Continuing our series of Employee Spotlights, this month we’ve interviewed one of A-LINE’s co-founders Charles Refshauge. Here, Charles answers some questions about the industry, gives advice for marketing clients, and shares his tips for finding balance.
What trends do you see in marketing that clients should know about?
Clearly, being mobile optimized is a must these days. I also feel like a lot of companies are wondering what to do with all of the marketing platforms that continue to emerge – technology is changing at an amazing rate and it’s hard to stay ahead of the curve in understanding how things work best and how they work together. I think a lot of organizations get caught up in ‘needing’ to be on Facebook, Twitter, Mailchimp, Snapchat, etc., because ‘everyone else’ uses those channels, but sometimes they don’t stop to think about how those tools can integrate to support the overall brand strategy. I guess what I’d like our clients to know is that they need to be comfortable with change and be strategic as new trends and marketing opportunities pop up. The digital world moves fast, and today’s emerging trends are going to be old news in a year.
If there was something you'd like to see change in the web/digital industry, what would it be?
Following up on my previous answer – I think a lot of companies (particularly small businesses) still don’t have a good grasp on what’s working in their marketing. Again, often we sit down with people who are running direct mail campaigns along with social media and e-newsletters, but they don’t have a great way of tracking those results or seeing how those initiatives impact overall website performance. Our goal for A-LINE in 2017 is that we want to work with more of our clients on an ongoing basis to review analytics and website performance and help them to make strategic decisions based on what those numbers say. We do this for several of our clients, but eventually I’d like to do this for everybody. I will say that in the next quarter we plan on rolling out a suite of services designed for small businesses that should help them with content planning, content creation and yes – evaluating the effectiveness of their communication strategies.
What can our B2B clients learn from our B2C clients? And vice versa?
I think B2C businesses sometimes think more about their brand. Take a look at The Hub and Astral and they evoke a lifestyle message that hits home with their target audience – clearly they put a lot of thought into how their brand looks and feels based on what appeals to their target demographic. Because they are trying to appeal to consumers rather than LLCs, maybe it seems more important to really think through this component. But I think a compelling brand is important no matter who you are, so B2C companies need to make these efforts as well.
If you were to equip a client with only one marketing tool, what would it be?
Every organization needs a modern website. Even if that organization develops business strictly through word-of-mouth and relationship building, a solid website backs up their message and reinforces the fact that they are legit. Odds are people are going to research you via your website during their decision-making process on whether to use you or not (even if it’s your friend or a great referral). So putting your best foot forward with a website seems like a must to me. And I think nonprofits are no different – it’s going to be way easier to develop a donor base and spread your message if you look established and your mission is clearly articulated.
What's one business- or industry-related book/blog/expert you're reading right now that you'd recommend?
Sterling gave me a book a while back called The 12 Week Year. I think it’s got some interesting perspective. You should check it out.
What are the ingredients of a successful client relationship?
Honest and open communication – we are most effective when our client clearly communicates with us. Whether they like a deliverable or not – getting clear and honest feedback on what we are producing helps us to do a better job delivering on their vision.
Also, prompt feedback. When it’s hard to get in touch with someone or an approval just sits on their desk, it becomes almost impossible to move the needle forward with their marketing. Marketing is fast paced and opportunities are missed when things are put on the back burner. As we develop our own client list, something we talk about internally is whether a company is going to be committed to the process and responsive. A client that is actively engaged and invested in working together is going to notice results when they team up with us.
What are the ingredients of a strong creative team?
I think a strong creative team is composed of people who bring different skills to the table. Our business is creative, but at the same time very timeline oriented. Brand driven, but we have to have best-in-class technology backing it all up. People are wired differently and excel at different things – when we put them together we make something that I think is pretty special and allows us to provide fully integrated marketing solutions for our clients that go beyond what just one person could do.
For A-LINE, I’m thrilled about the trajectory our business is on. We have assembled a fantastic team of honest, hardworking and very talented people. We love our clients and get a ton of satisfaction helping them to accomplish their missions – as ultimately they are committed to making our community a better place to live, work and play. This brand development stuff is so much fun as it allows us to think creatively and bring new perspectives – every day is different.
So what’s next for A-LINE? We are going to keep doing what we’ve been doing: helping local organizations to tell the world their stories. We love where we live, we love who we work with, and we love doing what we do.