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  • design@smsrd.com
  • 800-272-0887
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Why I do crazy things

start up weekend team

Over the weekend of January 15-17th I participated in the Startup Weekend at Cal Poly. As crazy as it sounds this was my sixth Startup Weekend! A Startup Weekend is a global 54-hour long competition to create new businesses. According to the organizing group, 12% of the teams at a Startup Weekend will continue to pursue their idea after the Weekend is over and locally we have dozens of new businesses that include a Startup Weekend in their story. In this event 107 really smart and motivated individuals came together to pitch ideas, form teams, build plans, and present them to the world.

As the CEO of a successful, 20-year-old, digital marketing business an obvious question might be why would I burn an entire weekend to work on a new business? There are actually several reasons that this is important to my business. These events contain many of the people that will go into our communities and launch businesses; as a marketing company I have to be prepared to serve them and help them go to market. The bottom line is that it is tough to partner with people you do not understand.

First are the ideas

Innovation is a critical part of running any business and the longer the business has been around the more challenging innovation becomes. The Startup Weekends are nothing if not innovating. By being at the event I got to listen to the ideas of 100+ smart people pitching 60+ ideas. If your business needs to think about what’s next, this certainly provides a wealth of information to consider. I have been in hundreds of brainstorming meetings within businesses and I have never seen so many ideas generated in such a short period of time. The second phase of the ‘idea generation’ process is a crowd selection process that allows each person to choose their top 3 business ideas with no bias. Once this is done the top 12 ideas move forward to the next phase.

Next are the Teams

After pitches and crowd selections comes the team formations; 107 people rapidly divide and evolve into 12 teams in about 10 minutes. Some may think that this would result in a number of dysfunctional teams but amazingly it does not! This is because those who are attracted to this event all want to innovate and change the world which requires a certain type of person.In addition, the crowd was balanced by the event registration which controlled the mix of business, design, and engineering talent in the room. The end results were 12 teams, each with a reasonable balance to them. In our team we had 3 business persona’s and 2 developers with a goal of reinventing the retail checkout experience.

Next are the Plans

With the teams in place the hard work begins and here we experience the typical business evolution. We started with one concept but ran into problems that nobody had thought of before. In response, we pivoted and changed the idea again and again. This happened three times over the second day but, unlike in a normal business, there was no friction simply because everyone had expected to have to pivot the idea in the first place. Just imagine, a frictionless change process in a business! That truly is what happens and it is because of the expectations and the types of people attracted to the event. Almost every team went through one or more pivots before the team gelled around a refined idea that had 100% buy-in from the entire team. When you have this harmony amazing things can happen.

Next Tell all your friends about your Goals

The final step of a Startup Weekend is the presentation and judging. In our event we had 12 teams doing business presentations after 3 days and every team was successful with no on-stage disasters. From here many of the groups decide to continue with their idea and they have already introduced their idea to the world.

So Why Do I Do Crazy Things Like Startup Weekends?

  1. It expands my network into the next generation of businesses
  2. It makes me think about innovations from new perspectives
  3. It lets me see trends as they emerge from the minds of innovators
  4. It gives me a chance to put my ideas in front of 100+ smart people and judge their reaction
  5. Some of these might be clients in the future
  6. Even if the business never launches the people in the will likely launch something else
  7. It’s fun to hang out with smart people and discuss challenging ideas

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Featured Client Profile – Jan 2016 – Mini-Mover

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mini-mover-logo
conveyor-belts

We have had the pleasure of working with Tom and Roberta at Mini-Mover Conveyors since 2011. Mini-Mover Conveyors designs and manufactures small conveyors and rotary table accumulators. We could have some fun with how they shake up the mini-conveyor industry from their factory on “Shake Ridge” Road in Volcano CA but we would never try to create a marketing memory from a fun fact, even if it is true.

Their conveyors are tough as you can see in the recent AT&T video for the Galaxy 6s which features their LP Series conveyor. While the video had some fun with their conveyor it also demonstrates that they can take a beating and keep on moving.

