MIMA Scholarships: Celebrating the Next Generation of Digital Marketing

Our founder, Robin Carpenter, dedicated her career to mentoring young professionals and empowering everyone in the Twin Cities digital marketing community to do better. As a founding member of the Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association (MIMA)—the longest-standing digital marketing association in the country—Robin felt strongly that education and collaboration would aid the Twin Cities in developing talented digital professionals.

It is only fitting, then, that MIMA honors Robin’s legacy—and that of her contemporary, Jarrid Grams—with its annual MIMA scholarship, funded through contributions from Fathom Consulting. This year, the Carpenter family has underwritten one of three scholarships, a testament to how much her family believes in the work Robin began so many years ago.

The Jarrid Grams and Robin Carpenter Memorial Scholarship is available to undergraduate or graduate students pursuing careers in marketing, technology, communications, and math. To apply for this year’s scholarship, each student was asked to create a marketing plan for a fictitious company, incorporating budget, creative concepts, strategy, positioning, and digital executions.

As a long-time member and former president of MIMA—and close friends with both Robin and Jarrid—I have been privileged to serve on the committee that evaluates the student nominations and selects the recipients. I was blown away by this year’s student entrants, who demonstrated inventiveness, strategy, and vision beyond their years. Nothing makes me prouder than awarding these scholarships to our 2018 MIMA Scholars: Katie Coyne, Morgan Kuphal and Riley Plisek—right here at Fathom Consulting on June 6.

When I first got involved with MIMA, the Twin Cities was not recognized as a hotbed for digital marketing. Long considered “flyover country” by Silicon Valley, the digital marketing community was relatively disconnected. Thanks to the leadership of people like Robin, MIMA has helped create a unified community with a common goal of elevating the Twin Cities as a growth market for digital.

Today, students are finding their way into careers in the Twin Cities, thanks in part to MIMA giving them the education, networking connections and job leads they need to find interesting work and stay in our region. We hope this year’s scholarship recipients—and all of our past recipients—will share their success with others and contribute to our growing digital marketing community.

Students of any major are welcome to learn more and apply at http://mima.org/student-scholarship.

Fathom Consulting Among the Twin Cities’ 100 Best Companies to Work For

We’re thrilled to once again be named to the Minnesota Business list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” in the Twin Cities. The award recognizes Minnesota’s top companies—as chosen by employee survey—for work environment, employee benefits, and overall employee happiness. How fun it was celebrate with other recipients at last night’s celebration at the Mall of America (as you can see by the laughter on our faces!).

While it’s an honor to be included in this year’s list, it’s not necessarily a surprise to us. Why?  Because feedback is a gift—and we’re constantly asking for it. Once every three months we conduct our ownemployee survey. And while we do get (and encourage) candid assessments, our team regularly agrees that Fathom Consulting is a great place to work.  Why?

  • We’re hard-working.We are devoted to doing the best for our clients every day. We take our work seriously (but don’t take ourselves too seriously!)
  • We’re empathetic. We care about our work, of course. But we also care deeply for each other.
  • We’re flexible. And that’s with each other and with our clients. We work where and when we have to. We adapt when the situation calls for it.
  • We’re transparent. We share everything, and foster a culture of open and honest communication.
  • We’re flat. We don’t do politics, hierarchy, or rank-pulling. We’re not here to claw our way to the top; we’re here to do great work together.
  • We’re part of the community. We share our knowledge, mentor budding talent, and volunteer for organizations that are meaningful to us.

And while these factors definitely make for a great employee experience, they also lend to the high-quality service we deliver to our clients. How do we know? In addition to surveying ourselves, we also survey our clients—after every project. As it turns out, hard work combined with a strong culture likes ours results in high client satisfaction as well. Everyone wins.

Ready to work with the best? Let’s connect!

Connect with Fathom Consulting at SDN Midwest June 15

It’s been fun to be part of small group of service design professionals who have started a Minnesota chapter of the Service Design Network, and I’m looking forward presenting at the first annual Service Design Network Midwest Conference in Minneapolis on Friday, June 15.

The theme of the conference is “Meaningful Connections,” and the day’s discussions will focus on how we can all design and deliver experiences that build stronger bonds between service providers and their users.

