Josh Goldblum, Founder and CEO, Blue Cadet (Philadelphia, PA and New York City, NY)
Annie Scranton, Founder and President, Pace PR (New York, NY)
Annie Scranton is Founder and President at Pace PR, a media relations shop that partners with its clients to discern and achieve goals through getting its clients featured in the media. Annie believes that traditional media (television) is still strong and its real-time immediacy brings credibility to a person or a brand in a way that holds a lot of meaning and is different from a newspaper article or a digital article or a podcast.
David Finberg, CEO, Peaks Digital Marketing (Denver, CO)
David Finberg is CEO at Peaks Digital Marketing, an SEO and lead generation firm that focuses on a comprehensive, aggressive approach to “addressing all seven areas of an SEO campaign to get ROI rolling as early as possible.” Clients range from small, local businesses to major enterprises. Today’s solutions must be comprehensive.
Flynn Zaiger, CEO, Online Optimism (New Orleans, LA; Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta, GA)
Flynn Zaiger, CEO at Online Optimism, started his agency on a laptop in 2012 by reaching out and offering SEO services to the 6 companies where he had interned while he was in college. Today, his remote, across the country staff of 23 supports businesses with “everything they do online” – social, search, SEO, SEM, and website design. Clients are small- to medium-sized businesses (5 to 500 employees) that are either startups looking to rapidly expand or more traditional family businesses, that, in the process of being passed down to the next generation, are looking to expand.
Scott Couvillon, CEO and Executive Strategy Director, Trumpet (New Orleans, LA)
Scott Couvillon is CEO and Executive Strategy Director at Trumpet Advertising, an agency that strives to create purpose-aligned, believable ads. Scott says that companies succeed with their advertising, not only because their creative product promotion is compelling, but more so when the ads “compel an honest connection between a person and a brand.” Scott says there is a lot of talk in the advertising industry about purpose. What is more important is “What do you do with it once you’ve got it.”
Sandra Fathi, Chief Strategy Officer at Affect, Acquired by Gregory FCA (New York, NY)
Sandra Fathi is Chief Strategy Officer at Affect, a public relations, marketing, and social media agency that focuses on B2B technology, healthcare, and professional services. The agency clients range from “startups to large multinational publicly traded companies.” B2B tech includes such things as “cryptocurrency, data, cybersecurity, supply chain and logistics, mobile application development, and cloud computing.” Healthcare includes healthcare IT, devices, MedTech. and services but stops short of highly FDA-regulated areas. Clients’ products tend to be complex but further challenges for the agency include multiple decision-makers and multiple considerations.
Ashley Logan, Founder and CEO, Yakkety Yak (Chicago, IL)
Ashley Logan is the Founder and CEO at Yakkety Yak, a full-service purpose-driven content marketing agency that provides blog writing, social media marketing, video production, and website design and development for brands and organizations that want to make the world a better place.
John Kriney, Founder and President, OptFirst Internet Marketing (Miami, FL)
John Kriney, is Founder and President at OptFirst Internet Marketing, a Google Certified Partner (2010) that specializes in full-service online marketing campaigns and website, app, and landing page development. Campaign expertise includes customized search engine optimization; Google Ads search, video, display and shopping campaigns; cross-platform remarketing; E-commerce marketing; Facebook and Instagram ads for lead generation, sales, or brand building purposes; LinkedIn ads; and combinations of all of that.
In 2003-2004, John started selling after-market auto customization products in Los Angeles, CA; ranked his business first in searches for body kits and parts, and generated up to $3.5 million a year in sales. As things slowed in 2006, John sold that business. What to do next?
Seeing his success, six business owners he had worked with requested his help with their online marketing. In 2008, John moved his business to South Florida, named it OptFirst, and provided his clients with profitable conversions. He made sure they knew how much much money they were making per campaign, per campaign type to ensure long-lasting relationships. When companies wanted to focus on branding, he demanded that both the target and the success be quantified.
He admits there are three types of competitors that may steal his customers: the one-off internet whiz kid who is someone’s nephew, vertical internet marketing agencies that draw customers away by speaking the “right jargon,” and the traditional marketing agency that’s trying to tack on digital as a service. “Lost” clients often return – a tribute to his agency’s collaborative approach of “one business owner working with another.”
OptFirst was one of the first early adopters of LinkedIn direct conversion campaigns and has been running campaigns for the University of Miami’s Continuing Education Department, marketing 22 different programs on that platform for over 4 years. Because OptFirst’s efforts with the University of Miami outperformed all other universities by 90%, LinkedIn took John and a University of Miami representative to lunch. They had proved a profitable campaign could be run on LinkedIn.
John believes you need 3 channels of incoming advertising for any business . . . so they also run SEO campaigns, Google Ads, and paid social for the University. In total, the agency offers 11 different campaign types, of which SEO has the lowest CPA.
John has written 3 books on search engine optimization and internet marketing. He thought he would hand his 8-step SEO plan to clients and lose business because clients would now know what needed to be done. Providing that knowledge was “the right thing to do.” But it didn’t work that way. The 8-step book made him the “expert” for work clients did not want to do. They would thumb through the book and immediately sign his proposal.
Since the pandemic, John created “the seven steps of becoming an author” and has guided half a dozen business owners to getting published. He says “There’s no better way to control your Google presence than . . . becoming an author. When you put a book out on Amazon, there’s a knowledge panel to be claimed as an author on Google, and then you really control your first page.”
