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What does it take for an agency to not only survive but thrive over decades? What mindset and approach enabled this agency owner to pivot and leverage new opportunities? In the challenging world of business, most companies struggle to reach the one-year mark, with even fewer making it to the five-year milestone. Hence, for an agency to make it beyond that it means the owner has weathered more than a few storms and learned to navigate and adapt to a constantly changing industry. Today’s guest has steered her business through over two decades of growth, demonstrating the ability to pivot, take calculated risks, and understand her agency's value to ensure its sustainability. From learning the importance of self-renewal to using the pandemic as a time to pivot and grow, tune in to learn about her journey and the changes in the marketing landscape over the past couple of years.

Marlo Fogelman is the founder & CEO of Marlo Marketing, an integrated marketing agency specializing in all things hospitality, lifestyle, and CPG. Marlo has owned an agency for over 20 years and today she shares insights on the evolution of her agency from a PR firm to an integrated marketing model. She discusses the variety of services her agency offers, from creative services to full-scale marketing support for clients in the hospitality, lifestyle, and consumer-packaged-goods (CPG) industries.

In this episode, we’ll discuss:

  • Making time for self-renewal while owning an agency.

  • The foundations of agency rebuilding.

  • Pivoting to retain talent amid the turmoil.


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How a Career Pivot Led to Accidental Agency Life

Despite her initial intentions of practicing law, Marlo felt unfulfilled and unsure of her career path. It was during this time of uncertainty that she stumbled upon a job opportunity in PR, which ultimately changed the course of her career.

Working in PR, Marlo discovered her passion for marketing and communication. She excelled in her role, turning around a national brand that had previously struggled in the market. Her success in PR and her passion for quality work and ethical practices guided her decision to start her own agency, specializing in hospitality, lifestyle, and CPG clients.

One of the pivotal moments in her career was receiving a call from the CEO of a 27-unit restaurant group, offering the opportunity to take over their marketing efforts. Despite initially hesitating, Marlo accepted the challenge and exceeded all expectations, setting new sales records and achieving unprecedented success for the restaurant group. It was an interesting opportunity to be on the other side and see the results her team could bring controlling both the execution and the strategy instead of just implementing the client’s vision.

The Entrepreneurial Balancing Act: Finding Time for Self-Renewal

Becoming an agency owner meant a shift in how she worked and how the work she did integrated into her life. Instead of spending late nights highlighting legal documents, Marlo now spent time in Nantucket with clients, enjoying wine and meeting interesting people. However, since it didn’t feel like work, she didn't take enough time to recharge.

This realization came later in her career when she led a team of 45 people and was putting all of herself into building and growing her business. While she would do it all over again, Marlo acknowledges she would also take more time for herself.

Taking time for yourself is not just about relaxation and self-care it is also about gaining perspective and clarity. Her advice to agency owners is to take a complete month off from their business to see what breaks and to recharge their energy. This allows individuals to step back, evaluate their priorities, and delegate tasks effectively.

Crisis as Catalyst: The Unshakable Foundations of Agency Rebuilding

The pandemic dealt a significant blow to Marlo’s agency, causing her to lose two-thirds of her clients overnight. Despite the uncertainty and fear surrounding the pandemic, she decided to seize a new opportunity, ultimately rescuing her hospitality based business from complete collapse.

Marlo’s adaptability and willingness to take calculated risks were crucial for her agency's survival. She recognized the need to pivot her business strategy and embrace new challenges to ensure the agency's continuation. Even in the face of adversity, this readiness to reset and rebuild ultimately preserved her team and kept the business afloat.

In hindsight, her decision prevented the need to lay off most of her hospitality practice team, which would have meant starting from scratch. Nonetheless, she encourages agency owners to remember they can always start again and rebuild. Creativity and experience are invaluable tools at their disposal; underestimating them would be a mistake.

Staying Curious as a Competitive Advantage: the Perils of Outdated Marketing

With 20 years in the industry, Marlo has witnessed many changes and knows how important it is for owners to keep up with them to stay relevant and successful. Continuous learning and curiosity are essential in marketing, so she advises always expanding your skill set and staying up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies.

This is how she first fell into her niche, as she noticed that marketers for resorts and senior living communities getting paid a lot of money and weren’t doing a good job. Most of all, these marketing fails came from people who had failed to adapt to the changing landscape. They expected to do the same things they did 10-15 years prior and still get great results. Simply relying on outdated strategies and techniques from the past is not enough to succeed in today's fast-paced marketing environment.

Furthermore, Marlo touches on the pitfalls of agencies that lack expertise in certain areas but still offer those services to clients and emphasizes the importance of being honest about one's capabilities. This ensures clients receive high-quality services and results that meet their expectations.

How Proper Pricing Can Be the Key to Work-Life Balance

One common misconception peddled online is that running an agency allows for a life filled with endless vacations and leisurely days at the beach. While achieving success certainly requires hard work, Marlo rejects the notion that agency owners should be constantly overwhelmed and working non-stop.

If you find yourself facing a perpetual state of busyness and overwhelm, you may be undervaluing your services. By prioritizing the value of your expertise over your time, you can justify increasing your prices to better reflect the value you offer to clients. Start by raising prices for new prospects, and seeing the results, you’ll work up the courage to raise prices for legacy clients as well.

While some existing clients may leave after a price increase, this will create space for new clients who appreciate the value you bring. In reality, many agency owners report minimal client turnover following a price increase, as clients recognize and appreciate the expertise their agency provides. This shift not only results in a significant revenue boost but also reduces the workload.

Regularly assessing and adjusting pricing to align with the value you deliver is crucial. This proactive approach to pricing can lead to enhanced revenue and a more sustainable business model in the long term.

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Direct download: Marlo_Fogelman_Audio.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 6:00am MDT