My presentation, “The Need for Connection Among Older Adults who are Aging in Place,” will delve deep into what connection really means to those in their golden years and how best to design services (with their valuable input) that meet their specific expectations and higher-order needs.

Other presentation topics will include service design and AI, ethics in design, and behavior change. Following the conference, attendees will take in the Minneapolis art scene at the annual Northern Spark arts festival. This year’s Northern Spark theme is “commonality,” a fantastic follow-on for SDN conference participants looking to delve deeper into the notion of connection in art, design, marketing, and user experience.

Service design in practice

Through collaboration with the local service design community, I’ve been able to practice unique methods to ensure that people are always at the center of not only how products are designedbut also how they are delivered, supported, and usedday-to-day. In fact, at the first few meetings of the local service design chapter, we used service design techniques like a Business Model Canvas to decide what “job” the organization would fulfill in our own lives.

This user-centered approach to service design is also reflected in the work we do at Fathom Consulting. As we approach service design projects with our clients, we are increasingly recommending facilitated co-creation exercises as a best practice. Co-creation is a process by which all stakeholders–particularly the recipients of the service–are at the table and making their voices heard. When the users of the service are in the room, you often arrive at unexpected ideas informed by diverse perspectives, and you ensure your solutions are tailored to their needs.

I always enjoy projects where we find unique ways to connect with users and look forward to connecting with other service designers to learn more about their experiences. I hope you can join us at the conference and connect with the budding local service design community as well!

Learn more about and register for the SDN Midwest Conference.

Our Work with the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST

“The best protector any woman can have, one that will serve her at all times and in all places, is courage.”

—Elizabeth Cady Stanton

I’m still riding high and feeling downright adventurous. A few weeks ago, we rounded up two tables full of fabulous women colleagues, clients and friends and joined a crowd of nearly 900 attendees at the Women’s Health Leadership TRUST’s annual Forum event in downtown Minneapolis. The TRUST is one of the largest regional membership groups dedicated to supporting women leaders in health care and includes executives, clinicians, policymakers, business owners and leaders in adjacent industries.

The theme for the evening was “courage,” which resonated loudly for me as an entrepreneur and small business owner. I was thrilled to finally have the chance to hear from a woman I’ve long followed and admired, arctic explorer Ann Bancroft. Ann did not disappoint, delivering a keynote speech that inspired us with stories of courageous adventure in the face of adversity. She also made us laugh along the way, reminding me of something I’ve long believed: it’s important to take your work, but not yourself, too seriously.

It was a treat to be at the event. We share the TRUST’s vision for courageous leadership and have a long history of active involvement with the organization, since joining as members in 2005. Since then, we’ve had two board members—company founder Robin Carpenter and principal consultant Allison O’Connor—take active leadership roles in the TRUST. We’re the creators and sponsors of the annual TRUST Mentor of the Year Award (go ahead, nominate someone this year!), and have twice facilitated the organization’s yearly strategic planning process.

As part of our ongoing strategy of engaging with thought leaders in the industries we serve, Fathom is proud to be actively working with the TRUST to advance best practices and new ideas for the women who are guiding the future of the health care industry every day. Together, we can continue to blaze new trails in a field where change seems to be the only constant.

User-Centered IoT: What’s in it for them?

This is the second blog post in our series about connectivity. Get caught up by starting with “Connecting the dots: Three big reasons businesses are thinking about IoT

Similar to other product improvement projects, adding connectivity to a product must take into account how your customers will feel about the capabilities. Will they find it beneficial to be connected or, on the other hand, see it as intrusive?

In our experience, we have seen organizations focusing on one of two user-facing benefits to “connecting” a product: 

Multi-Channel Access

Expanding access points — Enhancing connectivity to allow customers to access services or products in new ways, including omni- and multi-channel experiences from a variety of connected devices.

 

PDashboard wireframeroviding data to the user — Enhancing connectivity to provide data collected by a product back to the user of the product. In these cases, the hypothesis is that the data will provide some valuable insight to the user causing them to feel or act differently based on what they now know.

