Give Us a Call Today (813) 205-1229


Viewing posts from the SMARTS Blog category

Alignment & Innovation Through Inquiry

The Creative Power of Inquiry                                     

Every creative initiative requires an establishment of clarity; an alignment of strategy, needs, and desires with innovation and the means to deliver successful outcomes. Most of us are familiar with the terms, due diligence, discovery or, other introductory exchanges. In every case, this work is “framed” by asking questions; hopefully the right ones!

This business of asking questions frequently gets lost in check lists or pro forma questions that reveal important inputs to start a project, but the real power of finding the best stuff; real differentiation in new, innovative ways isn’t applied. So we seek to raise the bar on the art and science of inquiry.

“The important and difficult job is not to find the right answer; it is to find the right question.” – Peter Drucker (widely recognized as the “father” of management theory)

Organizations frequently hold group sessions for brainstorming solutions to problems or in open ideation. These sessions typically elicit answers that are relevant to the subject matter, but often don’t yield breakthrough ideas. We encourage an alternative to brainstorming: QuestionStorming.question mark

In questionstorming, collaborative time is invested in ideating many questions focused around a problem, situation or opportunity. The objective is to challenge participants to develop and, then, refine a list of questions in seeking the most insightful perspectives for follow up. This process often reveals hidden problems and opportunities that would likely have been missed. Diversity among the group; meaning a diversity of life and business experience that is unique to each person, fuels the creativity and breadth of the work.

Hal Gregersen, Executive Director of the MIT Leadership Center and author of The Innovator’s DNA, speaks of rediscovering a child-like curiosity about the world; taking on the endless cycle of “whys”. Asking probing, provocative questions is the root foundation of innovation.

Within the context of Gregersen’s book, DNA is code for “Discovering New Associations”. Big ideas, breakthroughs are often associated with discovering new associations; think of a chef who discovers a new ingredient in some part of the world and then combines it with an existing recipe that becomes a best seller. Finding new associations among your assets and across their networks is a wonderful reward for time spent in finding the right questions.

Insightful video from Gregersen may be found at

Journalist and innovation expert, Warren Berger, echos the notion of encouraging child-like curiosity, and takes a deep dive into finding imaginative, “beautiful” questions. His book, “A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas”, is a wonderful resource for those seeking growth or mastery in the discipline of inquiry.

A relevant (short) video by Warren Berger may be found at

So, we raise our glass to new ways of thinking. It’s simple in theory; a bit more difficult in practice, but worth the effort. Begin with…
Imagine if…..?
How might we…?
What would that look like?
Why, Why, Why, Why, Why?


You keep hearing about the need for SEM and SEO for your website, but all you hear is alphabet soup. What are SEM and SEO? What is the difference between them and does your company even need these to be successful? We’re here to help.

What is SEM and SEO?

To put it plainly, SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) are types of digital marketing. These practices are specifically used to promote your websitSEM SEO SOS Imagees by increasing their usability in Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) like Google or Bing.

SEM is a broader practice of increasing web usability that uses SEO and paid advertisement listings, like Pay per Click (PPC) or Google Adwords campaigns. In other words, SEM can be thought of as buying traffic to your site through paid search listings. By using SEM you can instantly increase your web traffic and it guarantees a better visibility on search engine results pages.

SEO is the unpaid component of SEM. It increases your web traffic organically by adjusting or rewriting your website content architecture in order to achieve higher rankings. In other words, SEO uses content already on your website to help search engines “read” and properly index your site, and increase traffic.

SEO can be even further broken down into active SEO and passive SEO. Active SEO refers to going outside your site to build or influence other sites to point to you. This can be achieved through consistently creating new content, like blog posts.  New followers begin to recognize you as a thought leader in your market space and link to your site. Passive SEO refers to the management of SEO that is on your site, including using tags correctly, reusing keywords and having good descriptions and articles. Search engines, like Google and Bing, use both passive and active factors in their algorithms to make sure that they are providing relevant information to their searchers.

SEO is important for companies that want to be found online and increase website traffic. It’s inexpensive and will increase traffic over time, however it is a long term approach. Having good SEO doesn’t mean that the next day you are going to increase your rankings in searches. SEO establishes your presence and search engine credibility and, just like the real world, it takes a while for the word to get out.

SEM (PPC/Adwords) on the other hand instantly increases your web traffic. The people who see SEM advertisements are actively searching the keywords you acquire. However, it’s a paid service so you will be coming out of pocket.

Would my company benefit?

Many businesses benefit from SEM and nearly all benefit from better SEO practices. But it is important to assess website intent, use, and market dynamics when a business is considering SEM options.   One “size” definitely does not fit all!

Jordan Spieth Sets Records & a Fine Example

The media is rife with examples of celebrities, sports stars, public and corporate leaders demonstrating a “lowering of the bar” for conduct, fueling cynicism and making many of us wonder whether a worthy role model is to be found these days. But every now and then the world is treated to something extra special that transcends its own context or genre; something that captures our attention and re-calibrates our expectations of personal and profeJordan Spiethssional behavior. Right now we are enjoying the emergence of this rare phenomenon in professional golfer, Jordan Spieth.

Jordan began to attract the attention of golf fans at the tender age of 14, even appearing in a (now famous) video sharing his desire to some day win the Masters Championship. As a two-time winner of the United States Junior Amateur Championship (2009, 2011), and an anchor of the 2012 University of Texas Longhorns NCAA Championship team, he continued to demonstrate his potential for greatness, turning pro in 2012 at age 19.