John says his “slogan” for the times is: “2020 is survive, and if you make it to 2021, then you can thrive.” He can be reached on his agency’s website at: OptFirst.com, at John Kriney on LinkedIn, and by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Twenty-nine years ago, Alvaro Psevoznik, CEO of DM Agency, was a 19-year-old Argentinian law student, designing flyers for hospitality clients in exchange for admissions into nightclubs. Alvaro found himself frustrated with Argentinian politics – which is plagued with fiscal instability, political corruption, de-motivational handouts for a large percentage of the (unemployed) citizenry, and a cycle of massive financial crises every 5 or 10 years. Alvaro’s experience was, no matter how hard one worked and saved, bank accounts could disappear overnight. This constant uproar, Alvaro says, makes it hard for people in South American countries to plan and work toward a future.
Alvaro moved to the U.S. in 2002 and went back to hospitality marketing. He claims that early adversity provided lessons that helped him survive the 2007-2008 recession (which closed some of his small- and mid-sized clients’ businesses) and prepared him for today’s Covid-19 challenges. In this interview, Alvaro talks about the importance of positive messaging, adaptability, and being “transparent” when faced with crises. He emphasizes that changing Covid-19 “rules” requires fast response.
Today, DM Agency is a comprehensive, full-service, one stop shop for digital marketing solutions. Alvaro explains that there are costs associated with trying to provide a wide range of client services—you either risk people discovering that you are not as “good at everything” as you claimed, or you find yourself supporting an expensive, diverse “stable” of top talent in order to be able to “deliver.” If he were to start over today, he says he’d focus on specific industries and doing only what he was best at doing – lead generation through online advertising.
Most DM clients are restaurants or hotels, but DM has also started to expand into the Esports — organized, online, multiplayer video game competitions that produce $2-3 billion a year through advertising and sponsorship. Esports, Alvaro says, is huge. DM has virtual offices concentrating on Esports in Chile, Argentina, Colombia, and South Florida. Alvaro has created “splinter” agency entities – pretty much the same staff/different “labeling” – that focus on specific unrelated industries in order to avoid such questions as, “What would a restaurant marketer know about marketing windows?”
Agencies often advertise that they are “bilingual. Alvaro says that DM is bi-cultural. Speaking Spanish is different from thinking in Spanish or Latino. DM understands that the Spanish community in the US is not a homogenous group – the culture of origin varies significantly by geography across the US. The agency divides Hispanic marketing into four regions: Mexico and North America, Central America, South America, and the South Florida Cuban community.
Aside from South Florida, how do cultural differences play out across the United States? New Jersey, New York, Chicago have strong Puerto Rican communities with some Mexicans and Dominicans. Mexicans as a majority are located more on the West Coast – Arizona, Texas, and California. Because the words, the accents, the thinking patterns, and the cultures in each community are different, marketing needs to be different. Alvaro hires Hispanic staff that mirrors each targeted audience – so the messages “rings true.” Google translation does not work. Neither does human translation if the culture, vocabulary, and thinking patterns of the translator are not the same as those of the target audience. Authenticity cannot be faked.
Alvaro can be reached on his company’s website – DM agency, as in digital marketing agency – dmagency.us
Kevin Hourigan, President and CEO, Bayshore Solutions (Tampa, FL and Denver, CO)
Kevin Hourigan is President and CEO of Bayshore Solutions, a digital agency that started in 1996 as a branch of a managed services provider – a 3-member team building and maintaining client networks. Two years later? Thirty employees.
Decades ago, one of the Kevin’s engineers developed a company website and asked 100 of the company’s clients if they would be interested in a 3-page website for $500. Client responses were either “What’s a website?” or “We’ll never need one of those.” One client agreed to give it a try. That $500 website cost $5,000 to build, but two years later, in 1998, clients came begging for websites, which were now more profitably priced at $7,500 and up.
The company failed in its attempt to go public in the late 90s and survived the dot com crash in the early 2000s. Its base of paying clients plummeted 90%. In response, the company slashed its staff from 225 to 12 in a year. Larger agencies, the ones Kevin considered as his mentors, the ones that went public . . . failed. Bayshore Solutions is one of only 2% of the digital agencies that survived the dot com collapse.
When Kevin realized that what he had left of the company would never again be “an aspiring dot-commer on the verge of going public, spending money like it’s going out of style with clients spending money with us like it’s going out of style,” he knew it was time to rebrand. He wanted the new name to be “agnostic,” that is, not tied to any transient technology. Bayshore Web Development could become obsolete. Baysore Solutions, on the other hand, would not be tied to any here today, gone tomorrow technology.
For almost 25 years, BayShore Solutions has helped clients create advertising campaigns that drive qualified traffic. It designs and develops powerful stakeholder-targeted websites with the right marketing mix to help its clients succeed. The agency markets itself as a digital expert, applying strategies horizontally across a variety of verticals, transferring experience from one vertical to another completely unrelated (and non-competing) vertical. Every solution is unique, with a balance of the “bleeding edge of new and the tested, tried, and true.” Around 90% of implementation strategies are things Bayshore KNOWS will work. The 5 to 15% that is experimental will vary depending on the phase of an industry’s business cycle.
After Kevin had excellent experience working with a CEO coach, he decided to let his leadership team hire an executive team coach. The result? Tighter vision and a better definition of core values (working together, winning together, and solving problems together), with the team all learning together, rather than receiving the information from “an informed Kevin. He says, “Having a team coach, we’re hearing the same thing at the same time.”
In response to the impact of Covid-19, Kevin explains that his company has reduced unnecessary expenses and increased its marketing budget by 50%. He says the company’s strategy is to market and sell its way through the crisis, rather than trying to cut its way through. The results so far? Leads are up, traffic is up, and sales have met December’s forecasts. He plans to continue operating this way and says the agency’s next 90-day plan is to remove unnecessary operational expenses and reinvest that money in sales and marketing efforts.