 

But even user-focused, well intentioned upgrades run the risk of users feeling that the added complexity (or cost) isn’t worth the proposed value. Like all hypotheses, your approach to connecting your product should be carefully tested with users—before spending time and money developing communications protocols to transmit the data, or programming analytics engines to generate insights. Below are several interesting research questions that are worth considering when thinking about providing data to users:

1. When customers view this data, what will they do differently because of it?

Customers will find it unhelpful to receive data they can do nothing about. Performing research to put sample data in front of customers and find out what, if anything, would cause them to take action is key to making a good connected product. Additional testing can determine whether the insights are useful, easy-to-understand, and delivered at an appropriate frequency.

Pay careful attention to providing users with insights too late to be useful. If a restaurant finds out their refrigerator was running too warm seven days after the food in it was already served to customers, they might be more frustrated than if they had never known at all.

Also consider whether it would be beneficial for the product to take the next logical action for the customer. Rather than notifying a homeowner that their lights are on and nobody’s home, why not just shut them off?

2. What is the full picture of data that would need to exist to drive this action?

Often, usage data alone may not provide adequate insight to trigger an action. But when combined with additional data from another source, the insight becomes clear and actionable. Find out from users what other relevant data is available to them, and how you could combine it with your data for maximum utility. For example, telling a surgeon only how many rubber gloves she used is just about as useful as telling her how many gallons of gas her car consumed. Without being able to see how this information correlates with the number of surgeries performed, your customers won’t be able to tell if their usage is appropriate or changing over time.

3. What is the best way for the user to receive the data?

Most users will prefer to consume information in a place they are already going rather than bounce between several disparate systems. If they aren’t regularly accessing the product for data and insights now, it’s unlikely they will in the future (unless it is a very unique and compelling insight!). For example, many medical remote monitoring companies are now integrating device data with their customers’ existing electronic medical record software, rather than delivering it by bespoke hardware monitors or one-off web portals.

4. What are the user’s boundaries when it comes to data privacy?

It’s important to understand where your users will draw the line about allowing a device to capture data about them. Even if the data can be used to provide a clear value, if seen as too invasive, adoption could be limited. Telling a marathoner how many miles she’s put on her shoes might be great, but if the data also reveals what time and exactly where she is running, she may feel it could put her in a potentially dangerous situation.

5. How does being connected change the service model?

Users can help define if connected device experiences are additional touchpoints or replacement touchpoints. They can also point to ways that being connected could enhance or empower existing touchpoints. For example, field sales calls may remain a primary touchpoint, but sales reps could be provided with more tailored sales recommendations customized to the way the customer is using the product.

Ready to implement?

Once the business objectives and user experience goals are thoroughly analyzed, there are some important things to consider about how the connections get built and implemented. None of the strategy and research methods we’ve covered so far are all that different from other product and service design efforts, but in our final installment we’ll cover four unique questions that we feel are critical for connectivity project teams to consider prior to implementation.

If you’re interested in more information about user research with connectivity ideas, this post was also the basis for a recent presentation to TC UX Meetup.

Connecting the dots: Three big reasons businesses are thinking about IoT

During a recent happy hour gathering of Fathom Consulting colleagues, a few of us realized a common thread running through several otherwise unrelated projects. It seemed that, all of a sudden, many of our clients had been bitten by the “connectivity” bug.  Though diverse across industries, products, and services, many of our clients were actively exploring ways and reasons to allow their standalone products to communicate—to each other, to the cloud or data hub, and, in some cases, directly to users.

An active discussion ensued: What had we learned across these projects that we could share with product and program owners who might be considering connectivity solutions in the near future? Thus, a blog series was born.  (Watch for two more posts in the near future!)

But first, a few definitions

Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the networking of physical things (often referred to as “smart devices”) in order to collect and exchange data. Some products we’ve worked with include medical devices, inventory control tags, and consumer goods.

A simpler, but related, concept is that of “connected devices.” Connected devices send or receive data to at least one other device. They might use Internet protocols to make the exchange (making them part of the IoT), or they might just be connected directly to one other device (for example, a monitor on a patient that communicates via Bluetooth to a monitor across the room).

These days the terms are used almost interchangeably. For these blog posts, we’re sticking with the broader label of “connected devices”—since most of the points we want to make are relevant whether or not the device is truly part of the IoT.

