Episode 294 - Featuring Marcy Karpowitz
November 25, 2020
During the hard times, as a business owner the temptation is to chase something new. New tech, new business ideas, new markets and more. During the 2020 global pandemic, Marcy Karpowitz was able to double down and make what she does best work in significantly different times.
Much of Marcy’s work involved physical gatherings and the future looked uncertain. She shares how she used the talents she and her team had developed over the years to support the community and to create new experiences for her clients.
This is a tremendously encouraging and inspiring episode, so join us as we go on a journey through time with Marcy.
Lee Jackson: Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer podcast. This is your host, Lee. And on today’s show, we’re speaking with Marcy Karpowitz from MKMCreative. She shares her agency journey and how during this time of difficulty around the world, how focusing on what you are good at could really make a difference. Before we crack on, I’d like to thank Cloudways for sponsoring this episode. They are the cloud platform we choose for our agencies, and you can find out why, over on cloudways.com. Right. Let’s crack on with the show. Welcome to the Agency Trailblazer podcast. This is your host Lee, and you are joining a conversation today with myself, Mr. Lee Matthew Jackson and Marcy Karpowitz. How are you today?
Marcy Karpowitz: I’m doing well, I’m excited to chat with you.
Lee Jackson: I’m very excited too, we’ve just had a great conversation, and we’ve gone down memory lane together where we’ve talked about the ’80s and cassette tapes. So folks, if you remember cassette tapes, I would challenge you to go over to agencytrailblazer.com/group. Join us in there and share with us your favorite music from the ’80s, and if you still have your tape player or any cassettes, feel free to share some pictures. So folks, if you don’t know who Marcy is, you can check out her incredible business and story over on mkmcreative.com. But Marcy, for the people who don’t know you, it will be great if you could give us a little bit of an introduction. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your favorite color, maybe your favorite food, maybe something that people don’t know about you.
Marcy Karpowitz: I’m Marcy Karpowitz, originally from New Jersey. I reign from San Francisco, I own an agency, and my favorite food, I have weird food habits, I go in fits and spurts, and right now, seasonally, I’m obsessed with chestnuts and roasting them.
Lee Jackson: Well, that does bring a song to my mind, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,” it is Christmas though isn’t it, nearly? I mean, it’s not too early.
Marcy Karpowitz: It’s the holidays, for sure.
Lee Jackson: Exactly. Yeah, exactly, and you guys in America are awesome, you start putting your trees up now already, whereas in the UK, it’s frowned upon to start celebrating Christmas until at least the first of December.
Marcy Karpowitz: Due to the current situation, the big joke is, after Halloween, everyone started decorating for Christmas to start to bring that joy in early.
Lee Jackson: Absolutely.
Marcy Karpowitz: And I just love the seasonal foods, persimmons, chestnuts, and that’s what holiday looks like for me. [chuckle]
Lee Jackson: Absolutely. We have a crock-pot here and I love to create a really nice family meal, have it cooking in the morning and just smell it all day, and then have it the darker… It’s dark outside, we’ve got the heating on, we can chill out and just relax. I do love winter, it’s one of my favorite seasons, although I suppose it’s not so cold over there for you guys, is it? Down in San Francisco?
Marcy Karpowitz: Not so bad in San Francisco. And interestingly enough, I am in Vermont right now with my sister, and it is cold, and you can feel the shift, like it just shifted, I took the dog for a walk this morning and my hair froze. [chuckle]
Lee Jackson: What? Okay, that’s insane.
Marcy Karpowitz: Yeah, so it freezes in chunks, and so that’s the sign, that it has shifted we’re now moving into winter.
Lee Jackson: That’s insane. Now, Marcy, when you join us on the podcast, we’ve actually invented time travel, I would love to go back in time to when you first got into the creative industry, and could you kinda share your early journey into design, into creativity, whatever that may have looked like?
