LinkedIn isn't just for job hunters anymore. Photo via Pexels

In today's digital age, LinkedIn has emerged as a powerhouse for professional networking and career development. With over 774 million users worldwide, it is essential to not only have a presence on the platform but also to use it effectively.

As a digital marketing consultant, I work closely with companies and leaders to help them leverage LinkedIn successfully. Here are some of my tips and tricks for getting the most out of LinkedIn.

Keep your profile updated

Your LinkedIn profile is your digital resume and the first impression you make on potential connections. Having once been known mostly as a platform for job seekers, an up-to-date LinkedIn profile is essential for showcasing your skills, experiences, and achievements. Relatively new features such as your profile headline and skill summary reflect your current professional status and aspirations. Include a professional-looking profile photo and don’t leave the header image blank; consider one promoting your company, one of you “in action” speaking at an event, or sharing a mission statement.

Curating a comprehensive LinkedIn profile with past work experiences and education alma maters helps you build a more relevant community. Volunteer experiences, publications, and special projects serve as a great means to diversify your profile and highlight skills beyond your professional work. Asking for recommendations from colleagues or supervisors adds noteworthy credibility in creating a well-rounded profile.

Define your audience and goals

Before diving into the sea of connections, think about your goals for using LinkedIn. Are you looking for job opportunities, networking with industry leaders, or building a thought leadership brand? Identifying your specific objectives will help you tailor your profile and content accordingly. Who are you hoping will see and engage with your content? Determine your target audience, whether it is professionals in your industry, potential employers, or like-minded individuals. This will guide your engagement and content strategy

Establish a clear voice and persona

Consistency is key when building your online persona. Your LinkedIn profile should reflect your professional identity, yet your voice should be genuine to your goals. Are you a brand promoter working to advance a company’s mission, a thought leader with expertise in a niche field, or an industry expert who can speak knowledgably about broad trending topics? Whether you are aiming for a formal, informative tone or a more casual, conversational approach, maintaining a consistent voice across your profile and content helps build a recognizable personal brand.

Don’t be shy to show your audience the authentic “you”. While focused on professional content sharing, LinkedIn can also be a place to post about personal experiences. For instance, a recent family vacation could be a lead-in to explaining how your father was the one who put you on track for your current career path or a photo from a race you completed to raise money for a rare disease that your best friend suffers from.

Use varied tools and engage

LinkedIn offers a variety of content formats, including text posts, articles, images, videos, polls, and more. Experimenting with different formats can help you identify what resonates best with your audience. Share industry insights, success stories, professional accomplishments, and upcoming speaking opportunities while incorporating multimedia elements to make your content more engaging. Ask questions – give your audience a reason to engage by leaving them with food for thought at the end of your posts. Try to be consistent with your posting strategy; a good rule of thumb is one post per week.

Maybe even more important than posting your own content is engaging with others’ content. Find groups that resonate with you and follow people that have similar interests to you. LinkedIn has one of the largest editorial teams across all news platforms. Many people are unaware of the LinkedIn news feed (top right of the home page) and how editors build their stories off trending content from LinkedIn users. Don’t forget about hashtags – this is how people and organizations will find your content and engage with you.

Individualize success measurements

Success on LinkedIn varies from person to person based on individual goals. Whether you are aiming to increase your profile views and engagement, grow your followers, or connect with influential professionals, define your own metrics for success. LinkedIn has built in analytics tools to monitor the growth of your network and assess the impact of your content on achieving your objectives. Regularly review and adjust your strategy based on the insights gained from these metrics.

Mastering any social media platform, including LinkedIn, takes time to build a community and establish your voice. By strategically navigating the platform, you can unlock new opportunities, expand your professional network, and position yourself as a thought leader in your industry. So what are you waiting for – polish up your profile, start writing, and let LinkedIn be the catalyst for your professional success.

___

Arielle Rogg is the principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises, a Houston-based company providing digital marketing for health care innovators.

While crafting a personal or company brand, it is important to connect your business idea to your purpose and passion. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert shares tips for enhancing personal, company branding

GUEST COLUMN

Every business, whether a single member consultancy, a small startup, or a large corporation, owns a brand. One can think of a brand in a number of different ways — a recognizable logo, a catchy name, an inspirational tagline, or even a feeling one gets when using a certain product or service.

