Some people like to dig a bit deeper, so this is for you. Our thoughts and ramblings on all we do here. Enjoy the read!
Strategic solutions that support business goals.
We believe that the work we do must have a positive impact on our client organizations’ finances, equity, impact and spirit. We also enjoy doing it. For those two reasons, we have been successful since our founding in 1982. Grounded in a deep understanding of your industry, with a pulse on today’s changing technology, we clarify which business goals marketing can and must address and tackle those head on. Sound, strategic and smart solutions that deliver—that’s our promise to you.
What are we about? We are ‘about’ our clients. We stay focused on their successes and their bottom lines. Each brand we activate, each website we optimize, each market we reach is an opportunity to excel. We approach every engagement from a business strategy viewpoint. Marketing supports business goals, and successful marketing achieves business goals. We deliver that success to all of our clients.
A commitment to Work That Works™
We are a brand, web and integrated marketing agency focused on creating and implementing strategic communications initiatives that support business goals, profitability and growth for our client/partners. Local, national and international organizations have chosen to work with us for four main reasons:
1) Our comprehensive expertise,
2) Our depth of related experience,
3) Our strategic focus on ROMI, and
4) Our unmatched creativity.
We are seasoned, trusted, focused, flexible and will deliver beyond your expectations.
We excel at engaging your target audience, crystallizing your brand and key messages, and contributing to greater business success. Our passion is brand strategy, marketing communications and design—and measurable results. We offer experience, expertise and dedication to clients by combining real-world assessments with practical solutions. We also balance exceptional brand and marketing strategy with exemplary execution. The results are marketing and communications that clarify positioning, motivate the marketplace to action, improve ROI and enhance profitability and performance for our clients.
Healthcare/Diagnostics Expertise—An understanding beyond the healthcare environment
We have more than just healthcare industry experience, we posses the ability to apply our insights in the development of meaningful marketing and communications that will provide:
CLARITY—convey the value and relevance of the brand,
UNITY—of team vision and organization-wide culture, and
CONTROL—taking control of your brand voice in the marketplace.
Our clients are provider organizations, clinical practices, medical device companies, healthcare technology businesses, insurance providers and professional associations. Our outcomes are strategic solutions that lead with digital, and integrate branding, market research, tactical planning, and execution.
Professional Services Firms Expertise—Our focus is on B2B organizations and brand is our core competency
The business to business sector and professional services organizations make up the majority of our client roster. Global, multi-national, national and local in reach, they are 100+ year old companies, start-ups and everything in between. We are exceptionally experienced in developing resonant messaging and selling into the C-suite, while simultaneously providing tools and programs to assist in gaining entrée through the Director and VP levels. Our ability to tell our clients’ stories through finely developed business graphics is unmatched, and utilized to clarify PowerPoint presentations, sales collateral, investor relations materials, and website process descriptions.
Associations/Societies/Not-for-Profit Expertise—The strongest Member connections are both rational and emotional
We understand the various and differing issues with the branding and marketing of Associations, Societies and Not-for-Profits. We also have the insight, expertise, technology understanding, resources and solutions your organization needs to improve member retention and acquisition, increase member engagement and attendance, enhance brand relevance and awareness, increase sponsorship and financial support, and raise your return on marketing’s investment. We work within the consensus-oriented decision processes that exist in most organizations, and are adept at board presentations.
Construction, Architecture, Engineering and Real Estate Expertise—Building the brands that build Chicago
We were founded in 1982 on the strength of our real estate expertise. Over the years, we have helped build some of the nation’s leading brands and have helped fill millions upon millions of square feet—in the US and abroad. This grounding in development and management clients, led to our expansion into construction, architecture, engineering and related industries. We understand the marketplace and need for specialization, as well as the importance these markets place on value engineering, cultures of safety, responsiveness, and consultative practices. The brands and communications programs that we develop for our clients are visual and viable, expansive and expressive, tough and true.
Consumer and Product Expertise—It’s still about reach and frequency—only in a different context
Consumers are no longer that amorphous group of 18-50 year olds with few commonalities and fewer brand loyalties. With the aging boomers, the X, Y and Z generations (or Generation @), successful consumer brands have learned to have conversations with and respond to weekly, daily and sometimes hourly input directly from their customers. And while technology is driving this sea change, brand experience is the engine behind it. Consumers want the truth, they love a little humor, they expect CSR (corporate social responsibility), and they like being heard. Effective campaigns and brand platforms combine all this and more, turning consumers into advocates, and brand equity into bottom-line profits.
