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Courting Clients with Marketing Strategy Workshops

Ten years ago, when the real estate bubble finally burst, Jeff Pulvino closed his decade-old real estate investment company and sweated through the “Now What?” people face when they find themselves out of a job. Social marketing was in its infancy. Jeff pivoted his company, and, using the strengths of its internal marketing department, jumped into Facebook marketing, and, ultimately, built a full-service digital marketing agency. It was not an easy climb.

Eight years into agency life, Jeff realized that, without a strategic plan, the agency was just “marketing in the dark,” and often failing to deliver what customers wanted and expected – a specific goal had never been communicated. Today, most of their 4- to 5- year-long client relationships start with a marketing strategy workshop, a 30-day, low-level engagement where the parties can mutually get to know each other, discuss objectives and strategies in depth, and determine if there is a “fit.”

Jeff explains that “most entrepreneurs, business owners, and established businesses come . . . for marketing, but they have no real defined marketing strategy.” As an additional challenge, these clients often come to Boost when declining sales have left them strapped for cash. They may know the results they want . . . and desperately need to survive. They may even by hyper-focused on some particular technology, but often fail to have an understanding of realistic timelines.

Boost Media Group takes a step back, looks at the realities of cash flows, calculates how long it will take to generate a return on investment, and then crafts programs that address a client’s current cash needs and long-term growth objectives. Starting with this workshop session has exponentially increased Boot’s close rate and its ability to attract new customers. One of Boost Media Group’s sub-brands, Fitness Media, helps “big name clients” in the fitness industry develop their funnels and monetize their brands.

In this interview, Jeff identifies some of Boost’s keys to success. In the early years of the agency, he focused on sales. Over time, he has learned that it is not about how much the agency sells . . . it’s more important to make sure clients are a good fit. He credits having a robust technology stack of project management tools, templates, and proven processes . . . and iteratively improving those processes to meet the needs of his employees, clients, and his company . . . to being able to consistently deliver great results.

Boost recently acquired another agency, SearcherMagnet, which is “highly specialized in direct response lead acquisition.” Jeff says that acquiring another company brought with it experienced, high-level, passionate team members that Boost never would have been able to hire. He looks forward to expanding more this way in the future.

Jeff can be reached on his company’s website at: https://boostmediagroup.com/, by phone, on Live Chat, or by filling out a Contact Us form.

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Stalling? Rebrand. Relocate. Rethink Strategy.

John Hernandez is Owner and Partner at On Advertising, a marketing and advertising agency that has, over the past 26 years, rebranded itself, leveraged “new identities,” survived a recession, and increased and changed its client base.

In this interview, John talks about his company’s “humble beginnings” and reveals the strategic decisions that helped it grow.

Ron Meritt, a television meteorologist, started NPR Public Relations in 1993 as a side gig. He provided traditional PR for nonprofit organizations . . . working out of his house with 1 client.

In 2002, John accepted Ron’s invitation to join the business and quit his job at the television station. They took out an SBA loan to cover payroll, rebranded the company as PRfect Media, and offered a flat fee “one-stop-shop for everything” marketing solution for small businesses. In addition to traditional marketing services – billboards, TV, radio, PR, and support – they utilized video, a technology application new for marketing. John’s television-world experience – in graphic design and in scripting, shooting, and editing video – provided a differentiating and cost-saving advantage for both the agency and its clients: They didn’t need to hire outside firms for those services.

Six or seven years ago, the agency was doing a lot of non-traditional work, but people on the outside perceived them as a traditional PR firm. What to do?

How about doing the same thing the agency would do for its clients?

John and Ron tasked the agency’s employees to rebrand the company and On Advertising was born: The employees set the color palette, the logo, and the brand. In a bold move, the agency took out a revolving loan and relocated the company from a commercial building in the Phoenix suburbs to a downtown high-rise, putting their signage on a street with heavy traffic all through the day. That move almost doubled their business: they were now visible, accessible, and re-defined.