At its core, branding begins with values. Whether you are building a personal brand or a company brand, it is essential to ascertain your purpose and passion and then connect it with your business idea.

In this article, I am going to walk you through tips on building a personal and company brand.

Personal Brand

Gary Vaynerchuk, successful entrepreneur and internet personality who built his personal brand on digital marketing, said “You have to understand your own personal DNA.” Here are some key points to consider when developing your personal brand:

Play to your individual strengths

You do not need to do everything! If you love writing, do a blog. If you prefer talking, focus on videos. If you can commit to posting online every day, take on social media channels like Instagram & Twitter.

Leverage your network

Networks are a powerful tool and most importantly, do not require you to spend loads of marketing dollars. It is a huge misconnection that branding is a cost center for all businesses. There are many ways to promote your brand without significant cost. Here are some simple ideas to get you started:

  1. Create an online presence (website, social media channels, blogs, etc.)
  2. Develop a content calendar and post/update regularly, at least once a week
  3. Read a lot and reach out to journalists who write in your industry
  4. Seek out speaking opportunities at conferences or apply for awards that recognize leaders like you – don’t shy away from nominating yourself!

Be well-rounded

Running your own brand can sometimes make work/life balance feel enmeshed, making you feel like you are losing your own identity. Don’t forget to diversify yourself. Volunteer at a charity or nonprofit of choice, share photos of your friends and family spending time together, get involved with a professional organization, and promote yourself.

Company brand

When building a company brand, it is essential to identify and understand your target audience by creating clear customer profiles. Commercial brands only succeed when they can connect their business and values to a customer. When I work on branding exercises with companies, I always start with a value proposition canvas. Once you clearly define the values and target market, these are some beneficial next steps:

Craft a cohesive vision and mission statement

A vision statement is aspirational or pie in the sky, alluding to what your organization will achieve in the future. A mission statement is definitional, describing your business objectives and how you will get there. Together, these succinct messages should help your customer fully understand what you are selling or offering.

Create a unique and consistent visual identity

A visual identity is what helps a brand stand on its own without needing someone to explain it. This can include a color scheme, fonts, logo – anything that will contribute to your company’s brand guidelines. Especially for companies in highly competitive markets like food & beverage, a recognizable visual identity can make or break a brand’s ultimate success.

Take your time

I recently listened to the How I Built This podcast episode featuring Bombas. I was amazed to hear that they tested over 100 fabric combinations for their first sock before finalizing it. Today, they are probably one of the most popular and recognizable brands in the sock business. Some companies need to launch right away but as long as you can learn, grow, and pivot when needed, time can be on your side. A quality product is better than a rushed product.

___

Arielle Rogg is the principal and founder of Rogg Enterprises, a Houston-based company providing digital marketing for health care innovators.
Content marketing may seem like a challenge to get started and maintain, but it helps create a connection with your customers that benefits both of you in the short and long term. Image via Getty Images

3 tips from a Houston expert on making the most of content marketing

guest column

For startups and established companies alike, content marketing is king. It is one of the most well-respected methods for growing brand recognition, establishing a reputation for expertise in a field and engaging your target market.

In fact, according to Mailchimp, businesses with blogs obtain 67 percent more leads than other companies and 88 percent of consumers credit branded videos for convincing them to purchase a product or service. Even better, one of the biggest benefits of content marketing is that it allows you to capture the attention of your audience without a hard sell.

So, what is content marketing? Coursera provides a simple definition: content marketing is the marketing strategy of creating articles, podcasts, videos, infographics, and other types of media to engage and retain potential customers. But let’s dig a bit deeper. In order for this content to be effective, it needs to be relevant and valuable. The content should help establish your organization’s reputation as an expert in the field, but it should be primarily focused on addressing the needs of your audience in one way or another.

What are some things to focus on when developing a content marketing strategy? Begin with the end in mind. What are you trying to gain from this strategy? Are you looking to increase brand awareness and build your list? Working to generate immediate sales? Build partnerships? Establishing your goals will guide the rest of your planning and implementation going forward.