Municipal/Government Expertise—We hold ourselves accountable for our work
Our tagline is Doing Work That Works©. It seems very fitting that our hometown is Chicago—the City that Works. We know how to roll up our sleeves and dig in to opportunities and challenges as they present themselves. We’re not afraid of hard work, nor are we intimidated by attempting to do what has not been done before. With appropriate research and understanding to base our recommendations on, our team can develop marketing and communications programs, platforms and campaigns targeting the general populace, or any sub-segment that exists. It’s a pride that we have in our work and our results, that is matched by the pride we have in our city and state.
Process and approach
Our approach is sometimes magical, always practical—no matter how complex the initiative, our approach makes the process manageable. The culmination of years of experience, our methodology was designed to ensure success by importing our basic business values to the entire development process:
Honesty — Our clients trust our integrity because we advise them how to remain on the right path and question them when they are not. Our goal is to mitigate risk.
Accountability — Our clients rely on us because we are accountable for the outcome. We agree to benchmarks, schedules, budgets and objectives at the outset. We track every step of the project from concept to completion, and most importantly, manage expectations.
Simplicity — Complexity usually adds substantial execution risk with little reward. That’s why we reduce communications challenges to their essence, operate within the scope of the project, and simplify communication throughout the life of the engagement by providing easy access to our team.
Vision — We seek a full understanding of your objectives and resources, both for the immediate engagement and for the future, so that our recommendations align with your strategy—for today and tomorrow.
Our process is one of listening, asking, listening more, then applying ourselves and our insights to the task at hand. And, while it varies greatly from program to program and client to client, it generally follows these four stages:
1) We ask a lot of questions to learn about your brand, audience and vision.
2) We listen… and we even listen for what’s not being said.
3) We learn. We learn what your employees, your clients and the media are saying. We learn what the competition is doing. We learn what resources you have and what you need. We learn what level of risk/reward you are comfortable with. And, we learn what success looks like to you.
4) Then as a team, we put all the information together, and through our thoughtful, insightful and practical application of old-fashioned hard work, we develop outstanding creative solutions, meaningful brands, and marketing programs that give you a competitive edge that resonates with your audiences.
Our team is senior and responsive
All staff members are highly qualified and each possess an understanding of marketing, branding and web development. They share a commitment to client success through a dedication to client service and business ethics. All staff act together as a team on all client engagements, sharing responsibility and successes, and therefore as a rule, we do not have deep individual resumes. The firm resume speaks equally to each of our contributions in total.
Why clients choose us
For 30 years, we’ve been trusted, focused and flexible, and we believe We are unique for several reasons:
1) An understanding of brand, marketing and communications well beyond our client roster
Through our development of our branded MarketShare Roundtable, our team gains insight into real issues, challenges and opportunities facing some the smartest organizations around. We converse with local, regional and global CMOs on issues affecting their brands, including both internal and external forces, brand relevance, corporate culture and international expansion.
2) A senior team, a tight ship
As a smaller, ‘boutique’ firm with active principals, our clients benefit from the vast experience accumulated by seasoned senior staff. Each primary member of your team has more than 20 years of experience. And we run a ‘lean’ organization—streamlined support staff handle all required initiative administrative duties, allowing the primary team to focus on your business objectives.
3) A proven process
While we are known for saying that “we listen for what’s not being said”—meaning that there are often influences and issues below the surface that color every engagement—we always follow an established and proven process in our discovery and assessment phase.
4) Your requirements define our engagement
Regardless of the final deliverables, our solutions evolve from strategy, and our services exploit your opportunities. We are thinkers and doers. From research and analysis through planning, implementation and measurement, you can engage our team for as much insight and assistance as you need. Fully-integrated communications—whether focused on internal or external audiences—combine digital with social with experiential with good old-fashioned purpose. First we ask why, then we recommend how, then we do it.
5) We are successful because our clients are successful
Our clients are successful—in part—because the work we do on their behalf is actionable. Actionable initiatives deliver control back into the hands of the organization for both inbound and outbound marketing and messaging. Actionable outcomes combine with effective implementation to make change possible.
6) And, we do Work That Works©
We collaborate with clients to use all their knowledge to help shape and streamline the program or initiative. Our work is thorough. Most importantly, we deliver the results our clients need.
Brand Development—A strategic approach from a practiced perspective
We define “brand” as the sum of all feelings and attitudes toward an organization, as well as all things that the brand represents—both intentionally and unintentionally. It is the physical representations, the experiential, and the brand as behavior. It is the complete collective of experiences people are having with your organization. Brand tells the story of your organizational DNA.
Therefore, when we engage in “Branding” our work targets perceptions, attitudes and feelings in addition to visual and verbal messages. We are well-versed in the nuances of brand development and communications, and in creating industry-leading brands across all market segments. Whether we develop a new brand, refine an existing one, or expand on a successful one, planning and perspective guide our actions.
