid to fail. New channels like Pinterest and Instagram can be intimidating for utility companies because they are largely untested, especially in the utility category. However, more channels mean more cross-promotion and the highly visual nature of Pinterest and Instagram gives brands the ability to connect with consumers on a deeper and more humanized level. A few utilities have taken the leap and are doing a great job on channels like Instagram. By posting photos of their employees working in the field and using hashtags like #throwbackthursday, they are making their brand more relatable and engaging with a slightly different (younger, female) demographic than they may on a channel like Facebook.

tile_SM_4 Social media has long been regarded as an add-on to existing marketing plans and that can no longer be the case. Not only is it one of the most effective tools for two-way communication with consumers; it is truly the convergence of paid, owned and earned media. The most successful social strategies for utilities will focus on reaching internal and external audiences, advocates and detractors alike, and will be built through a true collaboration of all stakeholders with digital, social and paid media owners. And, no matter how utilities or other brands evolve in this space, a few things will always ring true. First, change is constant. Second, you won’t truly know how people will react, interact or engage until you try.

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Ah, Wyoming. She Calls Me Daily http://vladimirjones.com/wyoming-she-calls-me-daily/ http://vladimirjones.com/wyoming-she-calls-me-daily/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 17:25:22 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1309 Ah, Wyoming. She Calls Me Daily.* A sentiment to which many who have spent time in Wyoming can relate. They’re called by the natural beauty, the wonder, the authentic charm. For those who haven’t, there is so much untapped potential. The opportunity to open the eyes, awaken the senses and pique the interest of people near […]

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Ah, Wyoming. She Calls Me Daily.* A sentiment to which many who have spent time in Wyoming can relate. They’re called by the natural beauty, the wonder, the authentic charm. For those who haven’t, there is so much untapped potential. The opportunity to open the eyes, awaken the senses and pique the interest of people near and far is here, and understanding the trends affecting how consumers uncover, explore and plan their travel experiences will be key in 2015.

*Online Comment, Cowboys & Indians magazine

Within Sight

“More than one in six visitors to travel sites are also Pinterest users.” (eMarketer, 2013) The continued popularity of Instagram, Vine and other visual forms of social media hint at the future of how travel is planned. As people cultivate their online itineraries, we can expect to see an increased interest in how destinations visually market themselves. While using photography to entice travel is nothing new, allowing users to visually curate their trip will further increase their desire to see themselves living their wish list.

Source: Iconoculture

Happiness and Fulfillment

While older generations often equated “Travel” with elements of “Luxury,” Millennials (surprise) use travel to access happiness and personal fulfillment. For them this is satisfied by the criteria of unique planning, authentic destinations and efficient travel (getting the most culture for their dollar, like backpacking through countries vs. a week at a resort). Millennials also place a high priority on travel as a part of growing up, as a rite of passage before entering the next phase of their lives.

Source: Iconoculture

Boutique Destinations

Particularly for Jackson Hole, this trend removes the idea that a destination needs to have “mandatories” (such as “World Class Shopping”) in favor of amplified authentic offerings. This trend is driven by local tourism boards incorporating local businesses into their strategy and outreach to create genuine, marketable offerings with which to entice travelers seeking authentic destinations. This form of outreach goes heavy on digital, relying less on billboards and traditional media in favor of targeting specific demographic profiles. In this way, destinations can market what they are vs. what they think travelers think they want.

Source: Skift

Land Ambassadors

Travel brands across the world have been embracing the promise of visual advertising for many years, but the continued popularity of Instagram and Pinterest has shown the potential of “Influencer” marketing for destinations. Brands invite these so-called “Instagram Influencers” to explore their countryside in an effort to generate content that increases interest and shareability of a locale. While the metrics to quantify the success of these efforts is still up in the air, one thing is still certain: Great visuals always catch.

Source: Skift

What each of these trends illustrates is some measure of control with how consumers seek to experience travel, both pre-, during and post-trip. While the notion of letting go of control may make some uncomfortable, it is that release that can generate the authentic messaging needed to create genuine messages between potential customers and the aspirational values that propel them to travel in the first place.

Want more insights into how we can help Wyoming travel and tourism? Head back to our VJ Knows Wyoming page.

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Getting visibility for one square mile out of 97,818 http://vladimirjones.com/getting-visibility-for-one-square-mile-out-of-97818/ http://vladimirjones.com/getting-visibility-for-one-square-mile-out-of-97818/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 16:35:42 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1148 Wyoming is a big, expansive state. The 10th biggest, in fact. And there are plenty of very distinct areas and attractions, from natural wonders like Wind River Canyon to the mountain luxury and beauty of Jackson Hole. The authentic Western experiences of dude ranches in small towns like Buffalo and famous Old West traditions like […]

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Wyoming is a big, expansive state. The 10th biggest, in fact. And there are plenty of very distinct areas and attractions, from natural wonders like Wind River Canyon to the mountain luxury and beauty of Jackson Hole. The authentic Western experiences of dude ranches in small towns like Buffalo and famous Old West traditions like Cheyenne Frontier Days. With approximately 23,456 attractions, hotels, restaurants, sites, monuments, activities, parks and other points of interest in between. (Ok…that’s a made-up number. And it’s probably low.) So with all the great things Wyoming can offer the world of travel and tourism, how do we ensure that America’s Best Value Inn Covered Wagon Motel in Lusk is kept top of mind or that anyone traveling to Wyoming knows that for a true country diner, they should stop by The Luxury Diner in Cheyenne?