“Connectivity is the tool, not the target”

Let’s start off with the obvious way that this latest technological capability is identical to all the others that came before it.  Just like getting on the web in the late ‘90s and getting on social media 10  years ago was unwise unless you had a valid reason to do so, pursuing a connectivity solution just for the sake of it is just as likely to leave product owners feeling disappointed, foolish, and poor. Like all successful innovations, a move into a connected landscape must be underpinned by solid business and user objectives. We’ll explore three good business reasons to get connected in this post and user benefits in the next post.

1. Provide efficient service and effective support

Traditionally, products that have shipped and are in the hands of users can be hard to maintain. The user has to do their own maintenance, and troubleshooting often involves frustrating phone calls to 1-800 numbers.

But products that have shipped and are connected can more easily be maintained and repaired by a remote update. Rather than a service technician being deployed when things break down, fixes or version updates can be pushed to a user’s device via the Internet. The company saves time and money, and the user is back up and running much faster.

Combine the ability to service products remotely with increased visibility into how the product is operating, and it may be possible to proactively solve a problem before the user is even aware there is one. Connectivity can not only prevent things from going wrong, but also make sure things go right. As an example, Tesla Motors recently pushed an update to its cars allowing drivers in Florida to drive more miles between battery charges as they evacuated prior to the arrival of Hurricane Irma.

Even in cases in which a physical product must be fixed in person, the benefits of a company communicating with its products can still be realized. Data received from the device ahead of time could be used to diagnose the problem and ensure the dispatched technician has the correct tools, parts, and expertise to complete the job.

2. Gather data on product usage

When sitting down to discuss how a product could be improved or what features should make the cut-off for the next launch, we consistently counsel our clients to consider how their users use the product today. It makes more sense to spend design and development capital on important experiences that a re frequently used or difficult rather than upgrading features that no one knows exist. Yet often our clients have to make educated guesses or spend time on baseline research just to understand what, exactly, their customers are doing with their products.

But when products in the field are connected and communicating usage data, suddenly insights about problem areas or underutilized features are readily available. These insights can inform product design and feature lists in a way analogous to web analytics. When combined with additional information the device might collect on the location, time, and the user’s identity, this data can even serve as the foundation of a robust persona or inform an audience-specific design process.

In addition, usage information could empower others at the company who interface with the user. Perhaps a certain user needs additional training on advanced features or is operating the product in an unethical or inefficient way that should be addressed. If the inventory of consumable products can be captured and transmitted, then sales calls or promotions could be expertly timed.

3. Define new service and revenue models

The ability to provide more options for serving and charging your customers increases exponentially once a physical product is connecting in real time. Rather than a monthly service fee, customers could pay for each time or day they use the product. These options could be attractive to customers who otherwise would not have purchased the product, believing that they wouldn’t use it enough to justify the subscription fees (similar to the pay-as-you-go mobile phones).

Leasing models on connected products could now include low, medium, or high-usage plans, or advanced features could be immediately enabled after payment of an upgrade cost—akin to web apps like Google Drive or SurveyMonkey. This gives the makers of physical products new ways to get their foot in the door with customers at a lower price point. Costly medical monitoring equipment or seldom-used safety equipment could follow the path of tiered pricing models set out by digital-only companies like Hulu, or sell packages of concurrent users like Adobe.

Instead of connecting with customers a few times a year via in-person visits or phone calls, you could have literally hundreds of small touchpoints with them each month as they interact with you via the product. This could drastically change the closeness of the service relationship, while saving the business money on a costly field sales and service team.

Need more reasons?

These benefits to the business may be reason enough for many organizations to see the value in getting connected. Basic back-of-the-napkin math on increased sales or savings from more efficient service is often enough to justify the investment in getting connected. But remember—we’ve only covered the internal benefits here! Next time we’ll explore how to create connected solutions users will love, too.

How to Prevent Hold-outs Amidst Change

You have communicated the change at every opportunity—and heads were nodding at every meeting. You start the implementation, and then suddenly progress stalls. Deadlines are not met. The excitement for the change starts to wane. “What did I do wrong?” you ask yourself. You read the right books, you followed all of the steps; this should be working!

In order to implement change, the forces for change must be greater than the resistance to it.   Resistance to change takes many forms, but we at Fathom Consulting see our clients struggle over and over again when people simply will not adopt the new processes or tools. “Why am I doing all this new work?” they might ask. Or, they might dismiss all the reasons the change is needed because they question your credibility.