Mini-Mover has an interesting story evolving from a high-volume manufacturer of precision parts for medical, electronics, and aerospace industries. Their product line evolved from their own need to move parts through their operation. Their products are typically used for:

Mini-Mover provides custom small conveyors and design consultation and technical support. If it’s small and you need to move it, then Mini-Mover should be on your speed dial.

We provide Mini-Mover Conveyors with AdWords Management Services in search and remarketing. The remarketing is a longer term investment in brand building, while the search serves the more immediate market needs of clients. We also provide general consultation in search engine optimization, social media, and image ad creative. Mini-Mover is a good example where we coordinate with both internal staff and other service providers as part of an overall Marketing Team.


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Top Secret – eyes only

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Aulacart

What AuLaCart will look like

In a small non-descript office with one-way mirrored windows in a small town on the central coast of California an elite team of geeks and creatives have been working in secret on the next big Ad Tech Network. Our patent was filed on 12/28/2015 and now we can come out of the shadows and talk about what has been pushing our creative and technical limits for the last year.

AuLaCart – Mobile Kiosk for Supermarket Carts

AuLaCart is an interactive in-store merchandising and consumer information system with the capabilities to deliver competitive advertising based on a shopper’s physical location within the store. The system serves the supermarket shopping experience with benefits for the consumer, supermarket management, and food product vendors. The device is attached to the shopping cart and communicates with databases at the local, store, and global levels. The device is a PC extended by robotic sensors for tracking device location within the store. Revenue is created by selling point-of-sale advertising to food product vendors. Users interact with the system by moving the cart within the store. For those consumers that engage deeper with the system there is a rich inventory of touch screen function including recipes, nutritional data, and store mapping & directories; just to name a few. The system is designed to globally scale using AWS for data services. AuLaCart is patent pending technology with the filing completed under the supervision of one of the best IP Lawyers in the country.

Building the Partnership

Building a business starts with building the team and to do this we put together an equity partnership with three partners and funding from a local angel investor group. Our team includes the CEO of another Digital Marketing Agency, a Project Manager from a Fortune 50 company with the skills to implement a national scale project, and an exceptionally smart engineer with the skills to solve the hardware and software challenges. Add to that SMS’s internal skills in design and programmatic ad systems and this really is an exceptional team.

Patent Filing

The patent filing process was one of the most frustrating parts of the last year probably because it was learning a whole new world. The entire basis of language is different because in marketing we talk about how the customer benefits from the product or service, while in the patent world it’s about how it works, not what value it creates. Our lawyer tells us that we are about half way through this process so there is more to learn. It was an interesting life experience as the inventor on a patent and it was one of the most challenging search projects.

The Business Plan
Great Ideas need Grand Plans and we have been through an extensive process to build ours. Our partner group has decades of experience in business planning and our local SBDC gave us the opportunity to test our plan with an independent review. This compared our business to other VC funded businesses in California. Many will tell you that the team is the most important success factor and our management team scored with a 90.8% compared to funded companies. When we look at the five year plan we are in the unicorn range.

What’s Next?

Our business is all about “What’s Next” and this partnership is no exception to that. Our next step is to find funding for the pilot phase and then execute that plan. This will prove the technology, business model, and the team we have to make this happen. When we are successful with that we have 37k supermarkets to install – remember our national scope project manager? Well this is why she’s here. We are out to reinvent the supermarket shopping experience on a national level.


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Restructuring for 2016

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In January of 2016 we are restructuring our AdWords staff to improve the services we provide to our clients. Today all accounts are assigned to one of our AdWords Experts. Starting in January each client will be assigned an AdWords team. The team will include an AdWords Expert, Client Relationship Specialist, and Outreach Specialist. In early January each client will be advised of the names of the members of their team along with a small backgrounder on each of them. Here are the responsibilities of each team member:

The AdWords Expert will be responsible for the detailed maintenance of the account. These individuals all have 4+ years of AdWords experience and hold multiple Google Certifications. They are responsible for implementing the details of the client marketing plan and leading the overall technical team.

The Client Relationship Specialist is responsible for creating and maintaining an active communication with your business. CRS’s are Google Certified professionals with a career path in the company toward becoming a complete AdWords Expert. The CRS will be responsible for reaching out to each client on a regular basis to get a better understanding of the marketing goals of the client and working with the AdWords Expert on the implementation of the strategy.