Having notched his first PGA Tour win at the 2013 John Deere Classic, Spieth became the first teenager to win a Tour event in 82 years. But the magic of his skill and character began to draw worldwide attention in late 2014 as Jordan won the Australian Open with an 8 under par final round and a 6 shot victory, followed by a 10 shot win at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge in December. In early March of 2015, Spieth won again – this time the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook in extra holes. He then realized his dream of winning the Masters Championship in April, as the second youngest winner of this prestigious championship in history.

During this 79th playing of the Masters, the golf world seemed to light up with renewed excitement and energy reminiscent of Tiger’s dominant years, as the now 21 year old Spieth played with a calm demeanor and maturity far beyond his years, setting or matching many performance records. His interactions with his caddie and other players, thoughtful and intelligent comments in interviews, and the depth of his respect for the history of the game drew rave remarks and praise, spilling over from the golf world to main stream media. Grace under pressure, adjusting to and managing adversity, and maintaining focus under incredible competitive fire power and the fragile state of proximity to realizing a dream that could be dashed by a single errant shot; what a show!

June brought us the United States Open, the second Major championship of the year on the links style Chambers Bay Golf Course in Washington state. Conditions at Chambers Bay were challenging and a bit controversial, but Spieth again demonstrated poise, focus, and skill without complaint, outlasting Dustin Johnson on the final hole to become the youngest winner of the U.S. Open since Bobby Jones in 1923. In picking up the second Major of the season, Jordan joined the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Craig Wood as the only men to win both of these tournaments in the same year.

The stage was now set and the chatter at full volume about a possible single year Grand Slam run (winning all four Major championships in one year) raising the hype, excitement, expectations of, and certainly the pressurSt Andrewse on this young man as The Open Championship at St. Andrews approached. Yet another window into Jordan’s character was provided by his decision to play the John Deere Classic, honoring a commitment made rather than opting to prepare for the Open Championship at a links style tournament in Scotland. A classy move and, yes, he won the tournament in a playoff.

Now the number 2 professional golfer in the world, Spieth played The Open Championship under extreme pressure that only seemed to affect fans, commentators, and other players. In the end, he finished one shot short of a playoff for the third Major of the year, but he won more hearts and minds, and the respect of the sporting world handling the loss with grace and true sportsmanship.

So, time will tell how far this remarkable young man will go; how deeply he will rewrite the history books. The fourth and final Major of the year, the PGA Championship is coming next week. A win at Whistling Straits would make Spieth one of only three players in history to hold 3 Majors in a season, along with Woods and Hogan. We can’t wait to watch!

So, why, you might ask, are we writing about a professional golfer in this forum at all? Simple, really; the example set by Jordan Spieth, especially given his age, inspired us. His commitment to excellence, pursuing success within a highly competitive landscape with dignity, courtesy, and good sportsmanship. These behaviors should be fundamental qualities of all companies, and the reminder comes to us wrapped in the meteoric rise of this amazing young man. A true role model for our times.


Referral Marketing – Trust Marketing

In this piece, SavvyCard CEO, David Etheredge, shares his perspectives on referral marketing: networking for personal and professional growth, building trusted relationships that add value to your life and business.   How do you value your network of trusted friends, colleagues, vendors, and customers?  Reputation, confidence, reliability seen and unseen; Trust Marketing.

SMARTS invites you to enjoy this excellent video!

Buying Creative Services

Marketing Savvy

As always, companies seek out and deploy effective marketing strategies to build business.  In the new economy, the energy, urgency, and marketing options evolve and emerge at a pace that continues to accelerate, which presents opportunities for messaging through a variety of channels, in many cases, at lower cost.

As creative agencies adopt and leverage the tech-enabled tools of the trade, and open up distribution of graphic, motion graphic, video, and audio arts in service of clients through traditional and digital media in more ways than ever, buyers of these services will benefit from understanding the creative process and how these assets are produced.

In this video interview, Owner and Chief Marketing Officer of SavvyDog Design, Lisa Nalewak, shares her thoughts about the client-agency relationship.  She shares information about the skill sets and application of creative, technical, and strategic professionals in producing graphic arts for business applications.  Lisa’s insights will help build understanding and confidence in buying from these specialty service companies.

Branding and Marketing Planning with Dean Guitars CEO, Elliott Rubinson


The CEO of Armadillo Enterprises, Elliott Rubinson agreed to be the first contributing expert to the SMARTS Library entrepreneurship and business video project;  Armadillo Enterprises owns the popular musical instrument brands, Dean Guitars, Luna Guitars, and Ddrum drums; brands that Elliott and his team have built into one of the worlds largest musical instrument manufacture/distribution companies in the world.

Elliott delivers an interesting and informative look into the origins, strategies, and marketing planning aspects from formative years and present operations, and the shoot provides a look behind the scenes at their Tampa headquarters, warehouse, and USA guitar custom shop.

This is the first post in the new SMARTS Video Blog, that will feature successful entrepreneurs, business owners, subject matter experts, and thought leaders on a variety of topics of interest to business capitalization, leadership, marketing, advertising, law, technology, communications, interesting companies, and the media arts.

I hope you enjoy this interview and all those to come.