20 Jul Alternative Paths for Your Agency’s Marketing Strategy
As a creative agency, you may decide that advertising is simply not for you. Advertising is what you help other people with. You are advertising. But you still need a clientele, which means you still need to market yourself in some way. So how do you get your name out there in a way that showcases your expertise, is more proactive than social media, but not as overt as, say, a web ad? For Woo Creative, a branding agency in South Florida, “it’s all about the company hype.” So says Ryan Boylston, the agency’s CEO. Woo Creative started life as a one-person shop with no real office back in 2011. The agency’s grown by a handful of people since then, but Boylston noted that “we were always strict with our own brand. And ads don’t fit our brand.” But hype, yes. Hype is where Woo Creative’s marketing strategy shines.
Be newsworthy. But be ready.
In fact, they caused a bit of a media splash a couple years ago under the name of Futuristic Woo, thanks to some imaginatively redesigned high-school football uniforms donated to a local team. You can check out the USA Today article here. It even led to another uniform donation courtesy of Flo Rida to his own high school alma mater. A fair piece of free marketing by any company’s standards. But be warned if you want to make your agency newsworthy: You won’t have control over the commentary that comes from it. In both cases, the media picked up the stories because the projects created conversation, both good and bad. Debates about design aesthetic surrounded the first, and you just have to read a few comments to understand the controversy of the second.
Make your location work hard for you.
Last December, Futuristic Woo said goodbye to its less-than-descriptive name and rebranded itself as Woo Creative. Why sacrifice even a little of the SEO from the uniforms’ media coverage in favor of a name change? “We liked the cryptic nature of the first name,” said Ryan Boylston, the branding agency’s CEO, “but then we moved into an office on Main Street. We wanted to make best use of our door in downtown Delray Beach.” A name that at least hints at the services they offer — like creating and policing brands, building sites, producing branded materials — does a better job promoting the 3-year-old agency on its city’s main drag than the previous moniker would have. The name on the door may land a bit on the traditional side now, but the office’s interior still calls to mind the agency capable of producing buzz-worthy football uniforms. “Our main meeting room has artificial grass and a payphone and skateboards that represent our clients,” Boylston said. A personalized office area that just shouts fun! encourages word-of-mouth promotion from current clients. “They’re happy to be working with us,” Boylston said proudly. “They brag about that and that gets us more business.”
Look for the clients that can stand out in a big way.
“When I first started the company, I was selective because I wanted every project to have an impact,” Boylston recalled. “I wanted to work with the local plumber who knows his business inside and out. He’s not a startup — he’s been doing this for 30 years. Who do I have to beat? A bunch of other plumbers? Not a problem. Let me look at your business card, your T-shirts, let’s make sure they’re contemporary and professional-looking.” Once the client’s image is locked down, he continued, that’s when agency and client can consider advertising. “But they may not have to spend more money on advertising,” Boylston pointed out, “because they’ll already look better than all their competition, and they’ll be ready to go.” Some industries are easier to stand out in than others. If you’re following Woo’s example, that definitely should come into consideration regarding the clients you take on. “We’re in the restaurant hub of South Florida,” Boylston said by way of example. “If a restaurant came to us and asked us to make them stand out, that’d be a really risky thing. Honestly, it’d be tough to do.” To that end, Woo seeks out clients in a wide variety of industries, looking for the people who have in-depth knowledge of their businesses. “If all you ever do is work with apartment complexes, you’re going to start thinking you know what they need without talking to them,” Boylston added. Of course, that means if a potential client lets him know that they’re never in Florida, “I’m probably not going to take you on,” he said. “We’re constantly learning new industries. And that’s really hard to do if I can’t meet you, if I can’t meet your people.” Boylston admitted that, like every agency, Woo has said yes to ones that it probably shouldn’t have. “And you know it almost immediately,” he said. “They don’t know their own business. I understand if someone can’t write copy, but if you can’t write a paragraph so my copywriter can rewrite it, then we have a problem. I have a heart for startups, but a lot of times they don’t have their shit together when they come in here. And I’ve worked with startups who have the money and the whole package. But get to work first.”
Be your own client.
Woo handles the brand identities of a couple other businesses in which Boylston has at least part interest. There’s The Pineapple, a bi-weekly newspaper that serves Delray Beach and Boca Raton. Don’t forget the Cringle Mingle [sic], a city-approved Santa crawl going on its fifth year. And then there’s Arnold Day. Boylston laughed when the event came up in conversation. “I started that in college 10 years ago,” he said. “You know, ‘wanna just watch a bunch of Arnold movies at the Lazy Moon?’” What started out as a tradition amongst friends has turned into a polished annual event that attracts over 1,000 people. It’s still at the same restaurant, but now there are T-shirts and sponsors and charities. Woo Creative handles all of the creative — yeah, those awesome shirts? They’re designed in-house. “Two years ago, we started donating to charity,” Boylston said. “And this year, it’s Arnold’s charity.” Guests can pledge to After-School All Stars in hopes of tempting the real Arnold to show up in the flesh. The event’s site acknowledges that it may be wishful thinking to believe that Schwarzenegger will make an appearance, but Boylston thinks that if the actor cum governor will attend any year, it’ll be this one. “His people have already reached out to me requesting formal details of the event,” he said, “and he’s doing a lot of public events. This falls right into their strategy.” It helps, Boylston pointed out, that this isn’t just some random fanboy event that’s only been around for a couple years. You may not have 10 years to fine-tune an event, but that doesn’t mean you can’t take a page from Woo’s book. “Creating my own clients is actually kind of the goal,” Boylston admitted. “As we move into our third anniversary, we will slowly be moving from 90 percent client work to 75 percent. The other 25 will be starting new businesses. And any of our team members will be able to pitch me an idea for a new business.” Well, wait. How does Woo plan to not overload the system with too many projects and too little funding? “We’ve been a bootstrapped company from the very beginning and we’re not looking to change that,” Boylston stated. “We don’t have debt. And we keep that mentality. Moving into another division, we do it through hard work, not debt. We’re not going to do it half-assed. It takes time.”