NAMA Post-Show

Last week, SIGMA team members Ruth Altpeter, Director of Account Services and Mallory Tabolt, Senior Account Manager attended the National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) Conference in Kansas City, MO. The NAMA conference is an opportunity for agri-marketing professionals to network and attend learning sessions highlighting new ideas and strategies specific to the agricultural industry. This year’s conference theme, “Onward and Upward” was displayed through exciting and interactive breakout and sessions and networking opportunities and events.

Each year, the NAMA conference provides an important opportunity for our Ag portfolio teams to meet with clients and partners while brushing up the newest and greatest strategies for marketing in the ever-changing agricultural industry. Following this year’s conference, our team shared their takeaways from their time in Kansas City.

Takeaways from the Agri-Marketing Conference:

1. NAMA isn’t just a noun, it’s also a verb

As NAMA’s National President, Sheri Seger stated, “NAMA is also a verb.” As in, “we are going to NAMA the heck out of this conference.” For the agri-marketing industry, NAMA isn’t simply an organization or an event but is also a way to describe attendee actions and attitudes during the week-long conference.

2. Magicians can teach you about agri-marketing

Well, maybe not agri-marketing specifically, but entrepreneur, magician and keynote speaker, Vinh Giang led our team’s favorite session which focused on perception, influence and crafting solutions for “re-imagining and overcoming the impossible” when it comes to strategic marketing.

3. The secret to increasing exhibit booth traffic is puppies

As marketing professionals, we tend to consider ourselves creative individuals but at NAMA, The Sandbox Agency beat us all with their #Sandboxtotherescue campaign, which brought approximately a dozen puppies to their booth from a local shelter. The draw for attendees? Go to the booth and cuddle an adorable puppy while the Sandbox team talked about their services. We call that a win-win.

4. Hackonomy is a real word

According to keynote speaker Bonin Bough, hackonomy is defined as creating value by breaking things. Bough explained how as agencies, we need to break the norms and push through the traditional processes of what has already been done to take our marketing to the next level. Bough shared case studies demonstrating his hackonomy successes based on his experience working for companies such as PepsiCo and Modelez International (formerly Kraft Foods.)

5. Your ‘Top 5’ will define your future

Believe it or not the highlight of our team’s trip wasn’t the KC barbecue or the 80 degree weather, but rather a specific idea that was brought up at the conference. The idea that conference attendees were asked to think about was that professionally, you are a reflection of the top 5 people you spend the most time with. The concept forced our team members to reflect on who they spend most of their professional life with and what other types of individuals they may want to bring into their inner circle in order to meet their professional goals in the future. If you want to improve your public speaking and your top 5 does not include someone who excels in that area, you need find an individual with this quality and make a point to spend more time with them.

Commodity Classic Recap

Earlier this month, SIGMA team members Gregg Sullivan, COO and Mallory Tabolt, Senior Account Manager traveled to Orlando, FL for Commodity Classic 2019. Commodity Classic is the largest farm-focused trade show in the U.S. and hosts thousands of visitors seeking new technology, equipment and the opportunity to meet with vendors and partners.

Over the three days that our team members attended the show they were able to attend learning sessions at the Commodity Classic Main Stage, meet with clients and partners, attend the American Soybean Association (ASA) Awards Banquet and check out the new innovations that the Ag Industry has in store for the upcoming year.

After sitting at the ASA Awards Banquet on Friday night, Gregg said, “I feel honored to be a part of such a strong community. From presenters, to honorees, to the work that brought us all together, it is clear this is a group of people across hundreds of businesses who all agree that the most important thing to their success is to value and support each other, innovation, and high quality work.”

5 Takeaways from Commodity Classic:

1. Attendees travel from all over the U.S.

Commodity Classic attracts visitors from all over the U.S. including those from SIGMA’s own Rochester, NY. One local Western NY attendee was a panelist during our favorite learning session of the week, “Plugging into the Power of Your Regional Cover Crop Council.” Donn Branton, a farmer from Le Roy, NY and board member on the Northeast Cover Crop Council shared his experience with cover crops and their benefits, giving examples of techniques he has used to help promote soil health and increased yield.

2. It’s a great place for one-on-one conversations with partners

Our client, FMC hosted an after the show happy hour for attendees and partners to promote their new product Lucento™ fungicide. The SIGMA team spent this time meeting with clients and finding out how we can more effectively work together in 2019 to provide valuable data and insights for use in marketing and overall decision-making.

