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
Cori can be reached on social media, on her company’s website at: https://admarkict.com/ 0r by phone
ROB: Welcome to the Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast. I am your host, Rob Kischuk, and I am
joined today by Cori K. Kohlmeier, Owner and Founder at Advantage Marketing based in Wichita,
Kansas. Welcome to the podcast, Cori.
CORI: Thank you. Excited to be here.
ROB: Fantastic to have you here, as we are heading into a holiday. Why don’t you start off by telling us
about Advantage Marketing and what makes Advantage great?
CORI: Advantage is great at a lot of things. We do a lot with strategy with clients, and I think that’s
probably our main strength. We really try to take the client from Point A to Point B in talking to them
about what needs to happen with their business.
Then, from there, we really customize a multi-platform strategy, and what that means is we try to blend
the traditional means of marketing with the new digital marketing side of it. I think people forget maybe
that digital can be a little overwhelming, so I think we’ve done a really good job to bridge those two
pieces. So yeah, we really keep the customer as our primary focus in helping them through that process.
ROB: What kind of customer are you typically working with, if there is a typical?
CORI: We don’t have a typical. We’re pretty atypical here, which we kind of laugh about. We don’t really
go for one specific vertical. We define ourselves as “the marketing experts.” The marketing principles
can apply in any industry, so we work in events, big events, we work with personal injury attorneys, we
work with toll roads, we work with retail, we work with software companies.
There’s just all sorts of industries that we get to dabble in every day, which I love.
ROB: That sounds like it could keep things interesting, which is much of why we get into this
entrepreneurship game. How do you manage that span? Even if I’m looking at your website, we’re not
even talking about just old school media and digital; you’re also in reputation management, which is a
whole other ball of wax. I have a good friend in that business. How do you manage that span of
CORI: Having good people is part of it. I have an awesome team. I’m really into Wonder Woman and all
the superheroes, and I liken my staff to that kind of team. I’ve assembled all the Avengers. We’re all
here and we’ve got our specialties and our strengths. So, the culture here is really all about
collaboration, and the vision is all about taking care of the customer.
From that standpoint, our customers really push us into a lot of these different pieces. They have a
problem – “My company isn’t showing up, my hours aren’t right on Google Business,” with regards to
the online presence management. So how can we help them with that?
And then from the online presence management piece, it’s really cool because we have a lot of
information and a lot of data that comes from that, so we’re able to use that data in our media buying.
When we go to look at a media buy, we can look at times of day that people are calling, we can focus
the television media buy around those specific dayparts. Again, we’re bridging one medium to the next.
I’ve got two media buyers on staff, a digital manager who’s also a media buyer, a creative director, an
art director. Like I said, we all work in tandem to make sure that we’re using the right pieces and the
right protocol for each client. It’s definitely challenging doing things this way, but we feel like it’s the
right way, and it’s right by our clients, so that’s why we do it.
ROB: It seems like having a buyer or two in a not ginormous marketing agency is a relatively new thing.
What are some of the things that are changing and allowing you to have just a couple of people who can
actually buy local media, whereas it maybe used to be a much bigger commitment for a client?
CORI: We actually have four people that can buy media here, which is amazing. [laughs] Next year
political is coming up, so that’s a big thing, and we’re looking at how we get around some of that, how
we buy for our clients and still have a successful campaign – and it’s amazing because I don’t have to be
that one person that’s trying to figure it out.
My business partner, Amy, has a background in cable. It’s kind of funny; we’ve got broadcasting and
cable that are kind of against each other. She really gives another perspective on that. My digital
manager, who also media buys, worked for a traditional agency for 20 years, and she came to us and it’s
just been amazing. And then our final media buyer also doubles as our traffic manager, and part of her
onboarding was training her in our process and how we do things and getting her onboard.
It’s definitely different, I think, than other agencies that we understand so much about the media
buying, and I think it makes it that much more of a stronger tool for our clients because we do
understand that system so well.
ROB: Do you have political clients, or is it more that the impact of politics is on the cost of media?
CORI: Yeah, it’s more about the impact of politics. There’s only so much airtime and the inventory gets
tight, and it’s like, where do we go? It pushes other dayparts around. There’s just a lot to it. Fortunately,
with four of us having been through it and been on the other side, we all get it. We understand what’s
But I feel like this year especially, with all the digital marketing that we have at our fingertips, I think
that’s going to be a game-changer for us. That’s what we’re looking at for next year: how do we navigate
and what do we need to do and what’s that going to look like?
ROB: For sure. I hadn’t even thought of that impact, but I’m sure your clients are glad that you have
thought about it.