John says On Advertising has two growth strategies: to build the business organically and to expand its client base and capabilities through mergers and acquisitions. The agency still maintains its revolving credit line to even out the cash flow and to facilitate these acquisitions and mergers.

John lists a number of keys to On Advertising’s success:

He believes the company gets traction as long as it treats itself as a client: spending money on itself; boosting its website presence, Google Analytics, and social media presence; and embracing media marketing technology.

He emphasizes that it is as critically important to have “trustworthy team members on the outside” (CPA, attorneys, PEO) as it is to have good employees.

And, to weather a recession, as this company did in 1987-88: John recommends developing multiple streams of income.

John can be reached on his company’s website at: https://onadvertising.com/

Continue reading “Stalling? Rebrand. Relocate. Rethink Strategy.”

Entrepreneurship: Planning + Process = Profits

What kind of marketing agency picks Wichita, Kansas – a city very close to the geographic center of the
continental United States, for its headquarters?
How about an agency with 4 media buyers, providing everything marketing from traditional media buys
to a full-range of digital services including online presence and reputation management, and serving an
extremely diverse clientele.
What kind of employees would choose to work for such an out-of-the-way agency?
Could be people who enjoy a slower pace, a shorter work week, a culturally-rich/affordable life-style,
extended benefits, and a five- or ten-minute commute to the office.
Advantage Marketing strategizes with diverse client companies about what needs to happen with their
businesses, collects a “lot of information,” and develops a “lot of data” to determine when and where to
place ads to reach the target client base. Customized, multiplatform marketing initiatives blend
traditional marketing with newer, “personalized” digital plans. “bridging from one media to the next.”
Cori outlines a number of promotional targeting strategies she is excited about for the coming year. As
an example, she expects a “boom” in OTT (over the top/subscription) and DTV-connected television,
which allows focused zip code and contextual targeting and cross-device matching.
Cori started her career as a sales rep in broadcast television. After 5 years, she joined an agency. After
five years there, still not “settled,” she started Advantage Marketing. Her partner, Amy Hoefer, who has
a background in cable television, joined the agency in a year later. Cori believes that an in-depth
understanding of media buying planning has been critical to her agency’s growth and that it is important
to establish and document processes to ensure scalability and continued organizational success
In this interview, Cori explains the process she used to grow her agency fast – and increase its service
offerings at the same time. In 2017, four years after agency started, Cori and Amy decided the best way
to “grow” would be to acquire another agency. It wasn’t something they wanted to do “on the fly.”
They selected a “great accountant” and a “great attorney,” discussed with them their goals and
objectives, and targeted a successful company whose owner wanted to retire. They signed the
necessary non-disclosure agreements and requested and reviewed the company’s client list and
financials. Advantage had the capital to purchase the agency, but Amy has had a number of
entrepreneurship classes, done a lot of research, and learned this: “Don’t spend your own money. Get a
loan.” Makes sense. A “loan” leaves an intact “cushion” for dealing with daily business expenses.
Cori took an SBDC (Small Business Development Center) Emerging Leaders Program last year to learn
more about scaling her business, planning growth, and getting the agency’s processes documented and
in place. She relies on the SBA (Small Business Association) for valuable information on how to run her
business and, interestingly, still gets periodic mentoring from the woman who owned the agency she
bought.
Cori can be reached on social media, on her company’s website at: https://admarkict.com/ 0r by phone
at: 316.729.0500.

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Branding Advocacy (on Purpose) with Attitude

Josh Belhumeur is Managing Partner at Brink, a creative group that uses culturally relevant art content and experiences through a variety of initiatives to engage audiences and build brands for products, political candidates, and progressive causes. 

In this interview, Josh explains how his agency, which started as three guys in a Tucson garage doing web development, evolved into a full-service, “all things media, all things internet, all things digital” agency with attitude and two physical locations. Only recently has the leadership at Brink started to understand who they are, who they want to be, and what they want to create . . . and it is the nexus between brand development and socially-responsible advocacy.