The Outreach Specialist is responsible starting the relationship with prospective clients. They help build the relationship by opening a dialog driven by our email newsletters like this one.

The teams are organized into three categories of accounts because the basic strategies are driven by the type of client. These teams are:

  1. Home Services: Typically, B2C (Business to Consumer) local businesses with a heavy dependency on PPC that also interacts with Maps and Local SEO.
  2. Professional Services: Typically, B2B (Business to Business) service providers with regional, national, or international reach.
  3. E-Commerce: Businesses that are largely driven by direct sales on their website of a product or service where the direct relationship between advertising and results is the top priority.

The AdWords teams will coordinate with our Social Media and Creative Staff as needed to support each account.


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Social Media Basics

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people on social media devices

So many different social media devices

This article is for the people within a B2B business that are responsible for the management of social media for business networking and communications. In most businesses this will include key executives, sales, marketing, and purchasing staff. Learn to manage your social media voice.

Budget Your Time

Managing your social media is simple but you have to continually refine social media to improve your business reach and voice. The key to this is that you have to invest time on a regular basis to build your network and exercise your voice. Social media can be a captivating technology that can consume untold hours and as a business you have to put some common sense limits on this. This is a process not a project so it will never be finished and it must be managed as such. Decide on the right balance of effort and then stick to that.

It’s simple…The right people in the right seats talking to the right people

The first step in social media is going to be picking the right people and they typically fall into three categories; Executives, Sales & Marketing, and Purchasing. The reality is that business value comes from communication for either sales or purchasing as those are the common external connections of a business. Executives are different in that they often reach into both areas with their contacts. In larger organizations this can be many profiles divided into territories. Once you have the profiles identified you need to create a profile of the connections. That profile should include their network which is simply made up of who they should be speaking to.

Audience Profiling – it’s not really a bad word

The media has given profiling people a bad name but the reality is that for each social media profile you should have an audience profile describing the audience that is targeted for that profile. For example, if you have a product sold to medical offices in Chicago and the profile has sales responsibility then the audience profile might be:

  1. Medical Office Decision Makers
    1. Common Titles
      1. Office Manager
      2. Practice Manager
      3. Medical Office
      4. Practice Administrator
      5. IT Manager
  2. Doctors
    1. Common Titles
      1. Medical Director
      2. Managing Partner
      3. Managing Physician
  3. Negative Contacts
    1. Competitor
    2. Out of the area

This profile is then used to qualify additional connections. The first thing some people might say is “well that’s dumb, I know who I want to connect to.” However, you will sing a different song when a key person leaves the organization and the network has to be rebuilt. The last item you might notice is the negative contact profile. These are the people we do not want in our network and the common example is the competitor but there are special considerations here. We have often accepted requests from competitors and then used that to check shared contacts to assess risk or to identify opportunities and then we disconnect them from the network.

Set Goals & Budget Time

Network building goes on for an entire career so the time involved can get out of balance with its true value. For this reason it is best to set a time-budget and then make sure it gets used. Spend half an hour each week introducing yourself to new people that fit your audience profile. All the social networks provide utilities for this network building process so make sure everyone is trained on how to use these. With each profile we recommend setting a weekly goal for network building and then tracking it on a monthly basis. In many client profiles that we manage the goal for a rep is to add 5 new people each week and while that seems like nothing, over the course of a year that is 250 additional contacts that are hearing your message.

Plan the message but react to events

With the network in place and evolving as it should the next area to address would be the messages that you will put into the network. First, remember that you are a person and that should not get lost here. Your messages paint a picture to your business and it needs to be what you are about but this is not advertising so it is not a constant sales message. The people that go into social media screaming at the top of their lungs are always surprised that they did not get the response they expected. That is because as a net-citizen they are being rude. The golden rule is that people do business with those that they trust and if your message is a constant “me, me, me” people will react badly to your messaging. A common plan is to share 80% personal and industry information and 20% or less direction promotional copy. Remember that the postings you make are painting a picture about who and what you are as a person and a person that spends all their time talking about themselves is boring.

In Summary: Build your network, refine your voice, and keep on keeping on.