CORI: Yeah, we’ve been thinking about it for quite a while. Our team is pretty in tune with what’s going
on and talking about it, so it’s really nice.
ROB: Notably, Twitter will not be taking political ads, but also notably, Twitter is a channel that I think
can be a little bit difficult to get client-facing performance out of. Is there any avenue of opportunity
there, or is Twitter still what it is?
CORI: Twitter, for us, hasn’t been that big for us. I think part of it is because we’re in the Midwest. With
the clients that we’re dealing with, they are interacting with Twitter, and we do ads and we do posting
and that sort of thing, but it always takes a little bit to trickle into the middle. That’s with fashion, that’s
So, Twitter, I feel like it’s still a good place, still a good soapbox for people to stand on and really try and
get their opinions out there, so I think that’s going to be the positive with Twitter. Facebook and
Instagram’s going to be more challenging because there are a lot of rules with them, and I still don’t
think they have it all together, completely. So, it’ll be interesting to see what happens there. Get some
popcorn and watch and see how it all unfolds, honestly.
ROB: Agreed. Yes, we’ll see who they’re mad at and why after this next year.
ROB: If we rewind a little bit, Cori, tell us about the origin story. You said you like Wonder Woman and
superheroes, so what is the superhero origin story of Advantage Marketing?
CORI: I like that, “origin story.” That’s awesome. [laughs]
ROB: How did it come to pass?
CORI: I started as a television sales rep eons ago, and I worked for an itty-bitty station that you might
know of as the WB. It’s now the CW. I started entry level. I had some managers that were really big on
training. They were all about media math and why buyers buy the way that they do and how buyers buy
and looking at data and reading the data.
Back then, and still true today, a lot of buyers will just look at news. That’s all they want, are news
products, and you have to have a certain rating. At the time, the only game in town for ratings was
Nielsen, so we really had to be able to look at the data, look at the information, and say, “We know this
show’s going to do better because we see this trend going on with this broadcast station, and we get the
vibe based on that.” We really had to be pretty aggressive. We had to be very competitive.
I was there for 5 years. I learned a lot. I get picked up from another agency that was a client that was
like, “Hey, you should come try the agency business.” I was like, that sounds kind of cool. I’ll try that.
When you’re on the rep side, the issues that you have are that you can’t do – I didn’t feel I could do as
much for my customer as what they needed. Jumping to the agency side really allowed for that.
So, I went to work for an agency for 5 years. Again, I felt like I wasn’t doing enough for my clients and
there was a lot more that could be done, so that’s when I left in 2013 and started Advantage Marketing.
It was myself and one other staff member, and we were busy. We were in 400 square feet; we were
getting new clients, getting call-ins.
That’s when I realized that I wanted to grow this agency, and to grow in a great way, I needed to have
really good people. I tapped my business partner, Amy Hoefer – she’s now my business partner – and
she came on in 2014. Like I said, she had a cable and radio background. I did a lot with billboard, print,
and broadcast media buying.
And I’d done a lot with digital, working at a small station. My manager was like 40, and he was really into
the digital piece, which not a lot of people were talking about at that time, because that was around –
ROB: Especially not in TV.
CORI: No. It was 2003-2004. It’s eons ago now. [laughs] So we were talking digital, we were selling
digital, and that’s where I cut my teeth on it. Then when I went to the other agency, I had clients asking
about digital. The only thing available at that time on a local basis was Yahoo behavioral targeting. I
know, right? Yahoo’s still around, wow. That was it. That was the only game.
So, I started doing a lot with that. I started running Facebook campaigns and just doing what the clients
needed, but at the same time still bridging that traditional gap.
2014, we doubled in size and I brought my business partner on. Then in 2017, I got this bright idea – I
was like, hey, we’re trying to grow. We want to have more services for our clients. How do we do that?
The whole chicken and the egg. And that’s when we bought another agency.
There was an agency in town that had an unbelievable reputation for being strong media buyers, and
they had a portfolio that was pretty insane. The owner was looking to get out, she was ready to retire. I
still talk to this woman once a week. She’s like another mom to me, like, “I haven’t heard from you,
sweetie. What’s going on?” [laughs] Like, “Okay, this is what’s happening.” Which is sweet and it’s great,
because she’s still a great sounding board. She’s a mentor of mine now.
When we purchased that agency, we grew again in size. We grew the footprint. We were able to add
more bodies. Now we’re at a staff of 11 and we have I think around 40 clients. Last year, I went through
the SBDC Emerging Leaders Program, which is really about scaling your business, your growth plan,
getting all your processes down. We spent last year really focused on that piece so that we can continue
So yeah, it’s been crazy. 6 years and we’ve been very successful, for sure.
