It’s always a bit uncomfortable to see well-known brands and even competitors go out of business. And while many factors play into this downfall, the successful marketing firms in Nashville – where the business economy brims with competition and rising costs –might tell you that it all boils down to a company’s ability to change and adapt. Those that do, thrive. Those that don’t, don’t survive, at least not for the long haul.
I sat down with Jeff Bradford, CEO of our Nashville-based marketing firm, the Bradford Group, to talk about how a business should go about transitioning and why the resulting challenges are worth it.
One example of change is this blog, which our firm recently committed to regularly maintaining because of the changes in web search algorithms, which are now very focused on finding relevant content, as this blog provides. (Or, at least we hope it does. You’re the final judge of that.) This blog is part of an even larger change underway at our marketing firm, which involves integrating inbound marketing into our service offering.
Here’s what Jeff has to say about learning from clients and competitors and not being afraid of a little pain:
Q: Why is it so important for companies to accept change in order to remain successful?
A: For a business to be successful in any industry, it has to see what’s coming around the bend and shape its products or services to meet the demand before it’s too late. If you don’t, you will quickly become irrelevant and lose market share – it’s as simple as that.
Q: Where have you seen this scenario played out?
A: I’ve seen it with our client, DSi. They were a lucrative photocopy company serving the legal community at the end of the 20th century. Then they saw how electronic documents were going to become more prevalent and decided to jump on the opportunity instead of letting it squash them. They got ahead of the curve and began offering e-discovery when the industry was just beginning. It wasn’t as easy, dramatic change never is. It took many 60+ hour weeks and a major financial investment. But it paid off. DSi is today one of the nation’s leading eDiscovery firms, serving Fortune 500 clients. And they are still changing, always staying a step ahead of the technology curve.
Q: How did you become interested in transitioning the Bradford Group into a PR firm with solid digital credentials, including inbound marketing expertise?
A: I knew it was important to get outside of the cocoon and find out what was happening in the larger market. I wanted to find ways to do things faster, better and with higher quality.
At an annual digital marketing conference I attend, I was able to meet business owners like myself who were in various stages of transitioning from traditional to digital PR firms. It was extremely helpful to learn from peers outside my market and see how they adapted and changed to get through the curve with minimum pain. This particular conference also put me in front of true thought leaders in the digital space. I was able to choose from leading edge movements, find the one that made the most sense for our company and come back to Nashville with a plan in mind.
Q: How did you know this change was the right one for your firm?
A: To start, you don’t want to change for the sake alone, but change for the sake of meeting a need. Becoming an inbound marketing firm allowed us to continue doing what we do best, generate content, but in a more effective way for our clients We also had an unmet need of measuring results. PR is inherently a soft discipline. It’s hard to measure a client’s return on investment. We know it works, and they see it work, but it is still difficult to measure. With inbound marketing, I saw the ability to measure ROI by tracking prospects to leads to customers, generating a cost per customer number with a high degree of exactitude. So in adapting these new services, we are meeting needs on multiple levels.
Q: What have you learned from the transition thus far?
A: You have to be willing to bear the pain and expense if you want the reward. It’s similar to crisis management: you have to go through it quickly. If you do it slowly and cowardly, you’ll end up not doing it at all or doing a poor job. It helps to have a systematic approach that you are deliberate about. You can’t just work on it when you have time. You have to set a schedule and make it happen.
It’s challenging, but necessary. As a firm, we thought that we cannot afford the time it takes to make this transition, but we found a way to divide the workload and are working harder just to make it happen. It may be challenging now, but it will play an essential role in our success for years to come.