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Jeanne Frazer is the President of vitalink® and Marketing Speaker Author. Jeanne has a BA in Journalism and minored in Graphic Design and Business Administration at the University of Florida. Jeanne has worked in the advertising/marketing industry for over 20 years. Before starting her own business, she worked for FOX, NBC and UPN. In 1996, she started her own company, vitalink, which has grown into a successful advertising agency which continues to hire despite the recession. What makes her story even more inspiring is that she has done all this while fighting cancer, which she was diagnosed with in 2009.
vitalink is a marketing firm that does advertising, branding, creative and more. vitalink has vast experience in certain niches and looks for client- partners that offer a good “fit” and synergy. vitalink specializes in providing marketing solutions for the legal industry, associations, colleges, universities, sports,, b2c products, restaurants, government and non-profits. vitalink is also partnered with the Lawyers Marketing Agency and offers nationwide marketing services to law firms, including producing a news show called Spotlight on the Law. vitalink’s MO could best be described as working toward a true partnership through good client-agency fit.
Thanks for taking the time to do an interview with us. I found it quite inspiring to read about your history. My first question is what do you look for in a client and how do you evaluate how well they match?
We are passionate about our clients. We pour our heart into making them successful, so it is just as important that we buy into their message/direction/product as it is for them to buy into our approach. We work very hard, but we also want to enjoy our work. This is much easier if you have a good rapport with a client and can build on each other’s strengths and resources over the course of a relationship. Shared values of integrity and a mutual respect are our key indicators of a good match for us.
You’ve been expanding vitalink despite the recession and have seen profitable growth. Could you describe in more detail why you ‘chose to be small.’ What have some of the advantages of this choice been? Have there been any disadvantages? When do you ‘grow’ your staff and how do you maintain that same small feeling?
When I started vitalink, I had a vision of a larger firm. What I found in building my way to that goal is sometimes bigger isn’t always better.
The larger we got, the more segmented and mechanized the tasks needed to become to streamline the process. We lost the synergy between departments and felt our clients would suffer. While process definitely has a place to keep things moving forward smoothly, I believe this is no substitute for the magic that happens when you put a strong team together and brainstorm ideas, direction, and ways to make things happen. Media builds on creative, which is built on research, etc. We have structured vitalink by taking this ‘think tank’ approach to marketing. The strategy and direction is what our clients tell us they like best. As we grow, we keep the strategy sessions going with the group so that we maintain this think tank collective. It energizes the group to be involved and be heard. This happens now via different communication channels, but the effect is the same.
I would say the biggest disadvantage of being a smaller shop is the assumption from the client side that it takes a large agency to do certain work. It has been proven over time that the small shops can crank out creative work that creates results. In smaller shops you also get the benefit of working with the principal heavy hitters in the agency.
You recently started offering a new set of services in the area of providing marketing/management experts for events and conferences called Marketing Speak Author. Could you tell us what was/is wrong with current model and how Marketing Speak Author addresses this problem better?
I want to teach the underdog how to do more with less. Inspire them to learn their core truth and use it to wield a mighty marketing campaign to get better results.
I started Marketing Speaker Author to provide dynamic, real world solutions through seminars, conferences, events and training. It is much like my experience in college. I found many of the teachings were of theory from a book and didn’t always work in the real world. One of the professors who inspired me most challenged me to think. He taught theory, but then we looked at real world examples of how it really turned out. I suppose that also tapped into my wanting to challenge everything and learn how can I use the information in different ways to best suit the particular set of needs at hand! I want people to have the ah-ha moment where they get the principals, but also see how they can tweak things to make it work for them. What we bring to the speaking realm is almost a motivational, self mastery approach to marketing and management.
You speak a lot at conferences and events. Do these events ever involve training? What do people need to take the information you’re offering and actually apply it to their own businesses?
Good question. While we do a lot of speaking and panel events, we also offer training. I supposed I’ve always been somewhat of a teacher in spirit. I enjoy working with interns and young talented individuals to teach them what I know and learn from them as well. I also take this same approach in working with clients to educate them on how we approach things and why that works. This has been a natural progression into training or bootcamp type sessions.
People who have a desire to learn and improve their business gravitate towards training. I find that providing a roadmap and tools to get the job done is only the starting point. Getting people to think about how they can use this for their particular situation is the key. Once the training is done, there also needs to be a commitment to doing the work. Many will be able to handle this all in house. Those that aren’t need to figure out which pieces they can and will do and do well, then look for sources to help implement the rest.
The biggest question in my mind with agencies has always been measurement. How do you measure the effectiveness of all your activities including traditional PR, ads, and social media?
Measurement and metrics are essential in business today. For too long agencies created scorecards that were based on delivering what they promised, like posting reports with television buys, PR reports showing press received, page views/click through rates for social media, etc. That is just the first step in today’s world.
Whether the campaign is intended to change perceptions and behavior, there are a myriad of ways to measure this. With work our partners to identify specific benchmarks to measure campaigns. This measurement layer may be in surveys to test shifts in perception; for changes in behavior we look at many conversion factors from leads/clicks/calls to sales and results.
We emphasize an integrated approach to marketing. While measuring specific elements of a campaign like PR, TV or social media is necessary, these elements do not happen in a vacuum. For instance, PR work may have a call to action to visit a blog or Facebook for info and to comment. The TV campaign may invite people to post a video on YouTube. When asked about how the prospect found the company they will most likely say Facebook, YouTube, Blog, etc. The reports will also back this up with number of hits, posts, activity. However this prospect may have never found the online component without the PR or TV campaign creating awareness and pushing them to take action on-line. If clients want to remove the “underperforming” PR or TV, then the internet component doesn’t work as well. Clients want to point to the single event that created action, but the best campaigns are ones that have multi-channels and an integrated approach to create a two way conversation with prospects and then action. Measurement should look at overall campaign results and any “umbrella” effect the campaign had to increase other peripheral sales/attitudes.
You work with small to medium sized businesses. I assume most small businesses don’t have an ad agency working with them. When should entrepreneurs consider hiring a company like yours to help them?
Marketing done well works and pays for itself with results. That said, not all marketing requires a professional partner. While we push the boundaries of small budgets, a mom and pop one location shop probably doesn’t need our partnership services. An entrepreneur needs to be either established or to want to grow beyond a single location or their current business model for them to be a good fit with a company like ours. For those working to get to that level, we offer project only services.
I was talking to a consultant the other day who said the best thing a lawyer can do is to drive an expensive car. It shows they are successful. Yet many of these same lawyers driving $40,000-$100,000 cars let their business drive around in a “marketing and branding clunker” held together by bailing twine and duct tape. It is possible to market your business on a smaller budget, but firms need to recognize that the tradeoff will either be an investment of their time or a less robust marketing presence which may ultimately damage the brand they are working toward.
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