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What’s Next?

Swami gazing into a crystal ball

Swami gazing into a crystal ball

I love this question and as the CEO of Systems & Marketing Solutions I try to make it a major part of our company culture. We define the marketing cycle of our clients as a constant cycle of “What Just Happened?” and “What’s Next?” Let’s take a look at what is likely to impact our what’s next thinking in the future.

Don’t sell to me!

Old practices die slowly but this generation of buyers clearly do not want to be sold anything. This generation believes that it is the most marketed to generation in history and this is probably true. The audiences in the market are becoming more and more reactive to marketing messages with filters that remove most of what comes their way. What does this mean? If you want to market a product in the future you will need to change to an educational model. You will be driven by the following statement:

“People do business with those they trust; they trust those that help them understand.’

This means that your marketing mission becomes one of educating the market on the value your business creates and communicating that with people who care about what you do. This is a long drawn out process of continual conversation with the market enabling sales to happen when a demand pops up. Now it is still possible, in some cases, to create demand but that is mostly in the domain of large businesses with big budgets. Smaller businesses will be more like a cork in the ocean in that they follow the currents, not create them. Smart business plans for small businesses will utilize social media in a conversational manner, speaking not only to the audience but with them in addition to some basic well targeted digital advertising to specified audiences.

Marketing Ecosystems will change the way we think about Marketing

Smart businesses already think about marketing as an ecosystem with process flows as opposed to projects. This means that forward thinkers will look at the entire system and make marketing investments based on a strategy rather than the tactical thinking that is so prevalent in today’s direct marketing model. When businesses start to understand the entire marketing cycle and the independencies it will change the way they invest in their business.

It’s a Mobile World

There is no doubt that the market has become highly influenced by the mobile consumer. This has changed many things, especially the way we approach content, web and user experience design. While many advocate the use of responsive design that reuses web content across multiple devices, I believe this is a mistake. We must cater to desktop and mobile interactions differently. Not doing so is the design and technology sectors trying to avoid the hard work of redesigning content and user experience simply because, in many cases, they do not understand the problem. Make no mistake, responsive design is a great technology and it should be utilized in every website today but it will not serve us well in the long term. Why? Mobile devices change the way individuals interact with information and even how they choose to consume information. For example, when I look up a company on my mobile device I usually want to contact or go to that business. This means I’m likely looking for the phone number or address. On the other hand, when I search on my desktop I am commonly doing in-depth research and I want all the details. Although I love my phone, I hate reading details on my mobile device.

Wearables

Google Glasses, the Apple Watch, Fitbit, and all their cousins are the beginning of “The Internet of Things” that will connect us as a society; this will have a profound impact on marketing. These devices will know our patterns and allow providers to better serve us. On the other hand they could be a complete invasion of our privacy that we will hate. The differences between these two outcomes will be how we position our businesses to serve the market. If we start out trying to sell something to the person rather than focusing on how to serve them the results could be devastating. In the last few decades we have seen the impact of the Internet as it has woven itself into our lives and wearables hold the potential of another revolution of the same scope.

Websites as a Conversation

The majority of websites today are designed as a speech or a presentation; they simply display information. Soon, websites will morph to be more of a conversational experience radically changing the way that sites are designed and how the population will interact with them. In a conversational model we have a hello – dialog – and a good bye. The challenge will be the dialog/the evolution of the conversation and the AI tools needed to manage this. Websites in the future will need to adapt to be a presentation when we just want reference materials and a conversation when we are trying to make a decision. If you think the challenge of mobile design was tough you have not seen anything yet. Conversations require a model of thinking that adapts to clues from the other party in the conversation. While simple enough to understand in a one-on-one model doing this at scale will be incredibly complex and will likely create a new field of engineering.

If you think differently

Anytime you address the What’s next question it is fair for fair minded individuals to disagree. Please do not hesitate to share your thoughts and comments, I would love to hear how others tackle this very important question.


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We are hiring: Digital Marketing Agency Sales Rep

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We are seeking a person to represent us in the Los Angles market. We will expect you to learn enough about Google AdWords that you can serve as the conduit between our analysists and the small business customer. We are willing to train the right individual that has the fundamental personal interaction and management skills required to build strong business relationships with Clients. If you want an entry level opportunity into the world of Digital Marketing and you are a smart outgoing personable individual then you should talk to us.

