When Imprint was founded 10 years ago we were a very different content marketing agency. We were focused on content creation, which is only part of what we offer clients today. As most entrepreneurs will tell you, what is initially envisioned isn’t always what transpires, and evolution is key to long-term success. Back in 2013, the content topics included the ascent of video, the need for responsive design and the comeback of Myspace. While trends come and go, the nucleus of what we do hasn’t changed, it has just evolved. And our focus has remained singular and has not wavered: Our clients. We help our clients use content to make more meaningful connections with their customers.
As I reflect on the decade, there are four learnings that will help us forecast what might come next.
1. Think two steps ahead.
It is critical to be in the moment and produce the best work possible for a client. But to bring future value to clients – fresh thinking and innovative ideas – we need to be thinking two steps ahead. That’s why “curiosity” is one of five areas on which Imprint’s team members are evaluated. Allowing time and being allowed to be curious is a core part of our culture, and it allows us to think two steps ahead for our clients.
We’ve always been relentlessly focused on understanding their audiences. As we look ahead, it will be key to marry that understanding with broader trends to anticipate what content, messaging, platforms and channels will most effectively connect with them.
2. Stay nimble.
The world changes. Whatever you’ve learned about the customer and what you’ve tried to predict (see #1) might shift — and you need to, as well. A recent example: In February we assigned a small team to evaluate the AI landscape and develop a POV on AI’s role in everything from strategy to execution. The result was a resounding “No thanks… for now.” That POV has changed since then. As the tools evolve, new tools emerge and we continue learning, we now see a host of opportunities to incorporate large language model technology, AI video editing, and more. We’re committed to staying open to anything that can enhance the process without compromising quality or ownership, and we will adapt workflows as needed.
In fact, we’re already using AI as part of our SEO process. The technology has allowed us to grow our capabilities from keyword research to robust SEO strategies. The tools gather a tremendous amount of competitive data, then we sort and filter the data to find strategic opportunities. This data helps our clients make smarter SEO investments, and get the most out of their budgets.
3. Don’t go it alone.
A lone wolf is rarely the subject of a success story. I believe in having a strong peer group — to rely on and to support — and to establish partnerships. Both create opportunities for your business and your clients. They open your eyes to new ways of thinking about audiences, new tactics and new insights. And those relationships can take many different forms. They can be networking partnerships, like with other business owners in the National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC).
4. Know your purpose.
I believe that success for success’s sake is hollow and unsustainable. Success may be the what, but purpose is why you want your brand to succeed. Once you have a clearly defined purpose, it infuses everything you do — from your messaging and creativity to company culture and community. It can fuel growth, while also providing a strong differentiator your brand can lean on.
We started Imprint with a promise to bring new and innovative thinking to our clients. While we have grown and our purpose has evolved, we’ve always stayed true to that promise by doing right by our clients and positively impacting the world around us. I’m proud to see our efforts expand to include helping to stand up and support other diverse-owned small businesses and help them gain momentum in their endeavors. We have created a marketing program for Start Small, Think Big and we amplify the “big leaps” of diverse-owned companies in our Small Business Stories on LinkedIn (an example, the roundtable discussion with three stellar women in tech.)
We’re excited for the next 10 years.
As we celebrate where we started, and welcome the decade ahead, we send humble thanks to all those who’ve contributed to our success — and hope you’ll join us in looking for ways to anticipate audiences’ needs, foster all kinds of partnerships, and deliver on purpose.