Of course, the first step is to make sure the product offered meets the high standards of the Wyoming brand. If you don’t have the goods, you shouldn’t be promoting them.

But assuming that what you have to offer is something everyone in the world should know about, there’s no reason you can’t become a destination in your own right, no matter how small or geographically remote. There are three components to keep in mind when working to build a presence:

1) There is power in numbers

If you are a tiny coffee shop in an off-the-beaten-path location or a tough-to-get-to-but-worth-it attraction, the first thing you have to do is find some numbers – which has a few meanings. First – are you building your own numbers with simple outreach tools like an email database so that you can talk to your audience on a regular basis, reminding them of their great experience and giving them a reason to come back or share with friends? Sure, it might be a year or two before they come back, but if you continue the conversation with them, you remain top of mind.

The second meaning of “numbers” refers to the idea of tapping into symbiotic communities. A quick, rudimentary analysis of online presence (e.g., a Google search) will reveal to even the least technically savvy marketer that there are aggregators that help drive traffic to participants. Is there a coffee co-op you should be part of? Is your local chamber making a lot of noise online? Is it possible to join a list of local area attractions? The more groups, listings, calendars, aggregators, etc., you can belong to, the more easily you will be found when someone is in your area. Or better yet, they will find you before they get to your area and will include you as part of their travel plans. That online presence is important because:

2) Content is key

The old saying, “content is king,” has evolved. While really good, compelling content is important it is more important to understand how and where to serve that content to consumers. It’s no longer about developing content for content’s sake. It’s about utility. Utility is king. It’s important to ensure you have enough content out there so people can find you but making sure it’s quality content that people find helpful. It doesn’t happen overnight, but, the more visibility you can bring to your brand simply by adding relevant content anywhere and everywhere you can and being a resource to locals and visitors alike, the more buzz you can generate.

3) Engage, engage, engage

Engagement has a number of translations. But in this case, it means creating a relationship with your partners as well as your customers and target audiences. For example, as a partner in tourism, you should make sure you are engaging in all potential opportunities with your tourism office. Much like point #1 – there is power in numbers. Statewide tourism organizations generally have programs or structures that allow smaller participants to gain equal footing with their larger brethren. But you have to take part of the responsibility to make that relationship happen and maximize the tools you have at your disposal. For engaging your customers, there are a myriad of great networking tools/platforms, from Facebook and Twitter to Pinterest and Instagram; there are so many excellent opportunities to engage an audience – both those who know your brand and those who you want to make sure get to know your brand. A great example is a little coffee shop in Houston called CoffeeGroundz. You can be sure that their almost 15,000 Twitter followers aren’t all regular customers. Not sure how to use Pinterest to target, engage and build excitement around your brand? Well, here’s a great resource with some step-by-step suggestions. We know and understand the excuses: “I don’t have time.” “I don’t know how to do it.” “I don’t trust Facebook.” “Who cares what I post about?” But guess what – if you don’t put in the time and effort that these now-valid platforms deserve, you are missing a huge audience and opportunity. So, as one of the world’s most famous brands tells us, “Just Do It.”

Is finding a square mile out of 97,818 easy? Heck, no. Is it possible? Absolutely. Got any good ideas or examples to share? Let us know.

Want more insights into how we can help Wyoming travel and tourism? Head back to our VJ Knows Wyoming page.

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December Shift Trends http://vladimirjones.com/december-shift-trends/ http://vladimirjones.com/december-shift-trends/#comments Fri, 06 Mar 2015 00:08:48 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1292 Download the PDF here.

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December-Shift-Trends

Download the PDF here.

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TURN THEM ON: 5 DIGITAL STRATEGIES FOR UTILITIES LOOKING TO BUILD CUSTOMER RELATIONSHIPS http://vladimirjones.com/5-digital-strategies-for-utilities/ http://vladimirjones.com/5-digital-strategies-for-utilities/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 22:37:02 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1269 The empowerment of consumers through digital channels continues forcing us all to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask just how are we adopting. Even in the communications business—where building relationships and conversations in the digital space is our job—we have to adjust to a world where consumers have the power. Rare […]

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The empowerment of consumers through digital channels continues forcing us all to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask just how are we adopting. Even in the communications business—where building relationships and conversations in the digital space is our job—we have to adjust to a world where consumers have the power.