Our sales process is a low pressure approach that is best started part-time growing into full-time as your skills and territory improve. We start by opening a conversation with the client typically by getting permission to send them free email information about digital marketing for small businesses. This is followed by a regular email newsletter to educate the client about the value of online marketing in their business strategy. Next we open up more phone or in-person communication on a regular schedule to build a positive relationship. The sales transaction happens when the customer has a need and they see us as part of the solution.

As a sales rep within a territory you will need to reach out and network with the business community so you need to be comfortable with that. This includes attending business events and belonging to the key groups within your community.

As you build your territory you will be part of the continuing communications with the client to keep them informed of the results from their marketing investment. On a monthly basis our analysts review the data and report to the client what just happened and what’s next to advance their online marketing.  Part of your role in this will be to deliver and communicate this to the client.

We are a 20 year old Digital Marketing agency with hundreds of clients and tens of millions of ad spend under management in Google AdWords alone. We provide clients with a full range of Online Marketing services but 100% of our clients have us manage their AdWords and that is where our services almost always start. Beyond AdWords that we provide Social Media Management, Search Engine Optimization, Crowdfunding, Website Design, Analytics, Graphic Design, Video editing, Photography, Content creation, and other digital marketing services.

To apply send your resume to bob@smsrd.com along with three times (8am – 3pm) in the next week for an online interview. You need online access with a video camera for the online interview. If you do not have this check with your local library because most of them have this available.

Compensation commission only with credit for on-going revenue. In this way you can build recurring revenue with no cap on your income. Our target income for a successful Sales Rep is $70k – $100k. We expect it will take 2-3 years for a rep to reach that level.

In the LA territory we have 200+ qualified leads with emails that have been on our email list for months to years. We believe that a person in the LA market will be able to do much more than we can do remotely.

Learn more about us at www.smsdesignlab.com and www.smsrd.com



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Infographics for Busy Executives

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According to Wikipedia “Infographics are graphic visual representations of information, data or knowledge intended to present information quickly and clearly.” I propose to you that that is a horribly simplified description; especially if the Infographic is for marketing purposes. In reality an Infographic is a visual object that tells a story, engages viewer emotion and moves an audience to take action. Let’s look at how we go through the creative process of creating an Infographic.

Infographics Plans Contain:

1. Visual Concept
2. Data-Points
3. Call to Action
4. Data-Point Presentation Styles
5. Story Path

Why tell a story?
First let’s be clear that infographics are non-fictional stories that represent real data found by real research. The reason for a story line dates back to the beginning of time when our ancestors used stories to teach younger generations’ lessons, values, morals, etc simply because most people remember stories and forget data. In this context the story is the path through the data that justifies some call to action. These data based story lines engage the emotions of the audience and as we all know, the more emotion evoked the better.

Infographics are truthful but not 100% accurate
If you ever do the research involved in creating data points for an infographic story line you will quickly realize that the “most important” facts are almost always accompanied by small print documenting exceptions or conditions to the data. Infographics cut through the small print in order to reduce 100 pages of research to 5-7 clear charts on one page. That being said, the small print of exceptions and conditions hardly ever make the cut.

Never have a researcher do the infographic
Often reports hold so much detail that readers are drowned in information. Because of this, the readers are more focused on the deep breath they will take at the end of the report than they are on the treasures of the sea of information around them.
Researchers are, by nature, detailed technical experts far too engaged with details to give them up. They represent .01% of the audience for the information with a personal agenda related to the details. Because Infographics contain highlighted points often without the details they are for the other 99.99% of the audience. If you are interested in outliers or the small print you will have to join the .01% and read the full report.
While researchers are great resources, they are almost never the infographic decision makers. They collect the information and pass it along to somebody who can highlight what’s “most important” and cut out the fat.

Visual Concept
Like all stories, visual stories must have a plot that will associate the facts into a story line to create your visual concept. The visual concept will set the style and approach to the infographic and give the audience of your story a foundation to follow. In simple terms, your visual concept is the theme of the entire infographic. It is important that your visual concept is highly relevant to the experiences of your research and of your audience so be sure to pick it wisely.