Marcy Karpowitz: Absolutely, I think as a child, I was probably always just a little different, and my parents giggle now and say they should have put me in art and photography classes. I think the biggest thing was that I come from a family-owned business, and so the minute you were born, I was probably nine years old in the shoe stores and throwing cases off the truck. And so, I basically just grew up in this family-owned business, I moved post college from New Jersey to San Francisco. And there I started to integrate myself into companies that had a marketing side of which I was drawn to, and I would say that’s when I really almost came into my creative own. For me, it wasn’t so much as a child of drawing or a discovery that way, and my type of creativity is that I’m very conceptual. And so I think just as life went on, I got inspired by life itself. And so I wound up working for these large companies and in them, I essentially worked in the marketing department and made my way up and found my niche and brand, and then I went to agency side.
Lee Jackson: So you’re working in marketing, you’ve followed your creative tendencies, when you say you worked in the agency side, do you mean, you joined other agencies and then again, worked your way up and got experience there?
Marcy Karpowitz: Yes, exactly, and then I launched my own. And I think for me is again, my creativity is more in my mind, I’m not a drawer, I’m not an artist. We joke, speaking of the holidays, we’ll play Boggle and Scrabble and what I think is and have been told I have a pretty good vocabulary, but you put me in something where it needs to be linear and there’s a timer and I fall apart. [chuckle] And so the joke is like I pick play for the entertainment factor. And every time I play with someone, they’re like, “How is it that you’re so terrible at that, but you can create these incredible experiences?” And I think part of that is I do good with a blank piece of paper. But when you put me in a situation where I need to be creative and timed on some hand, it doesn’t work. Obviously, it has to work on some level, or I couldn’t run a successful agency. But I am someone who just like the world kind of comes in and out of my mind and then these thoughts crystallize, and I get inspired by almost everything, and I’m able to turn almost every situation into an adventure as opposed to some sort of crisis, and I think that’s where my creativity comes from.
Lee Jackson: I often I’m asked what the time is, and if there is only an old-fashioned clock rather than a digital clock, even though I understand how to tell the time, and I know the theory, I freeze because of the pressure. [chuckle]
Marcy Karpowitz: Right? It’s similar. So same with college, I knew I wasn’t gonna do well on standardized tests because I knew my history in high school. And so I went and I negotiated with all of them, and said, “Listen, I know the content. Can we come up with a different way to do this? I will put in all the work, I’ll do extra, but I can guarantee you that if I’m only evaluated on test taking, I’m going to fail.” And they all worked with me and it was quite a success. [chuckle]
Lee Jackson: So talk to me a little bit about creating experiences, ’cause I’ve looked through your website, folks, you can check it out over on mkmcreative.com, and I’d really recommend you go and have a look through the portfolio, ’cause there are some fantastic images of projects that you’ve got involved with. But what does creating an experience mean to you? Because I do see the phrase, we create experiences, or we create awesome experiences, and especially in the events industry that we’re in over in my other business event engine, we worry that that is a bit of an overused phrase. So what does creating an experience for you and for your clients really mean?
Marcy Karpowitz: Yes, it’s such a good point. It probably is a bit of an overused phrase, but in the sense it’s the phrase maybe for us or industry people, but I think what happens is when you work with brands and consumers, it’s something that is new to them or that they’re getting introduced to in this whole idea now of experience design is starting to become a bit more mainstream, if you will. Our process is you have a conversation with your client. And what I love about clients is they’re almost like children, go with me, when they come to you in that moment that they just tell the truth, they’re like, “I need to solve for… This is my problem.” And we see that as such a pure through line, and then what we do is we create a strategic initiative. We chunk up and create a strategic initiative, and then we get buy-in from the client. And once we make sure that we have that solid foundation, we jump off of what that is and what we’re really solving for, and then that helps focus how our creativity is going to translate in that particular situation.
Lee Jackson: And with that creativity, what are some of the outputs that your agency would be doing?