ROB: Do you consider yourself to be a process person?
CORI: Yes, most definitely. [laughs]
ROB: That’s very resonant with you, but yet maybe you got some guidance and nudging to do better
processes. What did you learn from that in establishing processes? Maybe what were some blind spots
that you like process, but you didn’t see from where you were standing what actually needed to happen
CORI: I think it’s kind of funny on the whole entrepreneurship thing. I think people assume that when
you walk into a business, you know everything. What is that whole thing – you don’t know what you
don’t know till you know it? For us, it was definitely really interesting talking about processes and
putting those in place.
Really, I put it back on my people when things would come up. There needs to be a process for that.
How does that process look, and why are we doing this? Eventually, we’re hopefully having three or four
more people under this one position. So, what do they need to know from start to finish?
I think it was nice for the staff because I think they were really able to take ownership of this agency
that’s starting from the ground and building up. Really getting that foundation in. I don’t know that
there was anything that we really felt like was totally missing. We had the process, we’d spoken about a
process, but it wasn’t official because we hadn’t written it down. So just getting it all in writing, getting it
in one place, making sure that it is truly how we want the process to be was really good for the agency
as a whole.
ROB: To rewind a little bit, you mentioned – this is probably no small decision – acquiring another
agency. You don’t have to get any deeper into the particulars of it than you want to, but how do you
think about how much an agency is worth, and how do you think about assembling the money to buy an
agency? Is it a lump sum sort of thing? Is it a payout over time? There’s other people who might be
ambitious in this way as they’re thinking about it, but might be intimidated by the process.
CORI: Yeah, it is intimidating. My business partner, Amy – I tend to be the big vision person, and Amy’s
very like, “How are we going to accomplish this?” We work so well together because of that. But yeah,
that was the beginning.
Honestly, I should’ve been recording more of the conversations that we had on the how-to, because it’s
just a very interesting process. I would definitely say start with a great accountant and a great attorney,
because we did that. We talked with them about what our goals and objectives were, and then we really
sat down and would have conversations about what we were trying to accomplish.
And there has to be a level of trust there. We were asking for a client list, we were asking for financials,
we were asking for all this data and information. So, there’s nondisclosure agreements that you’re
signing. As far as the capital and getting that, we had money from our agency, but I’ve been to
entrepreneurship classes, I’ve researched, I’ve looked at that, and a lot of those classes will tell you,
don’t spend your own money; get loans.
There are some great organizations here in town that we tapped into to talk to them about that. We did
work out a deal where we’re paying over time for so much of that client base. We had to account for
attrition on the client base, because not everyone’s going to stick it out with you.
Honestly, we really hit the nail on what we were going to lose, what we thought we would gain, and we
did a pretty great job negotiating. I was pretty happy with that being our first major acquisition. We did
a good job.
Not everyone has that experience, but I think having that attorney there, having that accountant there,
and really knowing what you need to do – I think planning is very key to being successful.
ROB: How do you know if you have a good accountant and attorney?
CORI: On the accountant side, I’m fortunate. In the beginning, I didn’t have a good accountant and I
figured that out pretty quick, once I talked to a good accountant. I have an aunt who’s a big CFO and a
big accountant, and she was able to point me in the right direction. Then from there, with the attorney,
the accountant knew the attorney and knew his reputation too, and that particular firm’s reputation. So
we lucked out on that as well.
I went through a couple bookkeepers when I first started the agency, and we weren’t very successful,
but I think once you know what you’re looking for and what you need – and programs like the Kansas
SBDC, like SBA and whatnot, working with them, they can really help you look at who you need and
what you need.
When I went through that Emerging Leaders class last year, there were several people in our group that
switched accountants because they had a really good firm come in, which is my firm that I work with,
and they ended up switching by the end of the class. So yeah, just having experts and a second opinion
is always really helpful.
ROB: That’s a good lesson there. If you think back to the time you spent building Advantage Marketing
so far, what are some things you might do differently if you were starting from scratch today?
CORI: Oh gosh, that might give me nightmares, starting over again. [laughs] There’s not really a lot that I
would change. I think everything happens for a reason. I try not to see failure as failure. I try to see
failure as opportunity and what we learned from that and how we’re going to change and how we’re
going to gain strength within that.
The processes, for example, if something falls through the cracks, why did it fall through the cracks?
What was the breaking point? How do we fix it? What do we need to do? Like I said, things would
happen with clients, someone missed something on traffic, how do we make it so that there’s absolutely
no questions with the information that we’re giving to them? How do we make it so that they’re able to
understand what we’re telling them at a very fundamental level?