A consultancy branch of the organization works with C-suite level executives to discern product market fit and develop an organization’s ability to innovate. An indie film “wing” distributes about 150 titles worldwide and on subscription platforms. 

On the agency side, client-focused teams (a UX lead, an art lead, a producer, and a strategist)

  1. Help brands identify their purpose and bring that purpose to market 
  2. Produce excellent, timely, relevant, and digitally-rooted creative work

Josh joined Brink (2006) to work on strategy and business development. He moved to Washington, D.C. to expand the agency’s client base and found “a lot of government, a lot of politics, a lot of advocacy” and a lot of “learning.” In Washington, organizations often align under the same brand – a for-profit, a nonprofit, and a super Political Action Committee – separate entities, but run side by side. This provides the flexibility for the organization’s “branches” to have separate missions and do different things while utilizing the same internal knowledge and resources.

Brink grew up with the internet. Around a year and a half ago, troubled by the power of the internet to distort truth, Brink launched a 501(c)(3), now managed by Josh’s partner, to address what Josh refers to as the 4 destructive forces of the internet/ social media:

  1. The filter bubble: Social media platforms will push content to you that matches your beliefs. You are more likely to interact with this content. They make more money
  2. The sensationalist skew: People are more likely to react to the outrageous. Again, more money
  3. Binary thinking: Digital platforms will push people into little boxes. If Facebook senses you are considering buying a home, its algorithms will push content related to home-buying.
  4. Unclear authority: The proliferation of fake news makes it hard to know who and what to believe. 

The goal of the Brink Foundation is to educate people on these four destructive forces and then target messages to offset the harmful effects of the internet and reduce political polarization. Knowing their “purpose” has lost clients for Brink . . . but gained new clients who are better aligned with the agency’s interests. Win-win.

Brink’s unique value ad? The ability to work with brands, introduce activism, help them brands guild out activism programs, and unify that activism into their brand strategy. According to Josh, “Being an activist brand is the strongest way you can find a tribe.”

Josh can be reached on his agency’s website at: https://brink.com/ , where you will find information on the agency, the consultancy, their films, and the Brink Foundation.

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How to Avoid Being a Commodity

Mike Stratta founded Arcalea on the idea that digital marketing and advertising should be objective, not subjective. In this interview, Mike talks about the importance of focus: on a very deep and narrow skillset, on a limited niche of (service) industry clients, on engendering a great company culture, and on hiring great people. 

Mike built Arcalea’s service offerings around the things he really loved to do. Arcalea provides comprehensive quantitative analysis and implements tactics based on that analysis and how brands are positioned online. Mike believes it takes significant due diligence to prevent scope creep from paralyzing the creative process. Arcalea stays out of the creative arena by cultivating relationships with partner agencies to provide clients with creative content.

Mike thinks that it is essential for any business to ask itself, “What can we provide at such a depth that we differentiate ourselves from our competition?” . . . and “How can we provide a higher level of service than others in our same space?” Companies that fail to build a deep enough or wide enough economic moat risk becoming price-driven commodities. 

When Mike started Arcalea, he had already built and sold an agency, but one that dealt with blue-chip companies. He tells his audience that, “When working with those big brands, you are just a commodity” and explains how these giants put the squeeze on small agencies to provide more at a cheaper price . . . because they can always find someone else to do the work. 

Today, his agency serves companies with $5 million to $500 million in revenue . . . where the agency can work directly with the C-Suite decision-makers and the client base is more nimble and responsive to changes in direction than larger organizations or subsidiaries of those larger organizations. Mike’s ideal customers are those who are a cultural match for Arcalea: the ideal relationship is one of appreciation/ advocacy/ trusted partner – and he definitely eschews being a “vendor” because vendors are commodities.

Critical to long-term success? Mike says, “Hire slow. Hire the person who sees more in the future of the position than you do. Hire the person who will be a 10x game-changer.” Then, he says, “Lock them down with a cultural fit and cultural environment and even more pay than you first intended so they will never want to leave, no matter how much someone else offers them.”

