Interviews | June 21, 2021
Earning a Seat at the Client's Table
One PEAK Award Winner's Journey to Becoming a Strategic Partner
In 2019, St. Xavier High School — a private, Jesuit, all-boys high school in Cincinnati, Ohio — came to its marketing partner FUSIONWRX Inc, a Flottman Company, with a challenge: Help us come up with new ideas for our direct mail enrollment campaign with a reduced budget, while still making an impact.
For PSDA members like FUSIONWRX, this story is not new. Budgets shrink from time to time, but efficiencies are found and results are still delivered — sometimes even going above and beyond what the client anticipated.
In fact, the project accomplished that and more, resulting in FUSIONWRX becoming the school’s official agency of record and landing them a 2020 PEAK Award.
The FUSIONWRX team with their 2020 PEAK Awards, pictured left to right: Chelsea Vaal, senior designer and marketing manager, Ed McMasters, director of marketing and communications, Byron Slaby, director of business development
Today the relationship between FUSIONWRX and St. Xavier continues to grow, and the team has a (literal) seat at the table.
“It started with their billboards,” says Ed McMasters, director of marketing and communications. “We were proposing new options and part of the conversation was around St. Xavier using the billboard artwork on their social media channels.” McMasters’ colleague and FUSIONWRX Business Development Director Byron Slaby then pitched the idea of joining a meeting with the school’s social media advisory board, to help enhance their program and allow for greater collaboration across projects.
“They found a lot of value in Byron being in the meeting,” says McMasters. Following that meeting, Slaby was formally invited to join the advisory board and is one of the few non-alumni in the group. “He was able to put our voice in the room,” says McMasters.
Slaby’s presence on the advisory board gives FUSIONWRX a line of sight into the school’s strategy, a win-win for everyone. “We can take back strategies and learnings from these meetings and bring it to our pieces, and vice versa,” says Chelsea Vaal, senior designer and marketing manager, who played a significant role in the 2020 PEAK Award-winning enrollment project. “This way everything works together with print and digital,” she says.
"We can take back strategies and learnings from these meetings and bring it to our pieces, and vice versa. This way everything works together with print and digital."
— Chelsea Vaal, Senior Designer and Marketing Manager, FUSIONWRX
Having a mind for both print and digital has become a sweet spot for FUSIONWRX. “With all of our clients, we emphasize the opportunity to repurpose. We explain from the get-go that anything we create via paper or digital can be used elsewhere without issue,” says McMasters.
Vaal and McMasters’ advice for intertwining print and digital is simple: “Anticipate that whatever you're designing is going to be used in multiple places, and then encourage the client to do so.”
Word of Mouth, Branching Out
Though the relationship with St. Xavier remains one of FUSIONWRX’s more in-depth partnerships, the company continues to hone its niche in the education market. “We just brought on Covington Latin [a college-prep high school], and I think a major part of winning their business was being able to use St. Xavier as an example,” says McMasters.
FUSIONWRX also has long-standing relationships with the University of Cincinnati and Cincinnati State. With the local education market being tight-knit, McMasters and Vaal believe that word of mouth has been an important element to their success.
But it’s more than good press that gets FUSIONWRX regular business. One key to maintaining a strong relationship with clients is gaining their trust, according to Vaal. It’s a simple concept, but one that can’t be overstated.
“Consistently providing good work that accomplishes the client’s goals establishes the trust they need to let us run with projects. It makes the process a lot simpler,” says Vaal. “Being invested in the client’s success is very important. They have to know that you care about the work as much as they do.”
The company isn’t afraid to push the envelope, either. You can’t “let things get stale,” says McMasters. The team recently pitched a video book to St. Xavier, a print piece with a USB embedded that plays a video when opened. The idea is by no means inexpensive, but after a year of virtual meetings and a limited in-person graduation ceremony, the importance of video is clear. The simple act of bringing this idea forward is one way the company continues to show its thinking with the client in mind and looking for innovative opportunities to meet their needs.
The Road Ahead
More exciting projects are on the horizon for the PEAK award-winning team, including a new billboard strategy for St. Xavier. Traditionally considered a “west side school” in Cincinnati, the high school is looking to expand their recruitment within a 25-mile radius. McMasters and his team are excited and ready for the challenge.
Their print enrollment campaigns have made a huge impact for the school, becoming a regular fixture in the academic year. Vaal led the way with a welcome poster campaign for incoming students, which was incredibly popular. “The students love them, the parents love them and they even blew one up so that the incoming students can sign it,” says McMasters. “The head of recruiting had one framed and his plan is to feature a new one each year.”
What started as a project on a reduced budget has since blossomed, and FUSIONWRX has since been asked to add one more print project to the mix. “It's ironic, because the direct mail enrollment piece was designed to reduce print — but it was so successful, they want to add print pieces,” says McMasters.
PSDA's annual Print Excellence and Knowledge (PEAK) Awards highlight unique and successful print and marketing services applications. Applications for the 2021 awards are open now through July 23, 2021, and PSDA members can enter for free. Shine a light on your award-worthy work and submit an application today.
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