From the Feb. 6 issue of GSA Business Report.
Technology continues to grow as part of different business sectors.
From robots working side-by-side with people to assemble vehicles at BMW Manufacturing Co. in Spartanburg to Clemson University researchers working on vehicle automation and embedded digital safety measures for drivers, advances in technology continue to astound.
But, one sector that may not be recognized for use of new technology and innovation is the creative space.
We looked at four different creative businesses — a video production company, marketing company, social media maven and a website development business — all located within Endeavor in downtown Greenville, and examined how each business is utilizing new technology.
Skyline Post and Lingo Films are companies specializing in commercial, feature film and television production. Their client list includes Belk and Greenville Health System.
Randall Owens, executive producer for the companies, said in the past collaborating with clients on video was a challenge. From sending video over the internet to having to render various productions to different formats, the collaboration process was cumbersome and time-consuming.
Using a new software program called Screenlight, the process of working with clients on video has not only become less bulky, but has added efficiency. Owens said the software allows Skyline Post staff to share projects with clients in various formats — created by the software, not the staff — and get feedback on projects specific to the second.
“There is no ambiguity at all,” Owens said. “It translates from start to finish.”
Skyline started looking for a new way to work with clients while working with a client that had many people involved in the process of producing and approving commercials, which made tracking necessary changes difficult for Skyline producers. Owens said things would get lost in email and there were instances where there was no accountability for decisions made by the client.
With this new tool, Skyline Post staff can track changes instantaneously and, more importantly for Owens, there is a heightened level of accountability for both the client and Skyline Post staff.
“We were having to track things manually,” Owens said. “It streamlined everything and made life easier for all of us.”
Working with a multitude of clients around the country, Owens said being able to collaborate on this new level was “a game-changer” to the video production industry. Compatibility and time are no longer hindrances to work.
“It was a dream product and it was something the industry had been waiting for,” Owens said. “Whatever the next thing is, it hasn’t been thought up yet.”
For Ray Owens, the marketing business has grown beyond just direct mailings.
Owens, the president of Savannah, Ga.-based DX Marketing and no relation to Skyline Post’s Randall Owens, said the company is taking data and analytics to a new level by integrating 260 million data points with over 800 variables to create pinpoint target marketing.
“We feel marketing is most effective when we really know what our customer wants,” he said.
The process started as a partnership between DX Marketing and data management giant Epsilon. After profiling a client, DX staff can take data from related demographics, place it in a digital exchange and market client advertising based on an individual’s internet browsing habits in real time.
An example Ray Owens uses is for an urgent care client. DX staff took the locations where the client had offices and pulled specific demographic data of people who may be inclined to need urgent care services. From there, the data went into an exchange and if a person in the demographic visited a particular medical site — like WebMD — they would see advertising from the urgent care client.
The point is to put the client in front of a potential customer even before that customer does an internet search for urgent care services.
He said because the data is so specific, DX Marketing’s data analysts can target specific audiences and not cast a wide net, which can save clients money. It is different from target marketing done by companies like Google, because the data used by Google is anonymous.
“Because we know who we put in the exchange, we can match up the leads to a true ROI on a campaign,” Ray Owens said. “It’s really just a cool way to take a prospect list, put it in an exchange and marry it with real time behavior.”
DX Marketing was awarded the 2016 Platform Innovation Award from technology company Oracle for its use of data and analytics.
From a business perspective, Ray Owens said the ability to use deep data has allowed the company to bring in more business in the last 18 months than the previous 15 years combined.
Ashley Brown Strategy
When Ashley Brown walks into a room, you can’t help but notice she comes equipped with a laptop, camera and cell phone.
Brown, 26, operates her own advertising company that specializes in e-blasts, blogging and posting to various social media sites for clients. She has mastered the use of technology to the point where she can take a photo with her camera, get it on her phone and post it to a social media channel in under a minute.
By using a Wi-Fi digital media card inside her Nikon 3100 camera to transfer photos from the card to her phone, Brown takes posting to channels like Facebook and Instagram to a whole new level. She can use her hardware and software to bypass the steps of downloading photos or video from a camera to a laptop, process the photos, pick one and upload it … a process that used to be much longer than a minute.
“I used to have the camera without the functionality,” Brown said. “But, it didn’t make a lot of sense to do it that way.”
She said the new process, while costing more up front, has proven to be a time- and money-saver in the long run, which is important because “time is money when you are self-employed.” And, at $75 per hour, the more Brown can accomplish in a short amount of time, the better.
Now, Brown has gone from a start-up business to being on retainer for five businesses with the potential for a sixth in the near future.
“Since I’ve grown as a business, I have had to spend money on technology,” Brown said. “Now, I can work faster and make my clients happier.”
While she has space inside Endeavor, Brown has the ability to be functional on the go. In fact, most of her work is done in that fashion. Being connected and operating a business specializing in social connectivity has proven to be a sweet spot for Brown. That may not have been possible if not for the technology available for her specific skillset.
“I love what I do and I just love my life right now,” she said.
Much like Skyline Post, collaboration used to be an issue for the staff at A-Line Interactive.
The custom web developer and digital marketer once had to track trails of internal emails to manage various projects. Nicole Cendrowski, director of engagement for A-Line, said it became necessary for the company to find a more effective way to communicate with each other.
Enter Asana, a web-based collaborative tool the company now uses to manage projects from start to finish. The program allows teams to work on different projects at the same time, without getting lost and losing out on feedback and tasks.
“We are more efficient with projects and that has helped us be at or under budget for our clients,” Cendrowski said.
Now, emails on projects are a thing of the past as Asana gives A-Line team members the ability to see the progress of any particular project by simply opening the project in the platform.
“The main impetus to reach for something like this was because everything was done with email,” Cendrowski said. “It made things more distant.”
She said working with members of a team in a different location seems more like everyone is in the same room. And, more importantly, project tasks are simply communicated.
“Because of our internal processes, it has really reduced the amount of email we have and that has really helped because we like to keep things as simple as possible,” Cendrowski said.
While there are no immediate plans to open Asana to clients, Cendrowski said there is the potential to try using the collaboration tool externally with some clients in a “sandbox” format to test the waters.
“A lot of that would be to gauge the client and see what they are comfortable with,” Cendrowski said.