Marcy Karpowitz: So we do everything, we call ourselves generalize specialists, and that the general space is brand, but we’re specialized in all of the categories of brand, which we see the three main ones as that whole identity and positioning, brand value promise proposition, hierarchy of messaging. And then you go to the second piece of campaign development, and that’s what I just spoke about, the strategic initiative. That we jump off and we build an end-to-end campaign, and in the end, we have this, what we call this beautiful output, that is the program architecture road map. And we say that if you walk down to the street and handed it to any stranger, it’s a step-by-step manual that they could execute themselves. And then the third piece is bringing it to life, that is the actual live activation, and whether that live activation is the unveiling of new branding or a website or an actual event, we’re very clear and we distinguish ourselves, we say we’re not an event agency.
Marcy Karpowitz: Yes, in a different time, did we throw a lot of large scale events such as pop-up shops and mobile tours, last year, one of my favorites since we popped up a gorgeous greenhouse in the middle of Pioneer Court in Chicago, and it was a cafe. We were launching a brand in this new market a plant-based brand, and so what better idea than to pop up a greenhouse that was a cafe and served their food. So we look at what the strategic initiative is, we build that map and then we have that live activation piece, like I said, whether it’s actually having the food truck brigade or the branding go live or the website go live. And so our creativity, I would say, has no limits in the sense that we customize it based on what our clients’ needs are, and why we say we’re not an event agency and we’re a branding shop is because we start with our client goals in the center, and instantly we map it to the customer experience, and then in comes the dazzling creative, and then the flawless production brings it to life.
Lee Jackson: Now, I’m intrigued, I’m just thinking on your journey. So creativity started as a child and your parents were joking about the photo courses, etcetera. You’ve then grown up through marketing in your career, worked with agencies and then launched your agency, if we could just jump into that time machine, I’ve got an idea, looking here at your portfolio that you’ve worked with some phenomenal companies. That pop-up cafe sounds phenomenal in the center Chicago there. That sounds beautiful. So many great projects you’ve been involved with, what was day one like of your agency and how did you get that off the ground?
Marcy Karpowitz: Gosh, that’s such a good question. I went through probably what a lot of people go through. I went through the job trail and I was getting promoted nicely, I was in corporate. As you rise and you get this beautiful thing called experience, you start to learn what is working for you. And that’s a larger play than just, you like your job, and I was feeling that the corporate culture wasn’t right for me, that it was a bit too bureaucratic, and I wanted to focus on the work. And while I had success there, I was starting to feel what I learned at that time was philosophical alignment, and that I wasn’t philosophically aligned with the company and how they were moving. And so I went to the agency side, someone I had worked with in my career, had started their own agency, and they were after me for years, and I wasn’t ready. And at the point when I was about to take this enormous promotion to be head of brands, head of marketing, I was like, “It’s that moment where the money looks good and all of those things,” and this is what you think you wanna be, but I just knew I wasn’t gonna be happy.
Marcy Karpowitz: So I picked up the phone and I called a friend and I went over to their agency, and I rose, and that is really where I’d say I cut my teeth on this idea of what everyone was calling experiential then, that it was chic then. It’s now done a bunch of cycles on different names, and it’s back to experiential. Then it was a small boutique shop, I went as high as I could go. I did as much as I thought I could. It was an incredible experience. So then I went to one of the major large, big player agencies, and I found out what I probably knew, which they’re also just corporations, and so the same things I love didn’t happen. I called a friend and said, “I need to get out of here and clear my head. Let’s go to Thailand and Cambodia for two weeks.” And she said, “Absolutely.” And I think this was the first time in my life where I released the pressure from myself and threw it up to the universe. And was like, “When I come back, I’m gonna either be a gun for hire,” so to speak, and pick my contract jobs and pop in and out.