Rare is the industry more acutely affected by this cultural shift than the energy utility industry. Fret not, we have some simple strategies to turn your customers heads, and have them thinking twice about how they value the relationship with their energy provider.

tile_digitalstrategies_subhead1 Start with a mandate to be unexpected. Follow up with happiness. We’re not talking about an overhaul of your communications strategy. We’re talking about the little things. Be ready with a quip. Jump into conversations in relevant ways. Discuss what’s relevant to your customers with honesty, integrity and respect. It demonstrates that as a company, you’re paying attention. Have a personality consistent you’re your brand image. Directly engage users who genuinely engage you where they are. Parody equals personal. Regardless of the platform, if people are taking the time to adopt recreate, or even recreate your message—even in jest—you’re getting through. Acknowledge the good ones. Any other customers paying attention are. Personalizing a social response with an electricity pun as pithy as the title of this article or responding with genuine empathy imparting can go a long way toward imparting some humanity along with a smile.

tile_digitalstrategies_subhead2First and foremost you provide a vital service that people rely on. Always remember that. There will be times when people just want to pay their bill and to hell with your pithy pun. Make it easy. Have the data that demonstrates the shortest path between intent and action for your customers. If they want to pay their bill, make it a big, fat button on your home page. Encourage it. There’s an unsaid understanding that you know what they want, which builds trust. So, when you’re talking about a complex rebate program, or selling renewables, that trust will prove critical. As will a proactive approach to outages and edge-cases. Any kind of disruption to routine service is by far-far-far-far-best coming from you. Even if you don’t know what the problem is, demonstrate that you acknowledge there could possibly be one. Demonstrating that real time understanding of a customer’s predicament is reassuring. Which brings us to the next strategy.

tile_digitalstrategies_subhead3 To tie up the first two strategies in a nice little bow, real time is crucial for success in building relationships in the digital space. Timeliness is as important as content. Both must be right, sure, but there’s no substitute for responsiveness. Even if you don’t have the answers, acknowledge the question. Let people know you’re working on it. But then work on it. Follow through. Provide updates if questions linger. Real time is also where almost all of the social and digital wins come from. Often, this means empowering social media managers or agency partners to jump in, participation without deliberation. Digital is often a world unencumbered by committees. Just like this win couldn’t have happened without trust that people were participating in the best interest of their employer and livelihood.

tile_digitalstrategies_subhead4 In today’s world, community is truly an idea. Nothing binds people together more than something they believe in. Not only a set of customers bound by a jurisdiction and an energy grid. This can be a tremendously empowering thought to an energy provider. Stand for something. You may discover fans and friends in places you never thought of. Digital can bring those people together. Engage like-minded users with your ideas. Give them kudos for theirs. Share the discourse with your customers. Open and free dialogue is a core underpinning of successful relationships, online or in life. With the movement toward de-regulation and pressures from outside competitors beating down the barriers to entry, this is a great way to operate from position of strength. Find your truth and embrace it. Then be open to those that come your way. There’s a reason they are here. They’ll be your greatest advocates. Even if not all of them are your customers.

tile_digitalstrategies_subhead5 All of this leads to the greatest truth—using digital to communicate is about the users, your customers, not your company. Placing them at the center of your attention, focus, strategies and best practices will pay off. We live in a consumer-centric world, whether we like it or not. The only real question we face as we look in that mirror is, will we act like it?

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Vladimir Jones Launches New Website http://vladimirjones.com/vladimir-jones-launches-new-website/ http://vladimirjones.com/vladimir-jones-launches-new-website/#comments Thu, 05 Mar 2015 21:52:28 +0000 http://vladimirjones.com/?p=1266   “The new vladimirjones.com is designed to move as fast as our industry,” said ECD Ryan Johnson. “We have to be able to respond in real time to trends, movements, and opportunities. The truth is we have very specific audiences for our site, and each will get exactly what they’re looking for and fast.” The […]

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vj-com-launch-hero

 

“The new vladimirjones.com is designed to move as fast as our industry,” said ECD Ryan Johnson. “We have to be able to respond in real time to trends, movements, and opportunities. The truth is we have very specific audiences for our site, and each will get exactly what they’re looking for and fast.”

The new site launched March 5, 2015 features a laser-like focus on the industry verticals in which VJ has demonstrated expertise and thought leadership. These include energy and utilities, health care and travel and tourism to name a few.

Scalability and agility were also key areas of focus for the project team. Providing the ability to adapt and add content quickly. Which has happened from the moment the site went live.

“The strength of the new site is its ability scale and reflect the work we are producing. The responsive design, content management, and dynamic page generation are truly best-in-class,” offered Bryon Taylor, Technical Lead at VJ who architected the project. “The platform provides a flexible canvas to tell a better story about our efforts.”

The site does more than showcase the agency’s work and thought leadership, but also provides a glimpse into the people and culture happening inside the agency walls.

 

 Take a look around

 

 

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