What sort of ad agency does an entrepreneur need?

From the Tennessean Newspaper in Nashville, TN:

Sunday, 10/14/07
What sort of ad agency does an entrepreneur need?
Answer: One willing to take a few chances to help an owner score big

By RANDY MCCLAIN
Business Editor

Jeffrey Buntin Jr., the 34-year-old president of The Buntin Group, has seen the Nashville advertising agency started by his dad in the 1970s guide the accounts of some of this area’s and the nation’s most entrepreneurial companies.

The Buntin Group, marking 35 years in business this fall, has worked with Cracker Barrel, John Deere, Dollar General, golf pro Jack Nicklaus and others.

Buntin, who now heads the agency, said start-up companies in search of advertising help should look for advisers that can provide more than just flashy slogans or clever commercials.

“We say to potential clients, select someone who wants to be your business partner, not just your ad agency.”

Buntin’s take is that it makes sense to pick an agency that can weigh in on long-term strategy and help an entrepreneur better define his or her target customer.

“The idea is to establish intimacy with your audience, to understand what they want, not just to sell them a product,” Buntin said.

It’s easier to think big early: “In the early stages of a business, there’s an opportunity to think of a new company as a brand, not just as a means of delivering a product. We ask clients to think of the brand, ‘why.’

“There’s a purpose or a mission behind every brand. It’s alive and authentic and it helps when you’re able to put it into words,” Buntin said. “For an entrepreneur, the ‘why’ is what they wake up every morning thinking about as they’re brushing their teeth,” what drives them in the business world.

Companies can get it right from the outset or they can evolve.

Servpro, a clean-up and restoration franchisor, has been based in Gallatin, Tenn., since relocating there from the West Coast in the late 1980s. It started years before that as a painting company and morphed into a maintenance firm that worked with insurers to clean up after fire and water damage.

But in more recent years, the Buntin Group client evolved to work directly with homeowners in addition to the commercial insurers. Servpro now targets individual consumers who need big clean-up jobs after storms or other mishaps.

The brand — reflected in Servpro’s identifying slogan — is: “Like it never even happened.”

Reaching out to homeowners was a big change in strategy, but it helped Servpro keep growing, Buntin said. The common thread all along was “about restoring control,” he said. “That thought process allowed them to diversify and accelerate overall growth. It provided brand clarity.”

Trust your intuition or partner with someone whose intuition you trust: Entrepreneurs generally have a sixth sense about the direction their business should take, but “they’re also more willing to embrace risk,” Buntin said.

Don’t fret about starting small. You can still clobber larger competitors with deeper pockets and bigger budgets.

“Being a challenger brand is more about mindset than the dollars in someone’s budget,” Buntin said. “The key is to know your audience deeply, and to know them as people.

“It’s not enough to have a megaphone and talk loud. You want to build a three-way dialogue,” something that lets the customer talk back to the brand, while also spreading the word about the product or service to others who think, behave and spend like they do.

It’s a new world of delivering messages, Buntin said, and even more-established companies can benefit by thinking of customers differently.

One example: Goodyear hired Buntin’s agency some time ago to study women as tire buyers. Goodyear wanted to learn how to market to a customer that its brand at one time hadn’t truly embraced.

“Even established businesses can launch into a new entrepreneurial era,” Buntin said.

Business and marketing are all about thinking in win and outside the hum drum box in our opinion. Glad to see the are others out there following a similar path.