There really isn’t much I would change. I’ve got the team in place that I love and want, and we’ve got
amazing clients. It’s all happened the way it needed to.
ROB: When you think about attracting and retaining talent, you’re in an interesting place. You’re in
Wichita. It’s an interesting city with interesting things going on. Some people are going to have the
dream to go to San Francisco, to go to Chicago, that sort of thing. How do you find it is, keeping talent
nearby? Or even – have you been able to recruit people from outside of your metro?
CORI: So far, most of the people here started here, or they started outside of town or in western Kansas.
You have a lot of younger people that want to go travel, they want to do some of that.
One of the things I always tell people when I’m traveling outside of the state and they’re like, “What do
you have there?”, I’m like, “We have affordable housing.” [laughs] “Do you know what you could buy for
2300 square feet? Do you know how much you can spend on that? It’s nothing compared to here. It’s a
drop in the bucket.” They always look at you like you’re crazy, like, “There’s still nothing to do.” I’m like,
“Yeah, well, you’re working five jobs to keep that apartment. I only need one.”
So, yeah, I don’t want to say that it’s old school, like old school values. We do have that, but I think
there’s a little bit more peace of mind living in the Midwest as far as schooling, as far as definitely the
housing, as far as affordability. I think there’s a lot of positives there. Because of that, we try to take care
of our staff in a way that allows them to live their life and to be happy. Hours of work are 8:30 to 4:30,
and we get out at 4:00 on Fridays. We have insurance for our staff, and we take really good care of
them. We offer other extended benefits.
So I think if you’re looking to take care of your people and they’re someone that’s wanting to be taken
care of, or maybe been in a corporate setting where you have the big boss and it’s all about the big boss
and it’s not about the people that work there, I think that’s very attractive to people. I think our culture
is something – that’s why we keep the people that we have.
We’ve attracted great talent. Some have started with us young, some have started a little bit older, but
the combined experience here, we all work together really well. Everyone understands what everyone
brings to the table. I have an art director that’s worked at a couple other agencies, and he’s so hard-
working. He really puts forth the effort. I have a business manager that worked with me at the TV
station, and I remembered her and tapped her, and she came on. She keeps us organized, and she takes
care of the entire office.
We just have some people that have really bought in and really understand, and those are the type of
people that we’re looking for. I don’t care where you come from or what you do if you understand
where we’re trying to go and our vision and you want to help us in that – and then also, at the same
time, leave work at 4:30 so you can see your kids. We don’t have crazy traffic like you Atlantans, so
you’re home in 5, 10, 15 minutes. That’s a big win for people. So, I think taking care of your staff in that
way is a win-win for everybody.
ROB: It’s a good point. In any city like Wichita – I think some people from, let’s say, New York might look
down their nose, but I also know people in New York who are feeling these same things. They just had
their first kid and they’re trying to figure out how to not pay thousands of dollars a month to live in a
tiny apartment in Queens.
To your point, there are people in every city who have chosen to be there and like to be there and are
looking for a good place to work. You’ve got colleges that are typically – a lot of them are in college
towns, and nobody’s going to stay there. So, you can pull them into a place that’s not the college town.
They can’t stay there.
CORI: I’ve talked to a lot of people, too, that have gone and left, and then they come back and they’re
like, “It’s more affordable. My family’s here. I can put my kids in all of the different basketball programs
and soccer programs and extracurricular and I can afford to do that.” I think at some point you’ve got to
look at your life and look at the priorities and just determine what’s best for you and your family.
ROB: For sure. To bring this conversation full circle, really good, diverse cultural things, good things, are
coming everywhere. Everywhere has a food hall now. I was just looking, at a glance, at what you can go
eat in Wichita, and there’s a 4.8-star ramen restaurant there.
CORI: Oh my God, my daughter, every day she calls me to go to the ramen place. [laughs] She’s 12, and
she’s like, “Can you go by the ramen place?” I’m like, “Girl, I cannot go there every day. Mommy is
working.” But our food is amazing. We have great food. I think wherever you live, it’s what you make of
I went to a conference in New York, and it was fabulous and it was fun and I loved it, and I love the vibe
of the city, but I love coming home. I love the laidback, easygoing pace of this town. So, it’s what you
make of it.
ROB: It’s all different experiences. A lot of people listening, for them, ramen growing up was 10 cents or
25 cents from the grocery store, not $12 or $15 bucks but amazing, delicious, from a place that didn’t
exist 15 years ago.