3. It’s not just about the technology and equipment

The educational session that seemed to attract the largest group of attendees wasn’t about technology, innovation or equipment, it was about farming as a family business. Consultant and Farmer Jolene Brown gave a humorous and informative presentation on the valuable lessons she has learned from working with farming families and the difficult decisions that come with running a family business.

4. ASA Awards Banquet

FMC was one of the premier sponsors of the American Soybean Association Awards Banquet where soybean growers, volunteers and leaders throughout the country are recognized.

5. Orlando in the winter is amazing

When you’re used to winter in the Northeast, Orlando is a welcomed break at the end of February. When our team wasn’t at the show, they were able enjoy Orlando’s warm weather and some of the best key lime pie around.

Looking Forward – Q and A with Stefan Willimann

SIGMA Account Manager, Teddy Malone, sat down with Stefan Willimann to hear his reflections on 2018 and hopes for 2019.

Let’s talk about 2018. Where did we come from? Where are we going?

2018 was a strategic year, one in which we really started to integrate an important value into our culture — empowerment. Empowerment begets risk and risk begets leadership, and surrounding myself with leaders whom I can serve is rewarding to me personally and makes SIGMA a better company.

Last year we put a “bottom up” structure into action, and as our COO Gregg Sullivan expressed recently, “What comes with empowerment is accountability, and therefore if our team feels empowered they hold themselves responsible.”

How has your role at SIGMA changed in the past year? 

I made a concerted effort in 2018 to move from working IN the business to working ON the business. Practicing my own empowerment has allowed me to start to think of the business in more strategic terms. I’m more focused on the vision of the business and taking this new approach has helped me climb out of the trenches and be less myopic. Right now, I am more focused on the evolution of SIGMA than ever before.

As we look toward 2019, SIGMA is poised for growth. Tell us about “Digital at SIGMA.” How do you feel about SIGMA utilizing its data expertise to inform a digital capability for other companies?

Digital is a part of everything we do, and SIGMA is poised to turn up our resources in this area. Regarding growth, I think that the digital application and what we can expect this year into next is leveraging expertise in certain verticals. We do a lot of business in the membership organization sector, museums and the like. Agriculture and financial services as well.  We are prepared to leverage our knowledge in digital and take it more into vertical practices. I see a move to expertise in verticals, and anticipate that we will have vertical practice leaders rather than account managers as we continue to evolve.

SIGMA’s new Boston office is set in the heart of the city, accessible to the surrounding area

Speaking of the future, let’s talk about SIGMA’s expansion into Boston. How that will influence our business?

Boston is a much larger market than Rochester, ranking #24 in the country based on population. There is a tremendous amount of thought leadership coming from Boston, which is how we started 30 years ago in the database marketing industry, so it is exciting to be in such an innovative and investigative city as we evolve again.

Additionally, from Boston, SIGMA now has easier access to NYC, Philadelphia and other potential clients. We want to meet people face to face and demonstrate that we are committed to being a part of their team and understanding their needs.

Finally, we are going to be able to find more talent in this highly educated market. We’re grateful that Rochester has a pool of talent from RIT and University of Rochester; Boston is simply a bigger city and bigger cities have more talent to draw from and we’re excited about that potential as we grow here too.

Finally, back to SIGMA’s data business, why do you think companies are rapidly moving towards the customized visualization SIGMA provides rather than generic build-outs from other software?

Honestly? Generic dashboards are becoming obsolete. Everything now should be tailored to the specific needs of the client and their business so they can put in the KPI’s and content they want to see. Generic dashboards don’t compute or tell a coherent story.

Custom dashboard reflecting a campaign summary

Our customized dashboards are tailored from a tool, with experienced data scientists to back them up, and they can tell a story that is highly applicable to the client’s business.

2018 – Our Year in Review

2018 was a powerful year for SIGMA, rich in growth and full of promise for the future. As we look toward 2019 I think it’s beneficial to examine where our business developed successfully and look at our three salient areas of growth: Ag Space, Digital Expertise, Talent Acquisition. It was a pivotal year for SIGMA and our future as a leader in this business.

Minneapolis, MN – The location of the Fall National Agri-Marketing Association Conference

The year started with an exciting task for SIGMA which required our team to work closely with FMC after it acquired a portion of DuPont’s Crop Protection business. The acquisition brought on a number of new products and a significant amount of new data that we were more than willing to help manage. During this process, our team was invited to attend FMC’s U.S. Integration Team Meeting in Phoenix, AZ where we got to meet and introduce our team and services to the new FMC staff and hear about the exciting future of FMC.

