Blogs By Author

Will
Sandy Marsico spreads holiday cheer on Vistage.com

Sandy has a featured post on Executive Street, the Vistage blog. “3 tips to designing a holiday party that your employees will love” is all about Sandy’s (and Sandstorm’s) unique approach to celebrating the season successfully.

Happy Holidays (and have a great holiday party)!

This blog was posted by Will on December 18, 2015.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Wall Street Journal and Vistage interview of Sandy Marsico, Sandstorm

Wall Street Journal and Vistage interview of Sandy Marsico, CEO of Sandstorm®

This blog was posted by Will on October 15, 2015.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Sandstorm is one of Chicago’s Best and Brightest Places to Work

Sandstorm is proud to be one of “Chicago’s 101 Best and Brightest Places to Work For” as named by the National Association for Business Resources.

It’s wonderful to be honored for something we’ve been passionately striving for – making Sandstorm the best place to work! Of all the small businesses in the Chicago area, we are in the Top 50. The selection process looks at all aspects of business including: compensation, recruitment, achievement and recognition, work-life balance, and more.

“It is rewarding to see that we excel at employee enrichment and engagement. 'Learning and Sharing' is a core value for us,” says our CEO, Sandy Marsico. “Every day Sandstormers grow and pass along their knowledge to other creatives, developers, and strategists.”

We also scored particularly high in strategic company performance. Our entire team is aligned to move us and our clients forward every day. Our consultative approach is always thinking about the latest digital trends and how to find white space opportunities for our clients.

It’s been an amazing year for Sandstorm. This honor is on top of being one of Chicago’s Coolest Offices, Crain's B2B Top Interactive Agency, and a Top 50 Gen Y Employer, too.

If you are a rockstar developer, UX designer, or strategist, contact us. We’re a growing agency, and we would love to see what we can do together.

This blog was posted by Will on July 1, 2015.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Nick Meshes, Director of Analytics and Optimization

[Ed. note: We're excited to introduce Nick Meshes, our new Director of Analytics and Optimization. What better way to learn more about him than through his own words?]

Where are you from?

I’m from the Internet. Actually, Chicagoland is home to me, though I am a south sider now living in a north sider’s world. I was born and raised in the suburbs along I-55 – Cicero, Brookfield, Lyons – and then eventually moved out to Bolingbrook after graduating from DePaul.

After a decade working in Downers Grove, my wife and I relocated to Little Rock, Arkansas. We had a great two and a half years there, and will cherish the memories and friends we made, but we are so glad to be back with our friends and family here in Chicagoland.

What is your title at Sandstorm?

I am the Director of Analytics and Optimization.

What does that mean?

That means I’m going to increase the quantitative focus around here.

While Sandstorm is already a premier agency for qualitative research, UX design, marketing strategy, and web development, we have an opportunity to increase our capabilities in web analytics, website optimization testing, and personalization.

You have a unique background with Sandstorm. Tell us a little about how you found us.

My wife, Alma, was Sandstorm’s 4th employee nearly 10 years ago. Over the years, I always felt like an honorary Sandstormer, celebrating at the holiday party, participating in the Guac-Off, hanging out with the great people who work here, and occasionally helping solve tough technical issues.

As Sandstorm has grown over the years, we have talked about me officially joining the team, but it never seemed like the right time. Then a couple months ago, Sandy and I started talking about how Sandstorm would like to form a department to focus on website analytics, conversion rate optimization, and web personalization – then she asked if I would like to head it up! I was super excited to build something from scratch – leveraging my technical and organizational skills while also having this amazing opportunity to grow alongside Sandstorm.

What are you most excited about doing at Sandstorm?

I’ve always worked on the back office side of marketing. My customers were the folks delivering insights about consumers and businesses while I was delivering insights about how to do that more efficiently.

Watching from a distance, I have always been fascinated by all the aspects of how this thing called “marketing” worked. I love the art, psychology, strategy, and, of course, the technology. I love how things are getting more complex and data-driven as the field starts to move at the speed of the Internet.

I am so excited to get a seat up front, to work with and learn from people with these amazing skills and talents, and to play on the team that helps organizations use marketing in a way that is inspiring and effective.

Together, we’re going to create a mix more delicious than the winner of the Guac-Off. I am glad to be a part of that mix, and I am proud to make Sandstorm (and the north side) my home.

