The Silicon Review
“We are constantly researching, optimizing, and testing to see what will work and what won’t.”
In today’s digital times, it is increasingly important to be inquisitive and be data-driven to grow through your marketing strategy as a business. But businesses are usually too busy to stay on the pulse of the latest in the digital marketing landscape. Based out of Canfield, Ohio, is a quirky but highly-regarded digital marketing firm, iSynergy, which can help businesses gain an edge over their competition.
With a mix of both west coast innovation and a rust belt work ethic, iSynergy excels at delivering what’s best for a business through its digital marketing services, including creative branding, great web experience, quality content, and high-class SEO. The company simply does everything digital marketing to help businesses succeed through its innovation.
iSynergy was established in 2011 and is one of the most promising digital marketing agencies from the Midwest U.S. We recently interviewed the company’s Founder and Creative Director, Steve Cross, where he shed some light on the challenges that digital marketing agencies face and how they can tackle these challenges. He also talked about iSynergy’s approach when it comes to serving clients the best way possible and his leadership style that works in a great way for the company. Read on for the excerpts from the interview.
Q. What’s the greatest challenge that your company has faced? How did you overcome it?
One of the most challenging issues we face as a company is the general misunderstanding and lack of trust in the process when it comes to digital marketing. There are too many agencies out there that claim to offer digital solutions, but in reality, they (1) don’t know what they’re doing or (2) aren’t holding themselves accountable to the client by closing the loop with data-driven insights.
When done correctly, digital marketing services can have an enormous impact on a client’s bottom line, and that’s iSynergy’s bread and butter. We use multiple outlets for programmatic campaigns and inbound strategies because we want what works best for each client, and we leverage insights to pivot when needed. Transparency is key.
Long story short, we believe that if we do what’s in the client’s best interests, iSynergy benefits from long-lasting relationships, referrals and a trusted reputation.
Q. You’re a crew of quirky professionals who strive to question the status quo. Your creativity is what stands out, and your data-driven strategy is what succeeds. How uniquely do you address your customers’ pain points per this?
We work for companies spanning dozens of industries, and not being vertical-specific allows us to look at every new client from a fresh perspective. We always start with the client’s goal and work backward into a strategy; that goal must be defined (and agreed upon with the client) prior to any discussion on strategy, channels, creative, etc. This process makes status meetings easy because there are no moving targets when defined goals are hammered out from the start.
Q. How do you measure success, and over what time frame? How are these metrics determined?
Every single client is different, so there is no secret formula that spans industries. Of course, there are strategies that we continuously employ like SEO, programmatic, and content marketing, but each iteration is different. It all depends on the client’s ultimate goal. Sometimes goals are revenue or user acquisition, while other times, companies are looking for lead generation, organic traffic or employee recruitment. Some businesses kill it on social, while others need lead nurturing or SEO. We are constantly researching, optimizing, and testing to see what will work and what won’t.
No two days or two clients are the same here. We would go crazy working in a single niche with every day just being rinse and repeat. Where’s the creativity and fulfillment in that? Permanent Beta is key.
After gaining a full understanding of the problems that need to be solved and defining our goals for the client, I always follow up with the question, “In 3, 6, or 12 months, what will make this relationship a success? How will we be graded?”
Q. Trust is one of the most important currencies of leadership that requires authenticity and consistency to maintain. How do you interpret this further?
I think this is two-fold, for both employees and clients. Our employees are the same people, no matter what they’re doing or who they’re talking to. Sure, sometimes the dialog is a little more formal, depending on the scenario, but in the end, the personality/knowledge/demeanor remains the same. We know who we are as a staff and our culture doesn’t deviate from that to fit into what a lead/client might want us to be.
When working with clients, that trust and authenticity is imperative, because they need to know that we are working in their best interest. Internally, we refer to our clients as our partners, because, ultimately, our success is directly related to their success.
Q. How do you plan to combat your competition?
We know who our “competitors” are, but that’s where it ends when it comes to combating them. I have no interest in mimicking what they might be doing because, as an agency, we focus inward and on setting the pace. Instead, I look at the successes of leaders and organizations that I consider to be the best of the best—benchmark companies, if you will. I want to know what the businesses on the forefront of their respective fields are doing/saying/building/achieving. We strive to always learn and evolve. Again, leaning on the philosophy of Permanent Beta is key.
Q. Where do you stand as a company in the current market landscape? And what are you doing to stay ahead of the curve?
In the Midwest, we are leaders in our industry, keeping pace with coastal tech hub cities. There is no difference between us in Ohio and the large digital agencies in SF or NYC when it comes to capabilities. However, iSynergy is much more affordable than many of those large agencies because our cost of living is lower.
We like to describe ourselves as “West Coast innovation meets Rust Belt work ethic.” We have personal relationships with our clients and we are invested in their success. We also run leaner as an agency because we don’t employ sales reps. No client of ours is getting “sold” something they don’t need/want so that a random salesperson can hit their quota or earn commission.
Q. What is your company’s policy on providing seminars, workshops, and training so the employees can keep up on their skills or acquire new skills?
Every person on staff has a weekly mandatory task to “Learn.” We offer over 10 different paid and free learning platforms (Skillshare, HubSpot, Grow with Google, Demand Curve, SEMRush Academy, etc). In addition to that, every employee has a nearly unlimited budget for external learning through seminars, webinars, conventions, workshops, etc. Continuing education is a key element in maintaining our momentum.
Q. Could you describe your typical management style and the type of employee that works well with you?
No one in our office is comfortable with the status quo, so if a new hire does not have a desire to be the best, they won’t make it long here. Our employees are driven and focused and just simply all-around good humans.
We do not have the need for managers or middle management as a whole. Our staff is self-policing—they are first and foremost accountable to the client, then to each other and lastly to me, as the owner. If they take care of our clients and each other, there is no need for strict management or oversight. In my experience, if you treat people as a professional and with respect, they will act accordingly and prove you right. I was told by a former boss, early in my career, that the people who give the least amount of trust are the people you should trust the least. It stuck with me, so I always give everyone my trust until they prove otherwise.
In regard to my management style, there’s a Steve Jobs quote that says it all: “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do. We hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”
Q. What new endeavors is your company currently undertaking?
We recently built a state-of-the-art, 1600 sq ft. video studio and added a full video production staff (We wanted to bring video in-house because it was the last service that we used to outsource). By executing all of our work with our local, full-time staff, we are able to control creative, scope, and timelines. Plus, we remain accountable to the client without being held hostage by subcontractors.
Q. About your plans, where do you think your company will be in five years?
I think that in today’s world, having a 3- or 5-year plan can be detrimental to growth and success. You need to be flexible and adapt easily (and fast), especially in our space where the industry changes in an instant.
I’d like to think that we’ll be still doing more of the same, helping larger clients achieve their marketing and advertising goals while helping startups live out their dreams. We will always be headquartered in northeast Ohio and look to keep Youngstown, Ohio on the map as home to one of the most progressive and successful digital marketing agencies in the U.S.
The Leader Upfront
Steve Cross, Founder and Creative Director: Prior to founding iSynergy, he was the President of Business Development at Six Sigma Technology, a full-service information technology management company. He has also worked as Regional Sales Supervisor for Union Office Solutions and as Director of Sales at Alpine H2O.
He is currently a member of the Forbes Agency Council. He studied Physics and Mathematics at Baldwin Wallace University.