Know your audience

It is also critical that you have a thorough understanding of your audience. For starters, this involves understanding your market’s demographics, needs, common communication vehicles, and preferred content formats. In regard to your strategy, you also need to understand what stage of the customer sales journey you are trying to appeal to. Are they ready to buy, or just at the ‘getting information’ stage? Or perhaps you want to connect with existing customers to retain their business and generate referrals.

Keep concise and organized

To make the most out of your strategy, make sure the content is engaging. You may have the answer to your customers’ challenges, but if it is presented in a way they cannot connect with, you will lose their attention. Work to create content that is relatable and easily digestible. As you continue to develop your content, find a way to serve it up in an organized manner and deliver it on a consistent basis.

Track analytics

Also, you want to make sure you are tracking the performance of your content. Analytics will help you understand if and how your content is being engaged with, providing guidance on what to adjust, what to scrap and what to do more of. There are several tools available that will provide these metrics, but before you look to spend on something new, it is helpful to understand the resources you already have through your site metrics, email platforms, etc.

Finally, make sure your content isn’t outdated, and check for broken links or statements that contradict your other content.

Content marketing may seem like a challenge to get started and maintain, but it helps create a connection with your customers that benefits both of you in the short and long term. At the end of the day, many businesses find content marketing is a strategy they cannot live without in today’s fast-paced environment.

------

Katherine Rupp is marketing director of LevelField Financial, a Houston-based financial services company.

A Houston expert shares her pointers on navigating marketing and communication strategies for startups. Photo via Getty Images

How Houston startups can bolster marketing and communications collaboration

Guest column

Marketing and communications remain crucial to startups. Building a more cohesive team dynamic between marketing and communications can offer a young company purpose, direction and language to differentiate its product or service value.

While marketing and communications have distinct goals, magic happens when the two work together to enhance the company's business objectives. Clients often ask me the difference between marketing and communications and how the two can complement each other. Consider these thoughts and steps to better collaboration.

Communication 101

Startups need support for creating a company narrative to help employees tell the story and show company value to customers and prospective customers. A communications plan includes the strategy for meeting business objectives, the target audiences, and the key messages that will resonate with each audience. Communications plans also identify the best ways to tell the story, i.e., media relations, social media sponsorships, website content, and presentations. In-house communications professionals might consider building a team of strong freelance writers to delegate writing projects.

Marketing 101

Marketing promotes products or services to a specific audience, whether reaching new customers or retaining existing ones. A strong marketing plan includes strategy, competitive analysis, market research, and identifying industry trends. Marketers use communications to develop and share messages with these audiences. Marketers should consider engaging freelance writers to create content.

How do marketing and communications work together?

Close marketing and communications coordination can be an advantage for customer engagement. That strong team approach offers an opportunity to ensure marketing and communication efforts center around the customer. For example, marketers may leverage company blog content (written by communicators) in marketing efforts, i.e., sales pitches, customer outreach, and company webinars, to help generate leads, and make conversions. Marketing teams can then provide analytics or customer feedback to optimize future content.

Examples of successful collaboration include a customer featuring a company’s newly enhanced product at an industry conference after reading the recent product launch in trade media, a series of thought-leadership blog posts after the marketing team received prospective customer inquiries on a hot topic or a successful case study provided by marketing for communications to leverage on the website, whitepaper, and social media accounts.

Data, please

Take advantage of the data most startups have at their fingertips because data sharing proves important in developing compelling content. For instance, marketers benefit from sharing industry trends, customer demographics and behavior, market research and internal data (how customers use the product or service) with communicators to enable them to produce more engaging customer copy. Also, marketers and proposal experts often receive requests for information from customers or prospective customers. Those requests can also be helpful to communicators in writing content. Then, once published, communicators can provide data on engagement to ensure that content resonates.

Report efforts

Find ways to share reporting of marketing and communications efforts. For instance, during a recent meeting, did a customer mention a company-bylined article in a trade publication? Did marketing receive a request for information from a prospective customer after reading a company white paper? Did a company expert get invited to speak at an industry conference due to a blog post? All these shared results help to optimize marketing and communications efforts and inform strategy pivots, if appropriate.