These people are the hold-outs. They see “your” changes as a waste of “their” time.

As a leader, you might think you can pull rank and just “make” them do it. But even when these individuals are in your chain of command (which is not a given), competing organizational priorities, their strong relationships with internal or external customers, and their specialized knowledge could mean your ability to exert formal authority over the hold-outs is not guaranteed. What do you do? How do you bring these people along? Or, even better, how do you head off this problem in the first place?

We at Fathom Consulting have found that clients that follow three basic steps are most likely to succeed:

  1. Identify the hold-outs—early!
  2. Identify tactics
  3. Persevere

 

Identify the hold-outs—early!

Our successful clients identify hold-outs early on, and can almost always name them when asked.  As consultants, we usually have our own ideas about holdouts within the early days of our engagement. Your own intuition is likely the best guide to identify these people, but we have noticed they often:

  • Perceive they have seen change efforts fail before
  • Possess important expertise
  • Were part of a group that your business acquired or your department took over
  • Do not share information well
  • Fear that they may lose control and authority

 

Identify tactics

Once you have identified the group of potential hold-outs, identify your approach to working with them to meet project goals. What does persuading your potential hold-outs entail? There are numerous books on the subject, but I often find myself relying on techniques that—surprisingly—I learned in acting school.

Two concepts I learned that I still apply are objectives and actions.

  • Objectives. Characters in plays, like organizational leaders, have objectives. Romeo’s objective is to marry Juliet. Your objective is to implement a new organization, set of tools, or processes.
  • Actions. Actions are the series of tactics a character uses to reach their objective. Actions, which are expressed as verbs, give actors something to do with their lines beyond just saying them. In the Harry Potter movies, the great British actor Ralph Fiennes plays Lord Voldemort, the evil lord bent on conquering the wizarding world. Voldemort is so compelling because Fiennes employs so many interesting tactics in pursuit of his goal. In the hands of a lesser actor, Voldemort’s actions would simply be: “scare (people)”; “scare (people)”; “scare (people)”; “attack (Harry Potter).” Instead, Fiennes uses a variety of actions. He praises, soothes, welcomes, commands, wonders, calculates, tempts, crushes, treasures, menaces, honors, and so on. And then he attacks Harry Potter!

 

As you approach your potential hold-outs, take a page from Ralph Fiennes’s book. No, this does not mean acting like Lord Voldemort to force people to adapt to change (although that may be tempting!). But it does mean expanding your array of actions. Too often change leaders try just a few tactics, like “set expectations” or “push.” But what happens when these two obvious steps do not work? Use some new actions! Here is just a short list of actions you can use with your hold-outs:

  • Listen: What are their concerns, fears, and frustrations?
  • Explain: Do they understand the business reasons for the change, and how it benefits them?
  • Empathize: Do they just need an opportunity to be heard?
  • Collaborate: If they help develop the solution, will they align with the project’s goals?
  • Problem-solve: Their resistance may be rooted in having to do new and additional work. Are there ways to reduce their workload or solve other problems they might have?
  • Amuse: Can you build a better relationship with the hold-outs through humor, lessening resistance?
  • Challenge: If someone is holding out, but others are adapting to the change, how does your hold-out explain that? What is their core issue?
  • Hand hold: Check in frequently. Is their resistance softening? If not, repeat the above steps!

 

Notice that the verb escalate is not on the list, although that is often the first thing we think of. “If Joe isn’t going to get on board, I am going to go to his boss to make him!” Escalation is necessary at times, but try to work out differences as best you can without escalating. When you are successful at working through resistance without escalation, you will build stronger relationships—not weaken the ones you have.

Persevere

The final step is to persevere. The importance of perseverance and follow-through cannot be overstated. If you stop trying, you will likely move backward—not forward.  Based on years of experience at Fathom Consulting, we are confident you will need to spend more time with potential hold outs than you expect. You cannot count on the normal chain of command to communicate change to prevent hold-outs. Our experience is that companies underestimate this work and may not stick with it. Your change is likely to be less successful if you fall into this trap.

