As we light our fourth birthday candle, it’s time to update you about the agency.
We’re very thankful at the moment. In September, amid testing times, we have the broadest roster we’ve ever had, with clients engaging us for a range of services, and the highest revenues to match. Our team has held together, with no layoffs or cuts. We’re even hiring. I know this could have been a different picture, so we’re lucky.
The big news this year for Firebrand was building our team. Just before the pandemic, we were joined by Lucy Allen, Edelman’s former US Tech Practice Chair. Startups don’t often get access to that level of talent and experience. We hired Shane Jordan late last year to strengthen our digital team and to add influencer marketing to our skillset. We also have other great hires, such as Yasaman Sadeghi who joined from Archetype, making a big impact.
Although we are remote, oddly we are closer as a team, with more personal relationships beyond the work. We’re invited into each other’s homes, we see their kids and their pets, we take the time each day to check how we’re doing. That forges more understanding, a tighter culture that shines through in the trust and the work. The same is true for our client relationships – I’m not sure I knew the names of my clients’ dogs before.
This year has seen us broaden our proposition and find our market fit. When we started, I felt advocacy might be our thing – moving buyer personas up the ladder from prospects to evangelists. Well, sure – but it wasn’t a line item in the budget, people thought it was about public affairs or was just too theoretical. Interesting but not compelling.
Today, we help startups crush their marketing goals. We define their messaging, then promote them to their target audiences to drive them along their buyer journey. We do that through PR, content marketing and digital marketing (SEO, paid media, email). We have repeatable processes for each of these, which ensures success and means we can scale. Some clients just want us as their PR firm, others as their SEO agency, with others just their content firm. Many want the integrated approach – and we love that. We’ve been lucky enough to be able to choose clients to whom we feel we can deliver the most value. And, we’ve been honest enough to decline others which aren’t a fit.
That feels pretty good.
It’s also important to us that the companies we work with are going to make a difference. We are helping them realize their mission after all. So we’re proud that our clients are helping to keep people safe and to keep the economy moving. For instance, they are enabling remote work, helping people stay connected, improving security, even helping kids get back to school safely. Let’s do good marketing for companies doing good work.
We’ve also been doing our homework on the technical side. This year we became an official Google Ads Partner for Search and Display. You have to hit performance metrics over time, besides the competency certificates to get that.
We’ve become a Hubspot Solutions Partner. Many startups use Hubspot, so it made sense for us to help them with the platform. We’re slowly working our way through the Hubspot Academy. Even though this is down in the weeds perhaps, so much of marketing today is informed by what’s technically possible, it’s hard to be strategic without that capillary understanding.
We also have burgeoning partnerships with LinkedIn and Leadfeeder, that are less formal but equally exciting. Google Ads, Hubspot, LinkedIn, Leadfeeder – starting to feel like a good stack and you can see where we go from there.
Now we have reached the grand age of four, we are old enough to have repeat clients. Some who have been huge advocates for the firm and multi-startup clients. We love that. We’ve also got some strong relationships with VC firms – where we’re in the trenches with their operating teams working with founders. That’s fun – and helps us be more than a referral but an effective team.
I’ve skipped over the challenges with cashflow, client pivots, overserviced projects and all manner of other trials agencies face. We’ve had those – but they shaped us too. Lest you think it’s all Instagrammable shine, there was plenty of immiserating grind. (Immiserating – surely the word of the year for 2020).
Blowing out those candles, I quietly wish for smoother seas next year. I think we’re onto something, and we have the right team. Thanks so much for all your help and support, thanks to the Firebrands for their hard work and belief. We’ve survived, and I would say we’ve even thrived. The cake is a little bigger, we added a few decorations, and that extra candle sheds a bit more light.
Morgan McLintic is the founder of Firebrand. With over 25 years’ experience in the tech sector, he advises clients about their marketing and PR strategy. Prior to Firebrand, he was the founder of digital communications agency, LEWIS in the US, growing it to 250 staff and $35m revenue.