Break the silos

Break any silos for improved marketing and communications collaboration. Consider regular team meetings or create a Teams site or Slack channel to exchange information often. For example, one client recently held a successful all-day brand and team-building workshop. Open communication between marketing and communications teams remains critical to executing a solid marketing strategy and achieving business objectives. For a more cohesive communications and marketing approach, know the business objectives, define roles, and responsibilities, meet regularly, share data, and report efforts for better results.

------

Melanie Taplett is a communications and public relations consultant for the technology, energy, and manufacturing industries.

Newly launched Unlock Health, a partnership involving a Houston agency, delivers consulting, marketing, and technology services to health care organizations. Photo via Getty Images

Houston creative agency teams up with Florida firm to launch digital health platform

firming up health tech

Houston-based digital and creative agency DECODE is now part of a new health care technology and services platform called Unlock Health.

The new platform came about through the combination of DECODE, which serves the health care market, and Bradenton, Florida-based Eruptr, an agency specializing in digital marketing for the health care sector.

The Nashville-based platform is backed by Greenwich, Connecticut-based Amulet Capital Partners, a private equity firm that focuses solely on the health care sector, and New York City-based Athyrium Capital Management, an asset manager that concentrates on the health care sector.

Unlock Health delivers consulting, marketing, and technology services to customers such as health care systems, physician groups, and specialty health care providers. Brandon Edwards is CEO of the new platform, and Shannon McIntyre Hooper is president.

DECODE and Eruptr will continue to operate under their respective brands and be led by their existing management teams. Houston native Kathleen Perley remains aboard as CEO of DECODE, which she founded in 2013.

“With the launch of Unlock Health, we will have the benefits of increased scale and a broader range of market-leading services and expertise to support clients as they navigate and compete in a rapidly evolving industry,” Perley says in a news release.

DECODE saw revenue three-year growth of 131 percent from 2019 to 2021, making it one of the country’s fastest-growing private companies during that span.

The new venture employs about 120 people.

“We recognize the tremendous potential and impact a trusted one-stop provider of integrated marketing, consulting, and tech enablement can have in breaking down long-standing barriers for health care organizations,” Edwards says.

He adds that the new platform will remove “the guesswork from growth” and help health care organizations “succeed now and in the future.”

Understanding your potential buyer's journey step by step helps the marketing and sales teams to be very intentional about strategy. Photo via Getty Images

Houston expert: Why you need to align your strategy with your buyer's journey

guest column

Creating a successful go-to-market strategy involves several crucial steps that help define a company’s target market and potential buyers, as well as the differentiators, the competitors and the value that a product or service brings to the market.

CEOs of middle market companies know what a GTM strategy is although they may not often use the terminology. It is the sales and marketing strategy and how the company will acquire new customers, and thus grow revenue for the business.

Understanding the buyer's journey is crucial. In a nutshell, this refers to the different stages a potential customer goes through before finally making a purchase. First, there's the awareness stage, where the customer realizes their need, and starts researching possible solutions.

Next is the consideration stage, where customers weigh the pros and cons of various companies, comparing features, benefits, and pricing. Finally, in the decision stage, the customer decides on a specific solution based on the input they gathered along the way. By understanding and effectively utilizing this framework, marketing and sales teams can customize their strategy to promote trust, establish credibility, and meet revenue goals.

Understanding the journey step by step helps the marketing and sales teams to be very intentional about strategy.

Identifying an ideal customer profile (ICP)

A good way to approach this is by looking at the existing customer base for any common traits by conducting revenue analysis. Likely, there will be trends in the customer data that can be very informative on ways to target new customers. Look at data points such as duration as a customer, growth in revenue per customer, industry, region, etc. to define customer personas that may be ideal for the business.

Once the targets are determined, think about ways these potential buyers get their industry or professional information. Who do they follow? What do they care about?

Examining market trends and doing competitor research will lead to the creation of customer personas that may be outside of the current customer base.

Doing market research is critical to understanding the size of the market, so companies can determine their market share. Once a team really knows the target audience, it can create more effective content and digital marketing strategies that resonate with a company’s ideal customers and ultimately lead to higher conversion rates and revenue growth.

Catering to the buyer's journey

The potential buyer is going to need different things from marketing and sales at every stage of the journey. During the awareness stage, potential buyers are just starting to recognize that they have a problem, or a need. They aren’t ready to buy but they want information to better understand their situation. Show them content that addresses their pain points and provides a solution. Blog posts, e-books, whitepapers, and webinars are all ways to do this.