Marcy Karpowitz: My fear with that is that I would have just wound up in the same place of ultimately getting a job offer and being in a corporation again, or I was gonna be an agency. I was in Thailand, it was the last day of my trip. We were staying at this beautiful place overlooking the ocean. I went and checked Facebook Messenger, and the client had reached out and said, “I wanna do an influencer program in New York. When do you get back?” And I walked to the pool and said to my friend, “Well, it looks like I’m gonna be an agency,” and my friend says, “We’ll take two more drinks, please,” and of course you are. And that’s the sexy romantic part of it, and even to this day, like telling that story I can see myself there. Then you come back and I’m sitting basically on my brown sofa with a team around me, figuring out how I’m gonna do this, and starting my business while I have a client. And then also you have that notion of like, “Now I need to sustain it.” So that’s how I made the transition. [chuckle]
Lee Jackson: So that’s great that you got to start with a client, you mentioned a team, did you have to assemble a team very quickly for that particular project?
Marcy Karpowitz: Yes, and if you wanna know the full truth, it was like the client is on one phone, we’re sending contracts, I’m getting an EIN number, tax ID for a business. At the same time, I’m calling a friend one is over, I tell her to call these colleagues and tell him come over, and it was just like these three days of electricity of excitement and the unknown, and I’ve arrived on some level. But now I have arrived, I don’t know where I’m going, when it’s gonna stop or how it’s gonna look, but yet the confluence happened at once, and the momentum… And we were on.
Lee Jackson: So with the momentum, client number two, how did you attract them?
Marcy Karpowitz: It’s interesting, client number one was a pretty big brand and super big and sexy, and then you have to go to that part of sustaining yourself. And so I just was chatting with my network, and the next few jobs I took were very, very small money and really small brands. But it gave me enough time and momentum to continue to connect and really start to build a website and a presence, and then when that ended, it just… I had set myself up for then shortly after another big deal came in. And our world is feast or famine, I think if anyone could fully solve that, we’d probably be in a different line of work.
Lee Jackson: I think the feast or famine will often put a lot of agencies off and they’ll eventually close down. So for anyone listening who does struggle with feast or famine, well done for getting this far, you’re freakin awesome, ’cause it is hard work. And we do this, don’t we for the love, we do this for the creativity, we don’t necessarily do it all the time for the heaps of money that comes into the account, although that is nice when it does happen. So for those small projects, you mentioned network, you had a network, and that’s something we talk about a lot here on the podcast, ensuring that you do have some sort of network of other businesses, other people to support you and to generate leads. Would it be fair to say that for those smaller projects, although that was smaller money, they weren’t as bigger names, that gave you an opportunity to hone your craft or hone your processes, before you then continued to take on those larger clients?
Marcy Karpowitz: Yes, without a doubt, it’s so many things. We all take business for different reasons, sometimes it’s because of the industry, sometimes it is because of the money, sometimes it’s because you’re gonna break even, but you keeping team working. There are so many ways, and one of the big wins was that I got in an industry I never would have, and I learned so many things. And the second client that was a little bit smaller had designs to be big and they have grown significantly, and I still do work with them quite regularly, and we’ve grown together. And the exciting part is it also flipped in the sense that I’ve been able to hook her up with some incredible keynotes at these large conferences.
Marcy Karpowitz: And so that’s a relationship that you took and it was small and you knew it, and you were grateful then, but you never know what’s gonna unfold. And 10 years later, we’re still working together and it’s beautiful in the sense that the relationship has shifted in that what they do and what I do, I’m able to also give them inroads that they wouldn’t necessarily be able to do and help them on a path. They no longer really need me, but I helped them get momentum in the beginning of a lot of note speaking gigs, because being in San Francisco, Bay Area, Silicon Valley, tech land, that’s a lot of what we do or who you know or what you mix with. So absolutely, there’s always value. Always value. And you said something just a second ago when you were recapping our world, and you did it so well in a very succinct line of the feast or famine piece, and it made me think like, even when I hate it, I love what I do.
Lee Jackson: It’s annoying, that, isn’t it?
