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A business that, given a shift in their market or their company or the economy in general, can make quick, successful decisions is said to be good at “adapting to change.” But perhaps there’s a richer question there for businesses to explore — how good are you at taking advantage of change? How do you use change to make your business even better?
When Keri Tipton and Jocelyn Kilgore started Bucket Media in October 2006, they started with what they knew. Both were already steeped in careers in media planning and ad buying — essentially, placing clients’ advertisements where they’ll be seen by the right people — so that’s what their agency did. Tipton and Kilgore say they worked almost exclusively with print media at the time, which was probably a sound strategy: digital advertising was still unproven ground. (For example, it would be another 13 months before Facebook launched their first ad targeting software.) They used the relationships they built in the community to provide ad placement solutions for clients with tight budgets and little experience in the marketing world. “We felt like we wanted to help all the local clients here in Columbia,” Tipton says. “So we went after people we knew and who maybe could use some help.”
But marketing, of course, evolved quickly, and as it did, Bucket Media saw the opportunity to grow. “We pretty much added [new services] as we saw them coming,” Tipton says. “We pride ourselves on being forward-thinking and always looking for new opportunities to help our clients. So, as we saw the media world evolving, we knew we needed to add digital and social.”
Bucket is now a full-service advertising agency offering multimedia advertising across all platforms, backed by original research and custom client strategies. The business now has locations in Columbia, Kansas City, and Ankeny, Iowa. As they’ve added new lines of service, they’ve also added new employees, but in the past four years, they’ve had exactly one employee leave. Turns out that the key to taking advantage of change is to be consistent to start with.
One of Bucket’s biggest projects from the last year was a cross-platform campaign for Columbia Regional Airport’s new direct flights to Denver, which included digital display ads, billboards, original photography, videography, a series of content marketing blogs, and a Snapchat geofilter. Quite a far cry from the planning-and-placement-only days.
The company’s early strength was Kilgore and Tipton’s experience and the strength of their relationships, but as the company has grown, they’ve emphasized making smart, strategic hires that expand the company’s skill set. “We know we don’t have [for example] those graphic design skills ourselves, but because we know that, we hire people who have those skills,” Kilgore says. “We need to be experts for our clients, so we went out and found people who are experts.”
“I think that’s one of the amazing things — that we’ve been able to find those right people,” Tipton adds. “The right people for us and the right people for our clients.”
Mid-Missouri remains an important market for Bucket, as well as their base of operations, but expanding their services has also expanded their potential client base. The origins of Bucket’s Iowa office come from the company’s first year, when they began working with a car dealership there. Now, the recently opened Kansas City office will give them a footprint in a major Midwest city.
To ensure stability as they continue growth, Bucket does regular re-evaluations of their “brand values” — things that set them apart and make them successful. One value that has stayed in place since the very beginning is consistency. “Our clients recognize that, acknowledge that, and thank us for that all the time,” Tipton says. “And we have really high client retention too, so it’s been a big part of our success.”
Bucket takes a consistent approach to the client side of their work, but they also keep consistency in mind when building their internal structure and processes. Bucket offers all of its services in-house, meaning they don’t outsource work to another agency before getting it back to their client. It helps keep their billing simpler — no hidden fees to pay for sub-contracted work, for example — and it makes the team more responsive. And both of those things make clients happier.
“We have our eyes and ears on everything,” Kilgore says. “So if we see in our metrics that a campaign is performing really well, we can optimize that really quickly without having to wait for our vendors.”
About the “only one employee leaving in the past four years” thing: that’s not exactly the entire picture. The employee in question started as an intern at Bucket while she was still in school; the plan was to move to Colorado after graduation. Bucket managed to keep her around full-time for a year and a half before she moved.
Nearly 100 percent employee retention is a fitting endorsement of the company’s relationship-based philosophy. While the marketing world around them is changing every day, Bucket stays stable. And that stability, as much as their research or their creative or their writing or their ad buying, is what they’re offering clients. They’re not afraid of commitment.
“We genuinely care about our clients and our clients’ success,” Tipton says. “We’re not a transactional type of business. When we start working with someone, we want to make sure that not only are we a good fit for them, but they’re a good fit for us as well. We really, really take that relationship seriously.” CBT
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