Once a buyer understands their problem better, they will actively search online for solutions. There is a lot of comparison going on now. Buyers in today’s market expect more transparency from B2B companies than in the past. To capitalize on this stage, a company needs to have detailed product information and case studies that demonstrate the value of a service or solution. Some companies will produce comparison guides to show their differentiators from the competition.

At the end of the journey, a buyer has narrowed down their options and is ready to make a purchase. They may need a little more information, or reassurance that their decision is the right one. Customer testimonials and reviews as well as interaction with the sales team will help to move a customer over the finish time.

Tailored messaging for different decision-makers

In complex B2B sales, there are usually multiple decision-makers involved, with stakeholders from various departments weighing in on the decision. Therefore, it is vital to have a different message tailored to each decision-maker, built into the overall messaging.

There is never going to be just one decision maker, especially if it’s a high dollar product or service. Finance is going to weigh in. The user is going to want a say. Communication to stakeholders across multiple departments in the company is key.

Prioritizing highly converting marketing tactics

An underappreciated element of any Go To Market strategy is prioritizing marketing and sales tactics. With limited resources and budget, identifying the most highly converting tactics is essential. And as with everything else, it also requires a deep understanding of the buyer.

For example, a company may prioritize trade shows as their most highly converting tactic because decision-makers and buyers in their niche market attend these events. Some companies may benefit more from paid advertising, while others may prioritize content creation or email campaigns. Tactics will be dependent on industry, target audience, and goals.

Companies should focus on tactics that are most likely to generate the highest ROI.

Both the marketing and sales teams need to understand the buyer's journey and focus on their needs and pain points at each step. This means adopting a customer-centric approach. By doing so, businesses can create a cohesive revenue team that works together to identify the most effective tactics and improve revenue growth.

At Craig Group, we have seen first hand that companies who implement a comprehensive go-to-market strategy, track their progress and adjust their approach as necessary, have a higher chance of meeting their revenue targets.

This approach is very effective if the necessary effort and resources are dedicated to the process. The strategic guidance and support of the right team can help develop and refine a GTM approach that is tailored to the company and aligned with its goals.

------

Libby Covington is partner at Houston-based The Craig Group, a strategic digital marketing solutions consulting firm. Her specialty is in understanding how sales and marketing work together effectively.

Ad Placement 300x100
Ad Placement 300x600

CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas nonprofit grants $68.5M to Houston organizations for recruitment, research

Three prominent institutions in Houston will be able to snag a trio of high-profile cancer researchers thanks to $12 million in new funding from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.

The biggest recruitment award — $6 million — went to the University of Texas MD Anderson Center to lure researcher Xiling Shen away from the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation in Los Angeles.

Shen is chief scientific officer at the nonprofit Terasaki Institute. His lab there studies precision medicine, including treatments for cancer, from a “systems biology perspective.”

He also is co-founder and former CEO of Xilis, a Durham, North Carolina-based oncology therapy startup that raised $70 million in series A funding in 2021. Before joining the institute in 2021, the Stanford University graduate was an associate professor at Duke University in Durham.

Shen and Xilis aren’t strangers to MD Anderson.

In 2023, MD Anderson said it planned to use Xilis’ propriety MicroOrganoSphere (MOS) technology for development of novel cancer therapies.

“Our research suggests the MOS platform has the potential to offer new capabilities and to improve the efficiency of developing innovative drugs and cell therapies over current … models, which we hope will bring medicines to patients more quickly,” Shen said in an MD Anderson news release.

Here are the two other Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) awards that will bring noted cancer researchers to Houston:

  • $4 million to attract David Sarlah to Rice University from the University of Illinois, where he is an associate professor of chemistry. Sarlah’s work includes applying the principles of chemistry to creation of new cancer therapies.
  • $2 million to lure Vishnu Dileep to the Baylor College of Medicine from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), where he is a postdoctoral fellow. His work includes the study of cancer genomes.