Marcy Karpowitz: Yeah. Yeah, it owns me.
Lee Jackson: It would be so much easier if you hated it and you could walk away from it, but you just can’t.
Marcy Karpowitz: Right, exactly.
Lee Jackson: Now, you mentioned something earlier which pricked my ears up, and I am very big on identity, and you were talking about helping clients build their identity and communicate that identity, etcetera. Now, you started with a client, which will have influenced the direction that you went in and the decisions that you made initially as a business. This is quite a broad question, feel free to answer in any way that you want with any anecdotes, etcetera, but how did your own identity as a business evolve over the first one or two years, and have you stayed true to that identity or has it evolved?
Marcy Karpowitz: I love that question. Both, all, kind of thing, in the sense that you have to evolve, there’s just like no way, and I think obviously involving is just like time and position, right? I do say that we always remain true to our core, in the sense that we call ourselves a branding shop first and foremost, and we stand by that. I know a lot of people call us an event agency or an influencer marketing agency or experiential design, and we can do all of those things, but for us it’s important to have that stake that we’re a branding shop. And then everything jumps off of that. And the reason being why is we don’t want creative or production to lead. We don’t think… That doesn’t work out so well. And then, of course, I’ve done a total… Our core remain the same, but we continue to evolve, whether that’s me and my leadership style, whether it’s also empowering… In the beginning, you take every tiny little gig or everything possible, I think it’s empowering now to be able to turn things down if they’re not the right fit for everybody, where that’s a luxury you kind of learn that you get after putting in your time, and that sometimes it’s the right decision.
Marcy Karpowitz: I’d say, of course, I’ve evolved as a leader, and I would say almost… 2019 was the year where we talked about the Greenhouse and popping that up, that was a huge international program, and I’d say that that was one of the first times that… You don’t even think about being, go with me, “the boss.” And that’s not really how I look at it, but in those moments with a job that big, and that many pieces and parts, whatever you wanna call it, head honcho, boss, decision-maker, shot-caller, you have no choice but to do it, and do it with calm and decisiveness. And so I’d say the core of the business hasn’t changed. I think when we first started, we thought people would almost buy our services in those three buckets. I’d say one of the biggest learning of evolution is those three buckets, those categories of identity, development and live activation, have never changed, but instead of us seeing them as separate entities, you can’t break them apart. So we joke and say, Even if you pick a category, buy one, get two free; all three are so connected. And I think that that was an interesting insight that I even taught myself in this process of evolution. So I’d say our core offering never changed, but the way we speak about it and present it, it did.
Lee Jackson: So, often when an agency offers a whole range of services, it can be really hard to generate leads because they are a generalist. But I seem to remember very early on during this episode that you mentioned you’re a general specialist, which I found quite amusing, but you’ve pegged it all around branding. So would it be fair to say that, although you offer a wide range of services, so you can build a website, you can design a brand identity, you can help with a pop-up event, etcetera, which are all disparate elements. But what you’ve done is created a business all focused on brand and your three core categories, your buy-one-get-two-free categories, all around branding. And all of those aspects of it are simply tools to help you achieve the one main thing that you do for your clients. Therefore, your specialism is around that brand, brand elevation, etcetera.
Marcy Karpowitz: Exactly. And when we say we’re a full-service agency and more generalized specialists, and I’ve obviously, knowing your content and listening to you and chatting with you and having interaction, is I agree with you, and I don’t wanna be one of those agencies that say we do it all, because we don’t. I wouldn’t call myself a digital agency, I wouldn’t do… You know, you do digital and media buying sometimes as a larger piece of an entire program; I mean, that’s what I love about marketing, I’m the more the merrier. But we don’t do PR, we don’t do digital. But in the branding space, we should be the masters of our material. And if you’re gonna do a live activation, you have to understand the positioning and the identity, because you have like 30 seconds to three minutes to cut through to most consumers. And you have to be masters on the identity, then you need a clean strategy to bring it to life, and then you have the activation. So we’re a full-service agency in that we do the entire program from a blank white board to live activation.