Data Points
This is where most people start and it is okay to do that but you have to remember that you are building a story so your data points have to fit on the story path. If you start with data points then you need to select twice as many as you need so you can throw some out in the latter stages of the design. In most cases the data points will have textual support but this needs to be kept to a minimum and you have to avoid the trap of rewriting the report. Data points will need to be reduced to a graphic or iconic image with minimal textual support. What textual support you do have will ultimately be reduced to bullet points not narratives.

Data points come in various flavors and they need to be organized on the story path in the proper order. Here is our recommendation:

1. Need
2. Outcome
3. Solution
4. Evidence
5. Call to Action

You always start with the need of the audience followed by the solution that serves that need. This is followed by evidence that the solution will work and a call to action. In many infographics we see either weak or entirely missing calls to action and we wonder why someone would do that. You identified the challenge proposed a solution and then failed to ask for the action you want taken.

Call to Action
I may be Ms. Obvious here but this is the reason that you did all this work; don’t make it weak! Your call to action needs to be direct, simple, and to the point. Never assume that your audience knows what to do with the information you give them. Give them the action you want them to take because leaving it to their imaginations is a very dangerous business practice.

Data-Point Presentation Styles
For each data point you need to decide on how that that will be presented and how that style will fit with the other data points so the document feels like a cohesive story. After you do a number of these you will start to realize there are a limited number of styles that fit with your dataset. Once the style of presentation is selected the data points should be roughed into the style so you can start to visualize what the story will look like.

Design Process
info-arrows
Like any other project an infographic will go through design process steps. Here are the typical steps:

1. Goals & Objectives
2. Audience Persona
3. Business Data
4. Pencil Drafts
5. Concept Roughs
6. Revisions
7. Final Art

Goals & Objectives
This is the first step in the process and it is best if it comes from the highest levels within the business. If you cannot get the CEO to champion the idea, in most cases, it is best to not attempt the project. Goals and objectives typically communicate the value of the research to your customers and should be very broad.

Audience Persona
This is a critical and often overlooked part of project specifications. Lacking in this area is setting the project up for failure. It is nearly impossible to create a communication for an audience that you do not have a profile for. Often times this is passed down as “All Customers” or the “Whole Market” and those have to be pushed back because the broader the persona the more difficult it is to put real power in an infographic. You have to understand the experience set of the audience so you know where the conversation starts. The stronger the shared experiences the better the design can talk like the audience and the stronger the message will be. On the other hand, you do not want an audience so tightly defined that the number of people in the audience approaches zero.

Business Data
This is what created the need to communicate something of value to someone important and normally it is TMI (Too Much Information). The mission of the infographic is to create a visual that communicates key metrics to the audience. Step one in this phase is to collect lots of data and isolate the key metrics that hold the most value for the audience. This phase is all about finding and summarizing raw data in databases and long winded narratives and using it to create charts and bullet points containing the most important or relevant pieces of information.

The Value of a Pencil Draft
In this day and age you have to wonder why we would recommend going through pencil drafts. The reason is that you need to get the design outlined with maximum engagement from the stakeholders in the project. Programs like Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop inhibit input because of the technical operation barrier. Input in the earliest stages is critical to the creative process and the engagement of your key staff. Pencil drafts do this better than any other form we have found. If you are like me and do not have God given artistic skills that is fine. You can print out pictures, cut them up with scissors, and then use a pencil to fill in the blanks between the printed images. This can also be done with post it notes on a white board. The value here is to get all of the stakeholders engaged as early as possible so when the finished product emerges you have buy-in.

Before you engage outsiders
There is a certain amount of magic involved in transforming data into infographics and it requires skills that many businesses do not have internally. This does not mean that you should not engage in the process. In most cases you should complete items 1-3 before turning to external experts. There are plenty of experts that can guide you through the creative process but the strategy of your business should always start and be owned internally.

Disclaimer
Clearly Infographics are a broad topic and cannot be covered in a single book never mind a blog article. Our intent here was to isolate marketing infographics and provide the reader with a short teaser on this subject. Infographics are creative endeavors and as such you will get many different opinions so as they say your mileage on these ideas many vary.