Conclusion

Change is hard, and leading change is harder. But change is inevitable. Nearly every client with whom we partner is undertaking transformational work driven by the need to expand markets, respond to new regulations, leverage new technology, adjust to new demographics, or address new competitive threats. Executing a well-designed change management plan is critical to achieve these transformations, but the plan has to take into account potential hold-outs. Bringing these people along is going to take more than a direction, more than a meeting, more than training. It is going to take action.

Fathom Consulting hosts InnovateHer Challenge for Minnesota

Fathom Consulting hosts InnovateHer Challenge for Minnesota

Last week we had the pleasure of welcoming over 60 healthcare innovators in the community to our office in the North Loop for the Minnesota instance of the InnovateHer Challenge. This challenge, sponsored by the Small Business Association seeks to “unearth innovative products and services that help impact and empower the lives of women and their families”. Winners from regional competitions such as this one may be selected as semi-finalists to compete for cash prizes totaling $70,000.

Healthcare.MN, a collaborative community of innovators and thinkers passionate about healthcare, put out the call for participants and sixteen entered. Each participant had three minutes to convince a panel of judges (including our own Kate McRoberts) that their innovative product:

• Will (or is) filling an authentic need in the marketplace;
• Can (or does) impact and empower women and their families; and
• Has the potential for commercialization.

Throughout the evening challengers gave incredible pitches on everything from cooling caps to prevent hair loss during chemo to simple EMRs for clinicians in developing countries and business appropriate clothing tailor-made for muscular female crossfit enthusiasts. Many pitches had a wonderful personal story as inspiration, including a pitch to create a fitness and empowerment program for residents of a women’s shelter, or a discreet wristband that gives haptic feedback to allow the user to break bad habits such as trichotillomania (or hair pulling).
In the end the panel of judges declared Molly Fuller the winner. Molly’s business, Molly Fuller Design is currently working to create stylish clothing for children and teens with autism and sensory integration needs. The designs will use deep pressure therapy techniques of weight and compression to relieve anxiety due to sensory overload. Molly’s preparedness, humor, and personal story make her a strong contender for the national prize.

Fathom Consulting Open House

Have you heard? We’ve moved!

You may already know that Evantage became Fathom Consulting in February. (We’re still getting used to saying it, too.) While we love our new name and logo, we’re also excited about our great new space, and we’d love to share it with you.

Come on over!

Please join us for food, drinks, and fun at our spring open house.

When:

May 4, 2017
5-8 PM

Where:

The Bradshaw Building
108 North Washington Ave
Suite 400

Parking: There is street parking and several parking lots and ramps within a few blocks.

RSVP and Let Us Know If You’re Coming

 

Evantage is now Fathom Consulting

MINNEAPOLIS  (January 31, 2017) — Evantage Consulting, a Minneapolis-based business consultancy that has been serving the Twin Cities for nearly 20 years, today announced that they will be starting the new year with a makeover that includes both a name change and a new office location.

The tide of evolution began in 2015 when the firm founder, Robin Carpenter, unexpectedly passed away and Kate McRoberts, former minority partner, assumed ownership. A few months later, former Carlson Rezidor and McCann Worldgroup executive, Rachael Marret, joined the firm as managing director, and Bret Busse was promoted to senior vice president of operations.

“The name Evantage was coined when the firm was founded in 1999 when the Internet was becoming mainstream and adding an ‘e’ was the thing to do,” said McRoberts, “After nearly 18 years, we felt it is time for an update as we mark a next step in our evolution. We specialize in helping clients capitalize on periods of change, and now it’s our turn.”

Starting this week, Evantage will be known as Fathom Consulting, (consultfathom.com). “We believe our new name more keenly signifies what we have always done best for our clients: delving deeper, asking tougher questions, and helping to bring understanding to their most complex business challenges,” explained Marret. “After talking to our clients about what sets us apart, we have also adopted a new tagline: ‘From complexity to confidence’ that expresses our ability to unravel and solve some of their toughest strategic, operational and customer experience challenges.”

Along with a fresh face, the firm has also moved to a fresh office space in the North Loop, just two downtown blocks from its former Colonial Warehouse location on Third Avenue North to the historic Bradshaw Building at 108 N. Washington Avenue. The relocation gave the firm a chance to design its own collaborative workspace and integrate its new branding of Fathom Consulting.

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