Marcy Karpowitz: And that’s my friend, another colleague, calls me a masochist, they said that they don’t know anyone else who gets such pleasure from starting from absolute scratch to create… That doesn’t scare me. But I wouldn’t say we do it all, like, no PR, no digital, no media service, but in the branding space, I would say that we are generalized specialists and we’re the masters of our material and any of those aspects.
Lee Jackson: Well, the reason why I asked, and I’m glad you explained it like that, is I just wanted to encourage people who do have a range of services but they do focus around one thing. So you are very much focused around brands and I get it. Maybe I’ve a big company, I want to elevate my brand, I wanna increase my followers, I want to improve my marketing effort, I want my brand to be front and center of mind versus my competitor. So for example, with the podcast, we want this design podcast to be the podcast and the name Lee Matthew Jackson to be the name that people think of, rather than say The Future and Chris Do. I would like to be at that level. That’s the sort of thing that I would like to do and build up my brand. So I would go to a company that specializes in brand evolution, and they may offer a whole wide range of services within that, and that is okay. I guess where a lot of agencies do struggle though, is that they offer a lot of services and call themselves a full-service agency and therefore sell themselves based off of those individual services, like, “Yes, we can build you a new website,” or “Yes, we can do a pop-up stand,” or “Yes, we can organize you an event.” I get the impression that you never have that conversation, you always start at the brand and, like you said earlier, you’re encompassing all three.
Marcy Karpowitz: Exactly. And then if I have a conversation with someone and they think that we’re the right place, I’ll say, “You need an agency or an expert who’s more focused on the digital space, but what I recommend is that you do a 360. If you have a PR agency, see if they can do some placement for you in the real world, or if you can join an event or get your product over there,” ’cause I believe in the 360. And so a great example, again, is this international campaign and the Greenhouse pop-up. So when we were doing this campaign, they just wanted to do real world, and we said, “You have to do a digital and you have to do influencer and media placement, like this program is too big,” and in our mind, or the way the world is, you can’t split it apart anymore, in the sense that… I was here when we were doing marketing and I was with the same client, and three years you’re not doing social ’cause it doesn’t exist, and then the fourth you’re like, “What’s this Twitter thing? We gotta bring this in.” And so for us, branding is the core, and then there are components of doing like, digital influencers; I’m a huge fan of influencers.
Marcy Karpowitz: And when you say influencers, I think most people go straight to Instagram, but that is influencer marketing has been around way before there was even the digital component. But I’m a big fan of, also actually, Instagram influencers, but you have to know how to vet them. And I would also say our marketing is… We make it very tactical and very deliverable and metric-driven. I think marketing is scientific, where I think a lot of people think it’s a little floofy, but I think that’s where by being an expert in the brand space…
Lee Jackson: My new favorite word, floofy.
Marcy Karpowitz: Yeah, exactly.
Lee Jackson: So you mentioned the physical, you also mentioned digital, and digital right now is huge because many of us are being forced to stay at home. For example, here in the UK, we are midway through another lockdown and my staff are all working from their various homes, we’re not allowed to gather together. And that’s also affecting all of our clients, they too are having to stay at home, we have event clients who can’t physically meet up, therefore they are having to find alternatives. How has the global environment for you, how has that affected your business at the moment?
Marcy Karpowitz: It had a significant impact, right, when one of your largest revenue streams ultimately is events, that’s an often output, and the first thing to go are events. And so for us, for me, it was just about always creating and moving forward and figuring it out. And one of the first things we did is, I wanted to do something meaningful, so I went to give blood because there’s a huge blood shortage, given the condition, and I asked someone, I said, “Why is it so hard to give blood?” And they said, “Well, all of the big companies that used to host us and provide the staff to get the blood from are shut down and our vans are not six-feet compliant.” So I said, “Well, I’m in the event industry. Let me tell you what’s out there, there’s space.” And so we created, in the middle of… In the beginning of the pandemic when it was shelter-in-place, everything was shut down and you couldn’t do blood drives, and the Red Cross and MKM Creative created, back to magic we were talking about earlier, we created these two blood drives with people who gave us space and all of that, and we continued to reach out to our network. And it was interesting, ’cause everyone was like, to your point, the world is digital and virtual has just become the new chic, in vogue, how everyone is going to communicate.