This blog was posted by Will on June 24, 2015.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Sandstorm had fun with these Stanley Cup-cakes

Everyone at Sandstorm is excited about the Chicago Blackhawks winning their sixth Stanley Cup! 

As we’ve all anxiously watched games throughout the season(s), we noticed something familiar. (No, not “Chelsea Dagger.”) The Hawks display core values similar to ours. (If you need a reminder they are: Learning and Sharing, Warrior Spirit, and Have Fun) We haven’t changed our business to be more hockey-centered, but the connections between our winning formula and theirs is pretty clear. 

Learning and Sharing

The Hawks are always training. They’ve never rested on their laurels from past wins. They don’t rely on their skill and natural talent. Every day they’re practicing and training to be a stronger and more agile team. They’re studying their past games to improve their performance and to make note of what their competition is doing.

Some of them have been at this for a long time, consider the coaching staff. Everyone has an experience or expertise that they can share with their teammates to help them improve.

Warrior Spirit

How much do I have to say about this? HAVE YOU EVER WATCHED THEM PLAY?!

They take every game seriously, and they have each other’s back. They’re a team first and foremost. There are stars (the ones on commercials and billboards), but on the ice they are all working toward the same goal. 

Everyone is putting out their best to win, not for themselves, but for the whole team. Look at Duncan Keith logging over 715 minutes in the postseason. Goalie, Corey Crawford shutout 25 goal attempts in Game 6 of the finals alone. That’s a LOT of Warrior Spirit. 

Have Fun

After all the hard work they’ve put in this season, now is the time to have fun. Following the intensity, the team can finally unwind. If you’ve seen the news this week, you’ll know that they have, too, in clubs, parties, and the friendly confines of Wrigley Field.

Yesterday they’ve had a ticker-tape parade through downtown Chicago with at-capacity rally in Soldier Field. They have the attention of the city and the world, and they all get the opportunity to share their excitement and win with their day with the Stanley Cup at a venue of their choosing. Many choose to go to their hometowns to share with their families and friends.

Getting to the Cup

All of these factors come together to win. We at Sandstorm don’t have a cup we’re aiming for, we just want to do good work for good people. While we’re not in the national spotlight, we work just as hard together to make great things happen. Whether it’s a responsive website or a rebranding project, our team is working to make our clients scream “GOOAALLLLLLLLLLLL!”

[Our image for this post is of delicious Stanley Cup-cakes that Alicia brought in from Bennison's. Celebration never tasted so good!]

This blog was posted by Will on June 19, 2015.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Capturing Sandstorm’s “Cool” to Become One of Crain’s Coolest

Did you hear?!!! Crain’s Chicago Business Magazine chose Sandstorm as one of Chicago’s Coolest Offices. It’s a big honor, and it was a lot of fun to get us nominated (and ultimately chosen). The nominations took place over social media and required a lot of pictures (you can see most of them on our Instagram account).

I worked with Nathan (he’s got a nice camera), and I went to town. Our office is cool as it is, but it’s chock full of easter eggs. The team all have fun trinkets on their desk (or in my case a whole bunch of bric a brac). We also have a lot fun details around, too, such as samples and our chandeliers (check out our “Purple Palace” and “Cheese Room”). I thought about interesting angles and lights and got some pretty cool shots, so cool that we got selected ;).

I really loved getting to play around and show off our awesome space (I especially love the up-close shot of Megan’s solar powered toys). With an expansion underway and more cool things to come, I’m sure we’ll catch some attention for our coolness next year, too. (I’ve already got some ideas.)

This blog was posted by Will on December 9, 2014.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
An “Investment” in Rebranding: A Little Collaboration Goes a Long Way

One project I particularly enjoyed being a part of is the marketing for Ellwood Associates. In case you didn’t know, Ellwood delivers thoughtful investment consulting for endowments, healthcare, high-net-worth individuals, and families.

This year Sandstorm reimagined their brand based on extensive user research we conducted in 2013. (I was involved in that part of the project, too.) As the creative team worked on logos and brand boards, I got the opportunity to work alongside Ellwood to revise all of their web content. Based in their positioning, we crafted a voice and tone for the brand that represent their extremely thoughtful approach.

