Start-Thinking honing in on technology, partnering with full-service agencies

Start-Thinking honing in on technology, partnering with full-service agencies

Premium content from Wichita Business Journal – by Emily Behlmann

Date: Friday, January 28, 2011, 5:00am CST

Start-Thinking LLC is re-thinking its business plan.

A full-service branding agency for the last five years, the company is going back to its technology-heavy roots, says managing partner Kris Schindler.

“We’re pulling the reins back into our expertise in this area,” Schindler says.

It means using technology to help clients do research, strategize their brand development and implement ways to communicate their messages and interact with the public, says Start-Thinking partner John Thompson, who helps lead the agency’s technology efforts.

The new strategy goes back to what Schindler says Start-Thinking originally set out to do when it was founded about 10 years ago.

She says the company always intended to help its clients draw insights from technology. Before easy-to-use online survey instruments existed, the agency, for example, helped Wichita Festivals determine the meat-buying habits of chili cook-off participants.

“That was valuable insight to one of their sponsors,” Schindler says.

But she says that at the time of Start-Thinking’s founding, a lot of businesses still relied more on word of mouth than digital solutions. So the company evolved into more of a full-service agency, while still including technology.

Now, Wichita is more ready for digital solutions, she says. And the technology is more advanced, so Thompson says the agency can use it to draw more insights.

He used an example of Start-Thinking determining, based on surveys and what’s being said on social media, what demographics are in certain areas of certain malls at certain times of the day. The mall then could use that information to target its digital ads.

Schindler says that with this change, Start-Thinking no longer will be competing with full-service ad agencies.

“We’ll work in tandem with them,” she says.

She says a lot of ad agencies have digital strategists or social media experts on staff, but that it sometimes could be more effective to bring on an agency like Start-Thinking to focus on a digital project, technology training or analysis of web analytics.

The Greteman Group is one full-service agency that, so far, has been doing digital strategy work in house.

Executive Vice President Deanna Harms says her agency takes the approach that a client is best served by a team of professionals all working under one roof.

“If it gets to the point where we feel like we can’t provide the best solutions internally, we would have no hesitation bringing in other partners,” Harms says. “Obviously, we try to bring the best solutions to our clients.”

Custom solutions

Other things are changing at Start-Thinking, too. Schindler says the company is anticipating growth in its Denver and Los Angeles markets, so she’ll be spending more time there. Meanwhile, the agency is working remotely in Wichita after the lease on its Old Town office expired in December.

Schindler says the agency spends so much time on site with clients and at its other offices that a Wichita office was hardly needed.

All the changes are part of what Schindler says is a growing need from businesses for custom programming and technology solutions. More companies are seeing needs arise that can be solved with technology, but not with existing products, she says.

That’s what happened at Justin McClure.tv LLC, a motion graphics firm that owner Justin McClure says wanted a way to show its products to clients. It needed software that would let clients see motion graphics and comment on certain frames of the video.

“We’d been searching for a tool, … and not finding what we were looking for,” McClure says. “So we’re developing it for ourselves right now.”

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