CPRIT also handed out more than $56.5 million in grants and awards to seven institutions in the Houston area. Here’s the rundown:

  • MD Anderson Cancer Center — Nearly $25.6 million
  • Baylor College of Medicine — Nearly $11.5 million
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston — More than $6 million
  • Rice University — $4 million
  • University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston — More than $3.5 million
  • Methodist Hospital Research Institute — More than $3.3 million
  • University of Houston — $1.4 million

Dr. Pavan Reddy, a CPRIT scholar who is a professor at the Baylor College of Medicine and director of its Dan L Duncan Comprehensive Cancer Care Center, says the CPRIT funding “will help our investigators take chances and explore bold ideas to make innovative discoveries.”

The Houston-area funding was part of nearly $99 million in grants and awards that CPRIT recently approved.

Houston space company's lunar lander touches down on the moon in historic mission

touchdown

A private lander on Thursday made the first U.S. touchdown on the moon in more than 50 years, but managed just a weak signal back until flight controllers scrambled to gain better contact.

Despite the spotty communication, Intuitive Machines, the company that built and managed the craft, confirmed that it had landed upright. But it did not provide additional details, including whether the lander had reached its intended destination near the moon’s south pole. The company ended its live webcast soon after identifying a lone, weak signal from the lander.

“What we can confirm, without a doubt, is our equipment is on the surface of the moon,” mission director Tim Crain reported as tension built in the company’s Houston control center.

Added Intuitive Machines CEO Steve Altemus: “I know this was a nail-biter, but we are on the surface and we are transmitting. Welcome to the moon.”

Data was finally starting to stream in, according to a company announcement two hours after touchdown.

The landing put the U.S. back on the surface for the first time since NASA’s famed Apollo moonwalkers.

Intuitive Machines also became the first private business to pull off a lunar landing, a feat achieved by only five countries. Another U.S. company, Astrobotic Technology, gave it a shot last month, but never made it to the moon, and the lander crashed back to Earth. Both companies are part of a NASA-supported program to kick-start the lunar economy.

Astrobotic was among the first to relay congratulations. “An incredible achievement. We can’t wait to join you on the lunar surface in the near future,” the company said via X, formerly Twitter.

Intuitive Machines “aced the landing of a lifetime,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson tweeted.

The final few hours before touchdown were loaded with extra stress when the lander's laser navigation system failed. The company's flight control team had to press an experimental NASA laser system into action, with the lander taking an extra lap around the moon to allow time for the last-minute switch.

With this change finally in place, Odysseus descended from a moon-skimming orbit and guided itself toward the surface, aiming for a relatively flat spot among all the cliffs and craters near the south pole.

As the designated touchdown time came and went, controllers at the company's command center anxiously awaited a signal from the spacecraft some 250,000 miles (400,000 kilometers) away. After close to 15 minutes, the company announced it had received a weak signal from the lander.

Launched last week, the six-footed carbon fiber and titanium lander — towering 14 feet (4.3 meters) — carried six experiments for NASA. The space agency gave the company $118 million to build and fly the lander, part of its effort to commercialize lunar deliveries ahead of the planned return of astronauts in a few years.

Intuitive Machines' entry is the latest in a series of landing attempts by countries and private outfits looking to explore the moon and, if possible, capitalize on it. Japan scored a lunar landing last month, joining earlier triumphs by Russia, U.S., China and India.

The U.S. bowed out of the lunar landscape in 1972 after NASA's Apollo program put 12 astronauts on the surface. Astrobotic of Pittsburgh gave it a shot last month, but was derailed by a fuel leak that resulted in the lander plunging back through Earth's atmosphere and burning up.

Intuitive Machines’ target was 186 miles (300 kilometers) shy of the south pole, around 80 degrees latitude and closer to the pole than any other spacecraft has come. The site is relatively flat, but surrounded by boulders, hills, cliffs and craters that could hold frozen water, a big part of the allure. The lander was programmed to pick, in real time, the safest spot near the so-called Malapert A crater.

The solar-powered lander was intended to operate for a week, until the long lunar night.

Besides NASA’s tech and navigation experiments, Intuitive Machines sold space on the lander to Columbia Sportswear to fly its newest insulating jacket fabric; sculptor Jeff Koons for 125 mini moon figurines; and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for a set of cameras to capture pictures of the descending lander.