Mike also addresses the difficulty of implementing policies in a period of fast growth, as his company experienced when it grew 2800% over a period of three years and made position #149 the very first year it qualified for the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing privately held companies in the U.S. Whew!

Mike can be reached on his company’s website at https://arcalea.com/ or on LinkedIn.

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Heating Up the Market for Consumer Packaged Goods

Greg Keating is Agency Operations Manager and Business Development Lead at Hangar12, a fully remote, digital marketing agency that has been in Greg’s family in one form or another for 3 generations, and transitioned from brick-and-mortar to fully remote in 2015. 

After a college internship his father arranged at what is today Hangar12 (No, thank you!), Greg started his career in production supply chain management, doing supply chain and marketing analytics, and “proving himself” in massive companies (Coca-Cola and Ecolab). His father, Kevin, again tapped him a few years ago. What to do?

Greg’s father, Kevin, whose original career choice had been to work in Parks and Recreation in Irvine, California, likewise, had been tapped by his father in 1988 (Greg’s grandfather had joined the agency in 1981). Greg’s father joined the agency and worked there for 12 years before he purchased it in 2000. 

Granddad worked there, Dad owned it . . . Greg took a second look, and, amazed at how far the agency had come – from the in-store shopper marketing cardboard cutouts he saw when he was growing up to today’s digital and social media marketing – and fell in love.

Hangar12, renamed 1n 2012 in honor of his grandfather’s WWII Air Force service, is somewhat Chicago-centric, but staff are located throughout the Midwest. The agency provides consumer packaged goods clients in the food and beverage space with a consumer-first approach, in-house creative teams, omnichannel activations, and a focus on measurement. 

What makes Hangar12 great? Greg believes the remote business model enables his team to deliver “quality marketing campaigns faster than anyone else,” utilizing digital, social media, consumer promotions, and shopper marketing. And LOTS of video. Remote employees work when they feel they can be most productive (which improves efficiency) and log their time on daily timesheets, “meeting,” as needed, by phone or email. Getting campaigns running fast makes for happy clients and reduces the delay in marketing effort revenue recognition. 

Greg notes that ecommerce and the rise of Amazon have challenged brick-and-mortar retailers to stock new brands and unknown products, even before a full marketing plan is in place. Why would stores do this? Brick-and-mortar businesses, especially grocery stores, having been stagnant area for so long, are now scrambling to find the next “hot item,” to get on the “front end” of a trend, to stock a product before the competition does, or, even, to become an exclusive vendor for a “unicorn” product. Once a start-up’s product is “on the shelves,” stores are demanding that these brands “prove” that they are putting in the marketing effort that justifies the placement . . . which is when the startup brand goes looking for what Hangar12 can do.

Greg can be reached on his agency’s website at: Hangar-12.com or by email at: greg.keating@hangar-12.com

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Hyperfocus and a 100% Solution to Win a Niche Market Monopoly

Verne Harnish, founder of the world-renowned Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) and CEO of Scaling Up, a global executive education/ coaching company, has spent the past three decades helping companies scale up. Credentials?

  • 15-year chair/instructor at EO’s “Birthing of Giants” CEO development program (held at MIT) 
  • Authored best-seller, Mastering the Rockefeller Habits (published in 2002 and translated into 9 languages)
  • Authored Scaling Up: How a Few Companies Make It and the Rest Don’t (published in 2014 and winner of 8 major international book awards)
  • Grew Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO) to over 14,000 members worldwide 
  • Chairs annual ScaleUp Summits (in collaboration with Bloomberg) and grew Scaling Up to over 180 partners on six continents)

Verne, citing John D. Rockefeller’s biography, Titan, believes that hyperfocus is critical to business success. He gave the example of Arnie Malham, a longstanding EO member, who wanted to be a marketing/ advertising agency. Focus? Advertising and marketing for law firms. More focus? Personal injury law firms –Intense focus? Personal injury law firms in NFL cities, large cities with the sophistication of billboarding and radio. Hyperfocus? To work for one personal injury law firm per NFL city, making a simple promise: “I’m going to make you No. 1 in that market.” Then, provide a 100% solution.

