The Anti-Agency

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Posted At: March 23, 2009 12:34 PM
by Carly Jayne Rullman

It was January 29 at 2:30 p.m. when my classmate and I decided to set up the video camera for my interview at 3 p.m. We were meeting with Integrative LogicPresident John Gardner. To our surprise, he was already there Aquafina in hand, ready to sit with us. It was at that moment I remember thinking, “He’s so young!” Mr. Gardner was very patient, waiting for us to set up, and even partook in our discussion of plans post-graduation. This transitioned our conversation to ask how he became such a successful businessman.

Gardner fell into the formation of a new company by “pure luck.” He began in the publishing world working at Southern Progress Corporation in Birmingham, Ala., soon went into a direct marketing agency and then into an interactive agency. He and his college roommate started Integrative Logic.

Our interview with Gardner began to focus on Integrative Logic’s (IL) foundation, operations and values. Prior to our meeting I learned that IL is ranked as one of the fastest growing private companies in the country and is only growing stronger.

Putting the customer first

“We are the anti-agency,” Gardner said.

Integrative Logic is anything but your typical agency. IL was founded in 2001 on the premise of unique customer relations. According to the IL Web site, the company’smission says that “developing better customer relationships through data analysis and implementation can facilitate a higher return on investment”.  Driven by data analytics, IL seeks to target the right audience with the right message at the right time via the right channel of communication. By doing all these things “right,” IL has proven to change customer relations and customer behavior for each of its partners.

“We are a partner, not an agency,” Gardner said. “We focus on the business needs of our client.”

So many changes, so little time

IL has expanded in many ways during its eight years of existence. Revenues have more than doubled each year, the company has grown from zero to 75 people and the services offered have diversified. Gardner explained that IL started out as a technical shop focusing on database analytics and now offers full marketing services, online media services, Web development and database intelligence.

Expansion and diversification efforts have brought IL into the corporate spotlight, yet has never lost sight of putting their customers first.

Unique strategy

Integrative Logic buys millions of dollars of media, but does not take a commission. In addition, Gardner says that one of the most important concepts he adopted while first working in a professional setting is never to be biased to a channel of media. IL evaluates each of its partners on an individual basis to determine what media will drive the business most. This aspect has been monumental in building strong partnerships and puts the company at an advantage. In its eight years, the company has a perfect retention rate, never losing a client.

“We over extend, we over reach and we over deliver, but we are also very friendly with our clients.”

“You have to be fun and nice”

Another quality Gardner finds unique is how youthful both the company culture and members are.

“We say that there are two requirements to working at Integrative Logic. That is you have to be fun and nice, and you can’t be one without the other,” Gardner said. Gardner believes these qualities are phenomenal for IL’s environment.

“We subscribe to a philosophy of work hard, play hard, respect each other and do more than what is expected for the client,” he emphasized. “We thrive on the younger perspective,” he said. “We’re not dealing with people who know how to think outside the box because they’ve never been in it.” They have the hunger and the ability to say, ‘Why don’t we try things?'”

IL and social media

Having a youthful company has put IL at an advantage, especially when it comes to understanding the effects social media. For IL, however, social media is a double-edged sword.

“Social media channel has the ability to destroy a brand. No one knows how to harness it yet,” Gardner said. “We can only react and be prepared to be a part of the wave, but not stop the wave.”

He ensures that young Integrative Logic is doing its job of serving people well through social media outlets.

Having a seat at the table

While Integrative Logic seems only data-driven and marketing-based, the public relations department sits at “the big boy table.” Gardner says the PR discipline has grown the fastest and has gained more credibility than branding. IL has worked with firms such as Who’s Who of New York City and Lippy Taylor of Atlanta. IL even co-developed a strategy working with Lippy Taylor and the product Cetaphil by supporting and promoting their cleanser and moisturizer line to customers through beauty blogs. IL also partnered with a company called Differin and went beyond the basic research by listening to actual customer testimonials. Practices like these helped IL to better understand how to best serve their clients.

“PR goes with marketing efforts,” Gardner said. “Without PR you lose enormous legs.”

As you can see, a customer-based motto remains consistent throughout everything IL does. Whether its establishing a mission statement, making improvements, implementing strategy or conducting PR and marketing efforts, John Gardner understands the concept of customer relations.

“Each customer I have is worth my best effort. It is worth my investment. Selling time. That is our commodity. Time is the most valuable thing we can give them. It’s about being honest, having integrity in what you present, and being a true partner,” he said.

 

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