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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, 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.

5 Takeaways from Tableau

In October, SIGMA Data Scientist, Adam Smith attended Tableau’s coveted conference in New Orleans. Today he shares his biggest takeaways:

1. Mobile is now

One theme across many conference sessions included the importance of creating dashboards that work across screen sizes: desktop, tablet, and mobile. Fortunately, Tableau has a Dashboard Layout tool that allows you to create multiple versions of the same dashboard to optimize the display on different device sizes. Coming in 2019, there will be a default mobile view so that even if a dashboard never had a mobile version created, it will automatically transform into a mobile friendly view. This not only helps with older views but can make it faster to create custom mobile dashboards for your new projects.

2. Natural Language Processing (NLP) is next

Tableau’s mission is to help people see and understand data, but when they say people, they don’t just mean data scientists and spreadsheet wizards, they mean everyone. Even if you’re the type of person who thinks pie chart sounds like a tasty snack, they want to help you. An upcoming version of Tableau will have NLP built right in. This means you can write questions in English like “What are our sales in Q3 2018?” and Tableau will return the data in the best visualization. From there you can add additional text like “in the northeast region” to filter and drill-down or adjust it with the standard Tableau tools.

3. Interactive is best

I was reminded again that we need to make sure our SIGMA dashboards are interactive, flexible, and easy to use. It’s simple to put together a few charts, add a few filters and think you have a great dashboard, but it’s important to put yourself in the end user’s shoes and see what happens when you click on a bar chart (filter actions) and think “how can I make this dashboard work for a lot of people at once (parameters)?”

Here is a dashboard SIGMA created for SIGMA. It outlines work hours for each week and identifies when it gets off balance.

Of course you want to get feedback from your end user, but they may not know how to articulate their experience when it comes to options for interactivity.  Consider giving your dashboard to a colleague who is familiar with Tableau without telling them much about it to get feedback not only about interactivity, but anything else they may notice.  Looking at a dashboard with fresh eyes can help you really make it shine.

4. Who is this dashboard for?

Amid all the deeply technical sessions that I attend, I always try to make room for at least one session on soft skills.  Last year that was Design with the user in mind.  This year I checked out Start at the beginning | Gathering requirements for dream dashboards.  The presenter had lots of great ideas for making sure you’re building what your end user really wants.  Here are my top takeaways:

  1. Find the end user – Make sure you find who will really use your dashboard. Ask them open-ended questions about what they are trying to accomplish.
  2. Do it in their style – Use colors and chart types that work well for them.
  3. 3 x 1 rule – For every three things we do for our audience, we can do one thing for ourselves.
  4. Easter eggs – Put in something that will surprise and wow the user.

5. Fun!

There are hundreds of breakout sessions at Tableau, not to mention the hands-on training, Tableau Doctor, and insightful conversations in the hallways with fellow attendees. But it’s not all work and no play for attendees.  There’s plenty of fun to be had at receptions, mixers, and happy hours, and that’s even before you check out the jazz clubs on Bourbon Street! That is all just prologue to the last night of the conference and the party with 17,000 data nerds: Data Night Out.  This year it was at the Superdome.  We ran out onto the field where the Saints play each Sunday and had a huge, nerdy party.

The Tableau Conference is a great way to stay on top of what’s new and next at Tableau.  If you weren’t able to attend, but would like to learn more, many sessions were recorded and are available for free on the Tableau Conference website. And if you’re really excited, it’s not too early to sign up for 2019 when Tableau Conference returns to Las Vegas.

Adam Smith Speaks at the ABA Bank Marketing Conference

Check out Adam Smith delivering a great presentation on “Data and Machine Learning Worth your Time and Money”. Adam gave this speech at the American Banking Association’s 2018 Bank Marketing Conference in Baltimore, Maryland on September 24th. In this video he explores such customer segmentation, customer profiling and predictive modeling. He, also, wrote this blog on the same topic.

 

 

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B2B Data 101: Our Approach to Data

Often we are asked: what makes SIGMA’s data solutions different than others’ services and platforms? Simply put, we provide the best way to display and visualize unique metrics that inform important decisions at your company. Our approach to data sets the stage for everything we do!

The way people currently talk about data can make it seem like a difficult topic to grasp. From clean data and dirty data, to smart data, big data and partner data, as well as geographic, demographic, or firmographic data. What do all these data phrases have in common? They’re not too difficult to understand, if you have the right data partner.

Our Data Process

Your company continues to collect data from your clients and prospects, yet this data is most likely “dirty” — incomplete or overloaded with duplicates and inconsistencies. At SIGMA, we use multiple methods to  “clean” your data, including ensuring each record is complete and not re-entered somewhere else. Once your data has been through the cleaning process, we enrich it further by adding third-party data sources like geographic data or partner data and statistical model scores for prioritizations that boost your data to “smart” status.

Before sharing the data with you, our top data scientists run a variety of analyses to present insights that inform and transform. These insights are more actionable than relying on a CRM or other marketing automation tools alone, and effectively point your sales team to the right clients, showing your company how to grow or alert you to clients that may be leaving. With decades of experience, our data scientists pore over your data looking for insights, opportunities, and solutions to your most-pressing problems. We demonstrate these insights via dashboards, which are fully accessible through your mobile device.

A Continuing Data Strategy

Most companies stop there, but at SIGMA we realize the untapped potential of unmeasured client and prospect data. We strategize with you to understand ways to mine future data insights from new data sources because the more clean and enriched data you collect, the more in-depth our insights become.

SIGMA’s data approach is varied and flexible, always ensuring quality data gets back to you in the form of useful insights to drive your business decisions. We will always work with you to maximize your data resources and transform your business.

For a deeper analysis of this topic, we encourage you to check out the eBook “B2B Data 101” here, or subscribe to our blog for more interesting posts related to data.