In this interview, Verne talks about the four numbers it takes to grow a company: revenue, gross margin, profit, and cash – each significant at a different growth stage. 

  • From startup to that first million dollars, the most important number is revenue. It’s not about fixing the logo or the website, Verne says, just “Sell like hell,” and then when you get to a million, fix those other things.
  • From a million to $10 million, the most important thing is cash . . . because growing 10x will take a lot of cash. The cash model, the timing of incoming and outgoing cash, has to work.
  • From $8 or $10 million to $40 million, gross margins are critical. As companies start adding middle management and infrastructure, costs will increase, and gross margins will start to slip.
  • When a company is at the $30-40 million level, the most important number is profit consistency, because that is what the market expects.

At the organizational level, Verne claims there is one routine that will drive things further faster than any other – daily meetings to ensure organizational alignment on the task that needs to be done that day.

Verne invests privately in a number of scale-ups and is a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians – so business-wise, or recreationally . . . he spends a lot of time doing “magic.” He available on his company’s website at Scalingup.com, on the company’s new media site at Scaleups.com, and by email is verne@scalingup.com.

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A Compassionate Angel with Skin in the Game

Malinda Gagnon is CEO and Co-founder of Uprise Partners, a consulting firm / investment firm that provides full-cycle go-to-market and deep technical delivery. Uprise can help launch and grow a business fast: whether they are a startup, launching a new product, or entering a new market. Whatever it is, Uprise teams can help companies “just blow it up” into something bigger.

Anchoring on a company’s brand promise, Uprise brings in efficient, results-driven SWAT teams of focused experts who have fast-growth, go-to-market capabilities: to build anything; to implement sales and marketing programs; to do branding; and to build, select, compile, and integrate technical solutions. Uprise applies agile methodology to everything it does, always asking: “What can we launch that makes the most impact, as quickly as possible?” 

Uprise may not have traditional agency/client relationships—its focus is on a mission to help business founders from areas that are underserved – minority founders, women founders, founders in rural areas or markets lacking a vibrant entrepreneurial culture and support system. If Uprise finds a small company they want to invest in, they will put “skin in the game,” take equity in the company, and bring on the skills that will help the company grow. 

Malinda spoke at Hubspot’s Inbound 2019 on the topic of compassionate commerce – “the art of selling what truly helps the customer.” The challenge? To be able to “talk about compassion in a way that people feel comfortable about it in a professional setting.” 

Malinda describes the more-commonly referenced empathy as the first step toward compassion: empathy is the ability “to walk a mile in someone’s shoes, see the world through their eyes.” The next step toward compassion is “to understand the most fundamental motivator a customer has – their emotions. Critical to getting to that level of understanding? Map emotions to every stage of that customer journey and address those emotions, both positive and negative. You only reach compassion when you understand the customer and “have a deep desire to help.”

Malinda can be found on her company’s website at uprisepartners.com of by email at: malinda@uprisepartners.com. She and her husband/co-founder also have a tech-oriented podcast called Data Myths, available “everywhere.”

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Nothing Sells Better than the (Edgy, but Funny) Truth

Daniel Harmon is Chief Creative Officer of Harmon Brothers, an ad agency most famous for the Squatty Potty Pooping Unicorn. The agency mixes two areas of concentration: traditional direct response advertising (asking for an immediate sale) and branding (where the goal is to evoke a positive customer brand response and promote brand loyalty.) 

Clients come to Harmon Brothers when their product has a more complex or difficult story . . . or even one that touches on societal taboos, but Harmon has to be sold on a company’s product before they will take on that company as a client. Daniel believes that comedy is a good for simplifying complex ideas, and “making the boring interesting and the controversial safe.” In this interview, Daniel also discusses the techniques and importance of ad testing. The quality of creative is important, but Daniel believes distribution is key.