2018 also marked our continued growth in the Ag Space as we began providing database and analytics support for a company with a of diverse portfolio of agricultural products. In addition, members of our team attended The National Agri-Marketing Association (NAMA) spring conference and fall conferences in Kansas City, MO and Minneapolis, MN.

Sue, Adam, Paul and Mallory visiting The Henry Ford Museum’s “Rosa Park’s Bus” in Detroit, MI

Beyond Ag, we saw our expertise expand in the digital marketing space. Our Data Scientists worked to profile and segment audiences that helped inform our digital team on suggestions for targeting display and social media marketing for The Henry Ford Museum in the Detroit Metro Area and we worked closely with a local Rochester agency to develop a centralized dashboard for reporting digital analytics. Our team also conceptualized and deployed a successful customer win-back email campaign for a large media provider. Throughout the year we explored our in-house digital capabilities and decided to create our own digital marketing division, “Digital at SIGMA.”

SIGMA’s Ben (Center Right) and Gregg (Far Right) with Randall Lippincot of AAA (Far Left) and Brett Conley (Center Left) of Gallagher Affinity after a golf outing

Other 2018 projects included building dashboards and providing insights to our clients like AAA MidAtlantic and Carestream Dental on member renewal reporting, budget forecasting and customer acquisition and retention.

All of this incredible growth prompted us to hire new talent. In April, Julia Mezzoprete, a 2018 graduate of John Carroll. In June, Teddy Malone, a 2018 from Boston College. Maureen Martin, a gifted developer, joined us to strengthen the IT foundation of SIGMA. And at the close of 2018, SIGMA hired Megan Salocks, formerly of the Smithsonian Institute, to join our team and share her Digital Knowledge.

Meg, along with Teddy, will spearhead “Digital at SIGMA,” allowing us to offer full digital capability along side data strategy. This initiative is a primary focus of 2019 and we hope to penetrate more markets and attract new businesses with these offerings.

SIGMA’s Paul and Gregg met up at the Seneca Park Zoo’s “Zoo Brew”! Seneca Park Zoo was a new client late in 2018

Finally, I am pleased to announce that I have taken the role of Chief Operating Officer at SIGMA. In taking on this responsibility, I will continue to guide our talented team toward success, and create a culture of inspired workers as well as insure efficiency and client delivery.

We are setting our expectations high for 2019. Many thanks to 2018 for setting such a wonderful stage.

The Importance of Culture at SIGMA

Stefan WillimannStefan Willimann, our passionate CEO, shares his thoughts on the culture at SIGMA:

I recently came across the following quote on LinkedIn, and it really resonated with me.

 

“The definition of failure is defined this way. When your life is over, the person you are meets the person you could have been.”

 

Does this resonate with you too?

 

While obviously a very self-directed message, it made me think almost immediately about SIGMA—its’ values and how those values inspire the work we do every day. SIGMA, and the way our entire community works together is, well, personal, not just to me, but also to all of our employees and partners.

 

When I founded SIGMA I always knew I wanted the company to reflect positive human attributes.  I wanted it, and therefore the people who work here, to embody all of these important values: empowered, accountable, inspiring, fair, modern, thoughtful, transformative, respectful, aware, hardworking, smart and brave. These are the values our clients find at the core of SIGMA, buried deep within our DNA.

 

An organization’s culture is a mission critical element of its’ bottom line performance, and I often say that “culture drives profit.” Culture has the power to drive individual mission, ambition, and success. We’re in good company with the likes of Zappo’s, Amazon, Starbucks and WeWork, who are all wildly successful, not just because they have a solid product and service offering, but because they exude the values of their culture. You can feel it in everything they do. The dedicated people that make those companies go don’t just get up every morning and go to “work.” Instead  they go to work with a goal and greater purpose. They reflect on their values, which makes their skill, talent and ability truly shine.

 

At SIGMA, we believe that our work, and our culture, is the fuel that drives our performance and ultimately transforms our clients’ business.

 

In the end, as the chief keeper of SIGMA’s goals, vision and values, my most important job is to create a positive culture that enables our team to shine and thrive! Because when we thrive, the entire SIGMA family, including our valued client partners, awesome staff, best-of-breed suppliers and extended team of contractors, will be able to move mountains and may in some small, but important way, make our world better.