Marcy Karpowitz: And truth be told, I was like, “I’m not a virtual agency, this isn’t what’s gonna happen, I need to figure out another path forward.” And I think also why I bring up the Red Cross is I’ve never really thrown events like that, but I just know how to do it. You have enough of, being generalized specialist, you have enough of the muscle memory and the base knowledge to be able to do it. And so a client called me and said, “I have to go virtual.” And I said, “We don’t really do that.” And he’s like, “I need to do it with you, because I know that it will go well and go right. And our company is not used to spending this amount of money because we do this annual event with our team in-house at one hotel.” And he’s like, “So I need you to do this.” And I said, “Okay, great, let’s do it.” And really, we did have the chops and we did have the know-how, and it was probably just the unknown and the fear and the uncertainty. But instead of going to a fabrication shop, which for us is building those big assets or tricking out the trucks or getting food trucks, we just basically found, through our network, a tech shop that provided that expertise. And we did what we normally do, we project managed it, and we were the liaison and became the subject matter experts. And so we are doing virtual shows.
Marcy Karpowitz: We also did a huge appreciation parcel for a company that their workforce understandably was so fatigued and they didn’t wanna do. They were like, “What can we do? We don’t wanna do another digital thing,” like everyone’s so over video and digital. And so we came up with this beautiful appreciation parcel, and it was really… I mean, talk about creative. That’s where we come to life. It was just unique, and had wax seals and people’s names were calligraphied. And so we shipped it out to hundreds of people worldwide, like one package in Dubai, and 117 in Foster City; and then the team leaders set up a virtual happy hour where they all… And we helped coordinate it, but that’s the part where we ducked out, we let them have their team moment. But they had then, the team leads got the groups together and they all opened the gift at the same time, and were told to have a libation of their choice nearby, and did a group cheers. So there’s lots of ways to do digital and virtual, and sometimes digital virtual is the center, and sometimes they should be in the background.
Lee Jackson: There’s two lessons I’ve drawn from this. Number one is play to your strengths. So what you’ve done regardless of the current climate, you have still focused in on your strengths. The temptation for many agency owners, out of fear, is to go and run after something that looks like it might work during a darker time. So many agencies get distracted, they don’t play towards their strengths, and that’s where they get caught out. Whereas, what you’ve done is still continue to work with what you do well. The second thing I’ve noticed is you’ve continued to have conversations with your clients, and been able to create something new, and yes, you’ve got other people involved to do the elements that you can’t do, but you’ve still project-managed, you’ve still taken care of your clients, you’ve still fostered and nurtured those relationships. And again, when agencies get scared, they forget that they have existing relationships; they forget that their clients too may be struggling and that they can support and help their existing clients. So if you’re listening to this right now and you heard that, pick up the phone, start talking to your clients, and continue to play to the strengths that you have. Do you think that would be a fair summisation of those two stories that you’ve just shared?
Marcy Karpowitz: Yes, absolutely. My friend said it the best I think about me, and she said, “You just never stopped.” And I think that is true, and I didn’t, and even right when the pandemic hit, I mean, this is almost an age-old story now, even though we’re not even in it fully a year, but I had deals that instantly fell apart. I had to make some major moves and changes, with the team and the business, but I never stopped. I woke up every day, took my walk, showered, and sat down and ran my company, even though the world was kind of telling me I didn’t have one. And so absolutely, and on those morning walks, like, the world was worried, so I would find myself having these 60-minute chats, whether it was with the CEO or the team where I’m an advisor on the board, or it was my team and they were nervous, or a client who called me and said, “I have this huge thing, like, what am I gonna do?” And so just all of these… And at that point, it’s not even like paid, it’s just like the world and you’re people taking care of each other.