Before the Harmon brothers became Harmon Brothers, they worked at Orabrush, which was founded by Daniel’s brothers when they took an old man’s floundering idea for a tongue cleaner (for bad breath), created a promotional video, and aired it on YouTube. Orabrush was the first product on YouTube’s ad platform that produced a positive ROI. 

A hundred or so videos later, Poo Pourri, seeing the Orabrush campaign success, contacted the brothers. They left Orabrush and went to work on the Poo-Pourri campaign, strategizing around their kitchen table, thinking that they would become part of the company. When Poo-Pouri started talking campaign contract, the Harmon brothers had to be something with a name . . . so the Harmon brothers became Harmon Brothers – we can change it later (but they didn’t). When the Poo-Pourri campaign exploded, people started talking about the Creative agency Harmon Brothers. Surprise! “I guess we’re an agency.”

They puttered . . . until Squatty Potty came along in 2015. Harmon Brothers created a “Rainbow Pooping Unicorn” video featuring a plush baby unicorn that pooped rainbow-colored soft-serve ice cream. The video went viral, with over 50 million Facebook/YouTube views that year. Squatty Potty sales shot up to over $15 million. A plush Squatty Potty Dookie the Pooping Unicorn? Just what every young child wants for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza? Maybe not . . .

Daniel spoke at Hubspot’s Inbound 2019 on the topic: “Create Ads that Sell.” He emphasized the importance of comedy and “brand” characters in advertising to get people to emotionally connect with a brand and putting really good sales principles into direct response campaigns.

The Harmon Brothers collaborated with veteran author Chris Jones to lay out the company’s key creative/ culture/ process/ partnership principles. The resulting book, From Poop to Gold: The Marketing Magic of the Harmon Brothers, is available on https://harmonbrothersbook.com/from-poop-to-gold25696414. 

Daniel can be reached on his company’s website at: Harmonbrothers.com/. The company also has a podcast which can be accessed from that site. On “From Poop to Gold” podcasts, entrepreneurs/ creatives/ marketers tell stories about how they’ve turned bad situations into something positive – inspiring for everyone, whether in the industry or not.

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Going International: Breaking the Language Barrier

Wendy Pease is President of Rapport International, an agency that specializes in multilingual marketing, translating messages and meanings in over 200 languages – in any format, including blog posts, audio content, video, print, and multilingual chat. Wendy bought Rapport in 2004, because the fit seemed right with her interests. Over 15 years, it has maintained the same depth of languages and increased staff, revenue, and its focus on marketing. Rapport International is a Hubspot Partner

In this interview, Wendy explains that interpretation is for the spoken word what translation is for the written word. Translation, especially in marketing, is not done “word for word.” It needs to be culturally adapted and capture the meaning of the message. To ensure quality and to address this broad range of languages, Rapport International contracts with independent bilingual translators who specialize in writing for different markets and purposes.

Fifteen years ago, companies in English-speaking countries expanded internationally by exporting to companies in other English-speaking countries. Company websites opened markets across language, cultural, and geographical boundaries. Companies became “accidental exporters” when orders started coming in from other countries.

A reactive response to interest from other countries? Start marketing in any country that “self identified” as being a potential market. 

A better way? Wendy believes it is important to ask, “What is the corporate strategy?” “What is the marketing strategy?” And “How is multilingual communication going to support that strategy?” If a company only wants to sell certain products in a certain country, they don’t need to translate everything about all the rest of their products. A landing page can be used to test new market.

Wendy identified quite a few multilingual challenges: Keyword selection. Effective communication when a language does not have an equivalent word for critical product descriptor. Dealing with the approximately 3,000 new words added to a language each year. Marketing and inbound’s increasing complication and specialization, content management issues, and providing it all in the needed languages.

Wendy can be reached on her company’s website at www.rapporttranslations.com or on LinkedIn: Wendy Pease at Rapport International.

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