Credits
The (NOSE) organization of the infographic is based on work done by Dr. Tom Sant from Hyde Park Partners. For our purposes we added a call to action although it would be reasonable to put that into the evidence part of his concept. Dr. Sant is an excellent author and speaker.
http://www.hydeparkpartnerscal.com/books.htm


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White House Petition – Service Dogs as a Therapy Option for Disabled Service-Connected Combat Veterans suffering from PTSD

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smiley-dogWe respectfully petition the President and Commander in Chief on behalf of the Disabled Combat Veterans suffering from PTSD related to their service to our country.
Congress and the Executive Branch Acted:

“The Service Dogs for Veterans Act, cosponsored by Senator Johnny Isakson of Georgia, directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) to establish a pilot program working in partnership with non-profit service dog agencies to pair service dogs with veterans with physical and mental injuries and disabilities, including Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Senator Franken’s bill was included as an amendment to the National Defense and Authorization Act that passed the Senate on July 23, 2009, and was subsequently signed into law by the President.”

Reference: https://www.franken.senate.gov/?p=issue&id=84

The Veterans Administration has fought this therapy and here is their argument:

https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2012/09/05/2012-21784/service-dogs

Our Argument:

This law only provided $2 million in funding, which is completely inadequate. Even at that level the VA resisted the pilot test and buried the program. When Congress acts and the President signs a bill an agency like the VA should simply say “Yes Sir” and do what they are told. This is a case of an agency that has gone rouge causing harm to the treatment of our veterans. Granted they have done this with bureaucratic expertise but it is time for them to step up to their mission and serve the therapy needs of the service connected combat veterans.
Our argument is that dogs are better than drugs.

Service Dogs that are specially trained to assist veterans with PTSD have wide spread support from many experts but the VA does not agree. The VA appears to be a minority of one with a position that this is a poor therapy strategy. They are using all their skills as bureaucrats to wrap this in red tape and stop this therapy while at the same time embracing drugs. There are within the nation organizations that are willing to step up and provide trained dogs but we have to provide support for the expenses they incur. Our recommendation is to set a fair market value in the range of $20,000 – $40,000 based on cost to train the dog plus a reasonable profit margin and then index this to the cost of living. Assuming a reasonable life span of the dog this benefit should be limited to one dog. We would argue that the cost of the dog could be recovered from the lower drug cost by shifting the therapy from drugs to dogs.

Within the Service Dog Training industry there are practices that include the use of prison labor for part of the dog training and an incentive should exist for this. Early studies show that it improves prisoner rehabilitation and lowers the cost of raising the service dog. Organizations that utilize this method or other methods that create other social value should be paid more for their dogs.

To insure the quality of the dogs in the program the VA should have an inspection and certification process for trainers and/or training organizations. Because the VA has been resistant to this therapy, for a reason we do not understand, a provisional certification for the year should be issued to any organization with a mission to train service dogs. The VA will then have one year to inspect the organization and issue or deny a for cause permanent certification. An organization with a provisional certification shall only be allowed to sell 5 dogs per year into the system.
We fully understand the need to maintain control and fair administration and realize that demand for Service Dogs will exceed supply. We propose that the VA maintain a priority list just like the medical profession does for organ donations. The priority should be based on the urgency of need (Doctors recommendation) disability rating of the veteran, valor of service (Medals in DD214), and income (lower income higher priority).

What we request

We request that the President direct the Veterans Administration to provide this option to veterans suffering from PTSD as determined by mental therapy experts with an appeal process that uses Doctors from outside the VA direct control or compensation.

We request that the program be fully funded based on the needs of our Veterans suffering from PTSD related to combat service on behalf of our nation. This should not be a pilot program but a fully funded therapy provided to veterans where therapy is a reasonable course of treatment.

How you can help

For the short term we have a crowdfunding project for a non-profit that trains service dogs and then donates them to our Veterans.

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In the long term you can lend your voice to our petition to the White House to direct the VA to do their job and find a way to provide this treatment option to our Disabled Service Connected Veterans suffering from PTSD.

 


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