Marcy Karpowitz: I did a lot of programs when I was just making phone calls for my friends who own businesses who I always love to help, but I couldn’t, but at this time while the world was sorting itself and I was trying to figure out what to do and making contacts, is I created programs in partnership with them. And back to why I brought it up, you just never… When my friend said you never stopped, that’s why things I think continued, I just continued to build and create until I brought it to fruition. And having the conversations, and I would say the pro tip there is just to be sensitive. That’s how I feel, right? I don’t know who is furloughed and who isn’t, and who’s still keeping a team and who’s not. And so reach out to your network of the people that feel right at the moment. Don’t pressure anything, right? So don’t just start a list and reach out to your network, because everyone is in a fragile situation. But always consistently do that, for sure, because you’ll learn that someone could need you, or what their experience at this time is just a little bit of a mind share as well.
Lee Jackson: There’s nothing better than having conversations and supporting and helping each other, and that’s a perfect segue, Marcy, to the Facebook group folks. [chuckle] If you need some support from like-minded people, it’s free, it’s there, selfishly I started it five years ago, so that I had company of other peers. So come and join us, that’s agencytrailblazer.com/group, where we can have conversations in there, and share our struggles and our wins and our celebrations, and ridiculous cat gifs as well are always welcome.
Lee Jackson: Marcy, I’ve really enjoyed hearing your story, I’d love to have you back on again in the near future. We’ve gone right back in time, right from the very beginning when you were a creative child, through your career in the corporate, which you didn’t necessarily enjoy too much because it’s corporate, but then you got into agency life, you launched your own agency from Thailand I believe it was, over a drink, you got an extra round in and started off with a client. You then built up relationships and processes and systems and confidence and experience with some of those smaller clients, who then grew to be some of your biggest and your favorite clients of all time. And then you’ve gone on through the pandemic to continue to do what you do best, which is create experiences, to play to your strengths, and to continue fostering those relationships with your clients. There’s so much we can learn from that. So folks, remember, you can check out Marcy over on mkmcreative.com. Marcy, how else can people connect with you? And then we shall bid you adieu.
Marcy Karpowitz: Well, on the website, there’s a contact page, so if anyone wants anything directly, it comes to me. So just that is the best way to get a hold of me. Of course, we’re on Instagram at MKMCreative, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, all of those pieces and parts.
Lee Jackson: Folks, we will make sure that all of those links are in the show notes over on agencytrailblazer.com, episode number 294. Marcy, thank you so much for your time, have a wonderful evening.
Marcy Karpowitz: Likewise.
Lee Jackson: Or afternoon. I don’t know what time it is there. [chuckle]
Marcy Karpowitz: Afternoon.
Lee Jackson: Isn’t it morning still?
Marcy Karpowitz: No, it’s afternoon.
Lee Jackson: Have a wonderful afternoon.
Marcy Karpowitz: Yes, and you have a wonderful… What are you, evening?
Lee Jackson: It’s evening, I’m ready for my tea and a nice glass of wine.
Marcy Karpowitz: I like it. Well, it was, I’m so glad that I’m the last thing you did before that. This was so enjoyable. Thank you so much for having me.
Lee Jackson: Thank you. Bye bye.
Marcy Karpowitz: Bye.
Lee Jackson: That wraps up this episode, but don’t be blue, there are hundreds of episodes over on agencytrailblazer.com. We have had the privilege of interviewing countless agency owners and experts from around the world. Also, if you wanna meet with new people, we have a vibrant community in Facebook, and you can check that out over on agencytrailblazer.com/group. If we don’t see you in the Facebook group, then how about we see you in next week’s episode.
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