CORI: Yeah. Well, if you come to Wichita, it’s going to be like $8 or $9. I’m just letting you know right
ROB: There you go. That’s another perk right there.
ROB: Right on point. So, Cori, what is coming up for Advantage Marketing and the marketing world in
general that you’re excited about?
CORI: Oh man, we’ve got some cool things coming up. I think talking about my broadcast background,
one thing that’s coming this year with OTT (over-the-top) television and with DTV connected television –
we had a big push from that this past year, but I think it’s just going to blow up that much more going
into next year. At least for us, anyway.
It’s cool to have those kind of targeting capabilities where we didn’t have that when I first started in
television. It was like if you’re buying the 9p programming, you’re getting everyone that’s watching the
9p programming, whereas with OTT, we can do the zip code targeting, and there’s cross-device
matching. There’s just some really neat things that allow us to hone in on the demographic and the
customer that our clients are trying to reach. So, we’re gearing up for that this year.
The digital piece has been really big for us. We have a new audience duplicator, if you will. It allows us to
look at who your audience is and then duplicate that in other areas. So that’s going to be a big game-
changer as well we’re really excited about.
ROB: This sounds a little bit like people who might know a Facebook lookalike audience, where you can
feed it a bunch of email addresses, and you can serve up Facebook ads to the 1% of people on Facebook
who are most like those people. But this is – where? This is on what platforms?
CORI: Basically, we work with a digital vendor directly. We don’t have a middleman, which is nice,
because we have the dashboard, we can control the digital tactics that we’re employing. It basically
serves where your customer is at. If your person that we’re looking for demographic-wise is on an “I
Love Kittens” website and you’re selling a certain widget or service, then an ad can serve up to them.
We also do addressable geotargeting, which is kind of like the audience lookalike on Facebook, where
we’re doing similar to what a direct mailer is and we’re serving digital ads to households. You can use it
with a direct mail campaign or you can actually just replace a direct mail campaign with that kind of
It’s going to serve to all different websites all over the place. Digital is just tough with people, I think, in
general because it’s not like the traditional where I’m going to see my ad at 7:00 tonight or I’m going to
hear my ad on the radio at 6:00. It’s not targeting the masses. It’s very targeted as far as your particular
clientele and demographic. And you’re geotargeting it. You’re setting up geofences and all these
different things. It really plays to the user’s behavior and where they’re going.
So, it can be a number of different sites. It can be all over the board, really, and it’s kind of interesting to
ROB: That’s fascinating, because it’s sort of taking the reach that you used to get in television from a
large ad buy there, a billboard buy, a radio buy, and you’re bringing that down to be accessible to a
smaller brand – at least, if they’re working with someone like you who can coordinate. You can kind of
get that surround sound brand advertising opportunity, but at a much smaller scale, it seems.
CORI: Yeah. In the past, it’s really been all about the big national box stores could do that sort of thing.
What we’ve been able to do is bring that local programmatic way of buying down to the local level, to
everybody. It’s affordable from the standpoint of comparison to maybe a large TV buy. It’s also more
But like I said, there’s still some learning to go with it. We just had a client who, during the campaign, we
cut back on the spending; we did more on the digital side with the tactics with keyword search, with
contextual targeting, with zip code targeting ,with OTT. They were getting so much feedback from
everyone like, “We don’t see it, we don’t hear it.” Well, we weren’t doing all the traditional means that
we’ve done in the past.
They ended up with a 34% increase on the attendance from the previous year. So, they’re really happy
with the results, really happy with what was going on. We just had to reiterate to them and explain, it’s
not about you. You’ve got to take you out of it. It’s about what your client base is doing, and how we
attract them and where that comes from.
But at the same time, still bridging some of those traditional ways of doing things with like, do we add a
billboard in? Do we do some radio? What does that look like?
ROB: That makes a ton of sense. Thank you for filling us in on how a career in TV is so relevant, perhaps
now more than ever, with where OTT marketing and all that stuff is going.
When people want to find you, Cori, and find Advantage Marketing, where should they go to find you?
CORI: You can go to any of our social media. Definitely our website, which is admarkict.com. You can
always call us, too: (316) 729-0500. I promise someone will answer the phone. [laughs]
ROB: That’s a good promise these days.
CORI: I know, right?
ROB: That’s not always assured.
CORI: I know. I hate hearing automated stuff. So yeah, those are probably the best ways to get a hold of
us, for sure.
ROB: Perfect. Thank you so much, Cori, for coming on the podcast. It has been a joy.
CORI: Yeah, thank you for having me. Very exciting.
ROB: All right, take care.
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