We never stop building a stronger brand strategy
What an organization stands for, what it believes, how it operates, what it promises, gets conveyed in a consistent and controlled manner with a brand strategy in place. The brand image has to be consistent with the company’s reality—a brand identity and strategy has to be reflective of the true organization and corporate culture. Additionally, effective brand management occurs through consistent, coordinated and controlled application. The larger the organization, the more controls are needed in place to make sure branding efforts are consistently applied by every employee in every communication. Creating an integrated brand strategy allows our clients to influence the way people think about and experience their organization.
Process—Understanding and planning deliver leading brand status
There are four general categories of engagement, depending on your objectives:
Brand Assessment—Assessment happens through a combination of research, interviews and analysis. Often, we will do a traditional brand assessment forensic exercise by reviewing all existing marketing and strategic documents—both print and electronic. We may conduct qualitative research and use the information derived from this research to shape a quantitative survey vehicle.
Brand Development—Based on our findings and recommendations from the assessment phase, we may develop/redevelop both the verbal and visual representations of the brand. We create a brand messaging platform that translates the vision, mission and organizational DNA into statements of positioning, core attributes and key points of differentiation. We may also address the name and other related identity elements. We also address brand application—this ‘design mapping’ will show sample uses of the graphics system, demonstrating both the versatility within the system and guidelines that will ensure uniformity.
Brand Communications Planning—Here we develop a top-level integrated and strategic communications plan that addresses the goals and objectives of the organization, as well as all issues that are uncovered in the research phase, for both internal and external audiences. The plan delineates the approach and timing for brand launch to each of the organization’s stakeholders. The plan is a top-level view, reflecting audience categories and key strategies to connect with them and influence their behavior. Additionally, we develop a tactical marketing plan for implementation purposes.
Brand Culturalization—This is an extremely important contributor to the success of any brand. Whether online or offline, your brand’s reputation is based on each individual’s interaction with it. We provide the insight and recommendations necessary to incorporate the brand essence into the brand experience. Your employees must understand and embrace it, your clients must advocate for it and your prospects must desire it.
Website Development—Usability and flexibility guide our team of experts
We create working websites that deliver value, equity and transactions—on both traditional screens and mobile devices. We integrate video, blogs and social site tools where appropriate and utilize proven CMS technologies and best practices. Because business objectives guide our design and programming decisions, our team of experts has successfully created hundreds of user-centric websites that fully engage visitors. And we maximize your online opportunities by applying our unique WebBrand™ process. We integrate your organization’s brand messaging with marketing strategies and website goals; then select the best technologies that will deliver on your business objectives. The result is a site that is relevant, engaging and actionable.
Our goal is to deliver the best brand experience through web interaction to your key audiences. That may sound simple but this is no easy task—the game keeps changing. We strive to understand your organization’s unique offering(s) and to develop a web strategy that will capitalize on every opportunity. We will discuss budget and resource availability, and offer technology and functionality solutions. Again, and always, our goal is to deliver on your business objectives. Your web strategy does not exist separate from your marketing and communications strategy. Nor from your business strategy. All are integrated and overlapping. We address and analyze all of today’s options to determine your optimal solutions.
We strive to ensure worry-free development and deployment by focusing on three key aspects of your site:
2) Flexibility, and
And our process follows a 4-phase approach:
1) Discovery and planning,
2) Wireframing and design,
3) Content development and brand integration, and
4) Construction, testing and launch.
We feel the discovery and planning phase is extremely important in any website initiative. Our objective in this phase is to more fully investigate the desired operational, content and brand changes required for the completion of the project as well as crystallizing the scope definition. All input from your team is gathered and added to our planning and scheduling, and the scope of the project and its related costs are defined.
Integrated Marketing—Uncovering possibilities, defining objectives and delivering results
Inbound/outbound. Push/pull. Digital/print. On-line/off-line. Direct response. Image. Experiential. Campaigns, initiatives, methods, tactics, touchpoints, channels, media and more. There are numerous terms used in the discussion of integrated marketing and we are fluent. Our team assesses the opportunities and challenges at hand, then develops and delivers integrated programs to reach defined objectives. Your brand connects all communications and your website anchors all content, but the depth and breadth of your organization’s marketing reach builds recognition, delivers opportunity and converts prospects. We develop integrated plans that align all efforts and overlap expenditures, so the video that is created for a trade show can be shown at a board meeting, it can open a prospect presentation, reside within the careers section of your website, embed in your client e-newsletter, and be the subject of tomorrow’s blogpost.