Chris Martin of Atlas Marketing explains how his Pittsburgh marketing agency has found client loyalty and a way to play in part in his chosen industry; being brave enough to say no to opportunities has opened up new ones.
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Had you told me two years ago that I was going to co-host a podcast and publish a magazine. I would've said you're crazy. but you know, it has become an opportunity to not only raise awareness of atlas marketing, but also give back to the industry that I've been working in for so long.Jim James:
Hello. Welcome to this episode of the unnoticed show today. I'm delighted to have Chris Martin. Who's the president and owner of Atlas marketing. Joining us all the way from the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers in Pennsylvania, Chris. Hi, welcome.Chris Martin:
Hi, Jim. Hi, thank you for having me. I'm excited to be here and I really like what you're doing with the unnoticed podcast. It's it's it's pretty cool. Great job. Thank you.Jim James:
Thank you so much. That really means a lot. Cause you know, as we all try and build products and services, as you're doing with your own agency and your own podcast, you do go on a bit of a limb. when you create this now you've got An agency and I love it. Cause on the website on your homepage, it says we're a marketing agency that tells the stories for companies who make things. And then it skips and says for people who create things, people who reduce things. So. Can you just sell us on this episode really? How you help clients to get noticed and perhaps also how you've been doing that for yourself. Yeah. I love that. I love that topic. And I'll gladly do that. So as you, as you mentioned our website, you know, we, we do focus on telling stories for people who build things, make things, manufacture things, and, and are, are. Target clients are in the construction and manufacturing industry industries, I should say. And really what we really focus on is simplifying the message. one of the things in construction, for example at least here in the United States, every construction contractor, manufacturing company, anyone in, within the construction industry always says three things. And that is that they're safe. They're on time and they're on budget. And that very well could be the same thing set in, in the UK and throughout Europe. But the reality of it is, is if there's 20 million contractors all saying that we're safe on time and on budget, how can someone that doesn't understand construction or understand what is the process? How can they make a decision between contractor a and contractor B? And so what we always tell people is we need to find a story. We need to find that unique differentiator because if not, we're forcing people to look at price. And just in the agency world, just in construction, manufacturing, anything, you know, people make a decision and ultimately on the cost of things, whether it's the cost of goods, the cost of service and those. So really what we're trying to help our clients understand is that we need to make it so much easier for people to make a decision as to why they should work with you. And so we, we kind of frame that as telling your story. Yeah. It's interesting. You say that even something as complex as construction ends up becoming something of a commodity. Right. And how do you do that then Chris? Because if you do have companies that are all aiming at, you know, safety, budget and schedule, you're creating a story that. Helps them toChris Martin:
stand out. So that's a great question and a great segue. You know, we have, we have a client for example, who is based in Mississippi. And one of the things that really stood out for us when we were talking with them is they were working on a school project. They were building a brand new school in, in a, in an area in central Mississippi. And the school came to them and said, Is it possible that you can work in the evenings to build the building so that our students can come to school through the day. And typically, you know, I can only imagine the response would be. No, you know, and enter any expletive that you want there before the word. No, but this company said, well, yeah, we can do that. Let, let us look at our schedule. Let's look at how we can work around that. And in all my years of working in construction, I've been working in construction for 25 plus years. I've never heard a contractor make that change. So the fact that they are willing to work with their client and adjust their schedules, work around what their client needs are. That is a huge differentiator. And, you know, yes, it very well could have cost a little bit more because of the fact that the scheduling was, was taking place. But the value that comes from that is. By far, you know, it's almost immeasurable in terms of what the impact is on the children and the teachers and the school, the community, everything. so that's what, when we say we we're, we're looking to tell a story. That's something that we, that we really focus onJim James:
and I'm sure that in that case, the contractor was really keen to share that story. Are you then helping the contractors to sort of. You're right. And amplify that story as well, because presumably once they've done it once that could become part of their proposition, although it may be something that they don't want to repeat again.Chris Martin:
That's true. But yes, that's then that that's our job then is to amplify that and we may not. Tell the entire story. We may start to segment it out and build that. Whether it's through social media, for example, or you know, a video of how this project has progressed doing, you know, this schedule work around so that other architects and engineers and other other school districts in the, in the region are aware that. Hey, these people are going to work with you and that's ultimately what we want to get across. I can give you another example too, if you, if you'd like, if we have time. Yes, please do. Yeah, absolutely. Again, it's all construction-related but w we've we've done a lot of work with the iron workers and they are a, a labor group that focuses on structural steel. Erecting and setting structural steel. and whether it's in bridges, buildings, the life, well, as we've been working with them for probably the last 20 years, one of the things that comes out every year, they have what they call their apprenticeship competitions. And it's, it's actually a really cool thing. And it's, this is not just unique to the iron workers, other labor groups do it. And I'm sure, you know, in the UK there's tradesmen that, that get together and have these type of competitions. But what was really cool about it, at least from our perspective, because it's so unique was part of the history of the iron workers is that they would actually scale. 30 40 foot steel beams. Like they would literally stand in front of them and all of a sudden just shimmy themselves up, up, up the call and to watch that is pretty amazing. But then to see these grown men that are, some of them are quite large, that can get to the top in like four seconds, flat, five seconds flat. You, you, you recognize the athleticism, you recognize the skill that comes in into it and, and the focus just to do their job. So that's what we started to focus on and really build the story around these, you know, almost like superhero, athletic men and women that are doing supernatural things. and it helps with that. In that instance, it really helped with the recruitment campaign. started to see bigger interest and go that route. So again, when we say we're looking for stories, we're looking for the things that really stand out and make it, make it a little different people go. Hmm.Jim James:
Yeah. And that's fantastic. And those presumably translate to nice photo opportunities for the media or social media content or on the website, for example, of, of, of the organization or the client. And Chris tell us you focused on construction and the people that are making things. Can you tell us how important it is do you think to have been in a niche yourself? Because that in itself is a strategy. I was interviewing Anthony Hayes from New York last week and he has an LGBT owned agency. And when we chatted about, he said that there are now. Organizations and tenders, which require, you know, diversity sort of quotient and inclusion when it comes to contractors and vendors. And so that was important for them to be designated by LGBT. Certainly you've taken that approach, which is the construction element. Do you wanna just tell us a little bit about how that's worked for you? Because there's always a fear with a small business. Of niche that you might miss out on so much. What would your experience by stating the industry you work in and therefore the ones that you don't?Chris Martin:
Yeah, first off, it was probably one of the best decisions that I've ever made in terms of owning a business. what it did for us was it got us extremely focused and more importantly, it helped our customers and our potential customers recognize. That we are someone that they should at least have a conversation with. So right away, it really helped to, to, to get not only our business focused, but our, our client's business focus to the other thing, like you said, it was, I was nervous. I won't, I won't lie. because prior to that, and, and we, we really made this shift, I'd say about three or four years ago. And, and the prior to that, we were trying to be all things to everybody. And what we were finding was that our process is nothing different than any other agency. It's just. How we package it has become much more focused. and, and it really did help with the business development side of things too, because now it's, it's it's a much easier process for us to say to ourselves, well, does this meet our core values? Does this meet our business focus? And if it doesn't okay, great. Then we can, we can pass. so that really did help the decision-making process from a business development standpoint. much more streamlined. but th the thing that I am probably most proud of is, is that it's actually helped us grow our business. That you know, that single focus in that direction has really helped us. and, and that, that also is to say to that, I mean, we have other clients that are outside of the construction and manufacturing world. you know, we, we we've, we work with Some losing my mind here. we work with a consumer facing moving management company, you know, like, and, and environmentally friendly move management companies. That is the best way to explain that. so it's, it's, it's not a matter of looking at things and saying, okay, well, we're only going to work in this niche, but it also helps us to, to, to define who we are. And I think that's really, really important.Jim James:
And has the reaction of your team been positive as well? Because to some degree, when you make that definition of an industry, you can find what I found in Singapore. for example, that. By defining a Swiss as a tech agency. Some people said, well, I, I don't know. I want to work in tech only. I want the diversity for my business to be interesting for my career to be interesting. Have you had an impact on your team? Did you have some turnover or did everyone embrace it asChris Martin:
well? It at first, there was like, wait a second. What are we doing here? This doesn't make sense. we had, we did have a little turnover but it it's worked out for the best to be honest. I think the, the, the focus of our business now, I mean, as we were talking before beforehand you know, 2020 was, we had a 20% growth. and right now in 2021, we're expecting to be in the 25 to 30% range in terms of projections where we are now. And, and I, I equate a lot of that to two things, one, you know, an increased focus on business development and sales, and then more importantly, a clear definition in terms of who we are and what we do. so I, you know, yeah, at first it was a little bumpy. You're absolutely correct. but we got through that and and we're, we're coming out stronger on the other side.Jim James:
And by focusing on an industry and you said you've worked in construction for 25 years. So you obviously know the industry and the players have any other sort of opportunities arisen for Atlas marketing as a function of being kind of tighter in the industry itself. Right. Because if you're not. I've been in this industry a bit in that industry, you become part of the industry, don't you. So versus that late apart in any way for the business. It,Chris Martin:
it, it has. And in fact, I'm very similar to you. we started I started a podcast with a colleague of mine who is, has been in the industry just as long as I have. he is my co-host John O'Brien is his name and he is he's the executive director for the Keystone contractors association here in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. And we started a podcast about a year ago and that's helped to not only, you know, Give a creative juice, so to speak to, to me. but it's also open some doors. and in fact, as a result of that part of the podcast and it's, it's, it's titled building PA podcast. we are now in the process of publishing a magazine for John's association. So it's a digital, it's a digital based magazine. And the focus what's unique about that is, is we're tying in the podcast and the magazine. So for example, if you're reading an article on, let's say workforce development, We'll have the, you know, throughout the article, there'll be places that you can click and listen to related podcast episodes. So we're, we're tying both of those vehicles together and it really has. you know, I mentioned that the tree get the creative juices flowing, but it's also opened up opportunities for, for Atlas marketing from a, from an industry leadership perspective as well as just the opportunity to meet more people within the industry and, and, and go that route.Jim James:
Nice. That's really creating content that maybe is starting to not be there because conventional publishers have in many industries really sort of died a bit of a death haven't they? So you're creating content, right? There's a vacuum there. Which tools are you using? Chris? Can you share, for example, on the publishing side, are you using issue.com or can you share like that we're,Chris Martin:
we're using software it's called pub HTML. And it's, it's very similar to issue. It's the, the, the the idea there is, is that we have the ability to basically insert a a PDF make it in as interactive as we can insert it into the software and then distributed that way. so that's good. And, and in fact, issues was one of the things that we looked at, one of the options that we had looked at when we were doing it. and, and it it's. Working admittedly we're in the process of producing our first issue, which will be coming out here. In the next few weeks, as a matter of fact, toward the end of April of 2021. And so it's, it's, it's it's it's been a, definitely a learning curve in terms of you know, managing the production of a, of a magazine, a digital magazine. but again, it's, it's, it's really kind of fired up the creative juices and getting things moving a little bit more.Jim James:
It's nice because in the old days, something about 25 years ago, we used to produce newsletters for clients. And then that kind of died a bit of a death, right? When it went to publishers being online and taking people's content. And now those publishers are not taking the content quite so readily without payment, where we're finding there's this vacuum of long form editorial content being available. To the various audience groups and platforms the issue, or was HTML create an opportunity for the agency to create great that content in, in partnership, right. With either clients or within the industry association.Chris Martin:
Yes. Yeah. And, and it's had you told me two years ago that I was going to co-host a podcast and publish a magazine. I would've said you're crazy. but you know, it has become a an opportunity to not only raise awareness of. Atlas marketing, but also give back to the industry that I've been working in for so long. And I think that's one of the things too, is the opportunity to provide that value. You know, we talked about earlier about the story and, and, and providing value and. Differentiating the uniqueness of what, what you can provide. it just, it falls in line with the mission that we, that we kind of gave ourselves a couple of years ago, which is to tell stories for people who build things. So it, it works.Jim James:
That is really nice. Chris, Chris Atlas marketing, how can people find you, especially if they're in the construction or making things industry in America. CertainlyChris Martin:
our website is Atlas stories.com and you can also find us on LinkedIn and Facebook, Twitter, all the fun places that all the kids hang out at, I guess. but I would, I would encourage Atlas stories.com.Jim James:
Ms. Martin joining us from the home of the Pittsburgh Steelers. thank you so much for joining us today and sharing the way that your agency has been able to niche. And by niching find new sources of revenue. And I think also particularly interesting that is around content generation as well, which is a core part of what PR firms always have done and building relationships, both with clients and the industry through their niche. It's an interesting strategy. That's really worked. So thanks for sharing today. Certainly.Chris Martin:
Thanks, Jim. And I really enjoyed today. Thank you very much.Jim James:
Me too. Thank you so much, indeed. So you've listened to the unnoticed show with Chris Martin all the way from Pennsylvania. So thank you. And until we meet again, we wish you the best of how health a profitable business, and that if you're looking at ways to get noticed, think about creating your own content, either as a podcast for audio or as long form as a newsletter or online magazine. Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the UnNoticed show.