Being active in the research portion of the process, I knew the audience’s needs and I knew how they spoke–literally, I heard how they talked about their businesses through the interview. It was rewarding to build website content after being involved with every step along the way. This has resulted in clear and thoughtful copy that meets Ellwood’s needs, user needs, and best practices, too.

As a thoughtful client, their attention to detail with marketing echos their attention to detail when consulting for their clients. I’m excited for the launch of this new brand and to see how their new marketing efforts impact both their business and the marketplace.

This blog was posted by Will on December 4, 2014.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
What does "Yes, and" mean? Why is it important at Sandstorm?

Since our founding, Sandstorm has followed a “yes, and” approach. What does that mean?

Yes

For us it’s a matter of how we think in regards to our concepting. With our user-centered marketing approach, we want everyone we work with to know that we hear them. This yields a concept that reflects the needs and requirements from the business and the user. This results in the “yes” concept.

And

We then go a little farther. We’re a bunch of thinkers and dreamers. We try to take the concepts and see where it takes us. This result is something that meets the users' needs but in a form that goes beyond their expectation. This concept is Sandstorm pushing ourselves creatively and in effect pushing our clients, too. This is the “and.”

This is a creative marketing term now, but where did it come from?

The terminology for “yes and” came from the theater. Actually, just a few miles from our Chicago office. Starting with the Compass Players and Second City then later at iO, this concept is used to create improvised stories. For the improviser “yes and” means “yes, I hear you and understand the information you’re presenting, and I’m going to add something to heighten our interaction.” (Full disclosure, I am an improviser when I’m not writing and strategizing.)

An illustrative example

Consider this scenario, Person 1 steps on stage and says “This paper is despicable. I’m going to have to give you an F.” Person 2 in her head thinks: Yes, I am a student and you’re the teacher. We’re in a classroom. I’m failing, and I think it’s because I wrote about a subject you don’t approve, and responds “Well, it’s probably because you don’t respect the intricacies of the writing of Stephenie Meyer.”

From there the scene goes forward because of “yes, and”-ing. It can go into a conversation about how the teacher and student have different ideas of high art, or can go on to show that the teacher really loves “Twilight” and the student is just a bad writer.

But this could have only developed because of the “yes, and.” Had she only “Yes”-ed it would have played out like this:

Person 1 says “This paper is despicable. I’m going to have to give you an F.” Person 2 in her head: Yes, I am a student and you’re the teacher. We’re in a classroom. I’m failing, and she responds “I’m a terrible student.”

That adds no information, and it doesn’t make anything more interesting. In effect, it ends any progression by cutting off the potential of what could happen.

“Yes, and” implications for storytelling in marketing

As this concept creates scenarios on stage for improvisers, this can also be directly applied to how a business’ or an overall creative concept’s story is told. This can cover overarching campaigns, visual creative executions, and specifically, content marketing. Keeping an open mind while editing and writing, enables the writer, like myself, to fully take on the role as a storyteller. This involves removing parameters and preconceptions to open opportunities to craft a story.  The end result is interesting and involving instead of dry content that is primarily facts, figures, and business-talk.

Yes, of course, you need data within your words, but the reader needs more than just that to keep reading. By making each content interaction a storytelling opportunity, you’re engaging the reader actively and driving them to want more.

Back at Sandstorm

By “yes, and”-ing at Sandstorm we listen to what our clients want, what they expect, and then add to it to make something greater. We could only “yes,” but that would keep our project in neutral. It’s the “and” that helps move concepts forward and gets everyone to think and imagine in a whole new way.

Following a “yes, and” philosophy enhances our collaboration both internally and with our clients. We open the doors to all possibilities and sometimes surprise ourselves, too. By coming to a project of any kind with an open mind, we can see truly what is possible. This heightened thinking allows us to produce results that help clients exceed their goals and move their business forward.

This blog was posted by Will on October 16, 2014.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

Will
Time for your close up
This blog was posted by Will on September 5, 2014.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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Will
Say cheese!
This blog was posted by Will on August 20, 2014.
Will Biby

About the Author

Will Biby

Will wears many hats at Sandstorm. From writing web content to executing social media strategies, he is quick to act and insistent on a job done right. Will enjoys writing, so expect to hear from him often on the blog.

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