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Since founding RMD Advertising in 1992, Sue has been responsible for the complete strategy and direction of RMD’s Columbus-based flagship office. Sue knows what it takes to successfully market and grow an emerging food business. As Managing Partner of RMD, she works with clients such as Rudolph Foods, Tandoor Chef, Bil-Jac Dog Food, Little Caesars Fundraising Pizza Kits, Graeter’s Ice Cream and NestFresh Eggs to develop new strategies for their businesses and distinctive brands. Her talent as a manager and leader has given rise to RMD’s employee focused culture, which has at its core a creative and engaging environment. Sue is the past President of the American Marketing Association, where during her tenure as President earned the prestigious honor of being named the International Chapter of the Year. She is a past Advisory Board member of the International AMA's Chapter Council, past member of the Board of Directors of Central Ohio’s Alzheimer’s Association, as well as past member of Communities In Schools and the Hunger Food Alliance. She has been honored with the prestigious NAWBO Visionary Award and Marketer of the Year from the American Marketing Association.
How did you get into the industry?
I always wanted to be in the agency business. I grew up watching Bewitched, and at the end of every segment, I always thought, “That campaign could have been better.”
When I graduated, I begged my way into my first agency job, and after gaining more insight into the industry, I thought there was probably a better way to operate. From that thought, RMD was born. We served a broad range of industries for our first 15 years of business, but after we got our first taste of the food industry with our first food brand, we fell in love. Now, for ten years, we’ve focused solely on food, and more specifically, the challenger food brand.
We admire these brands because they match the tenacity we, as an agency, have. While they’re just as worthy of shelf space, they may not have as deep of pockets as their competitive counterparts. That challenge allows us to get creative, and that’s where we thrive.
Any emerging industry trends?
In the agency industry, everything’s changed, yet nothing’s changed. The most iconic brands, such as Panera Bread, Whole Foods Markets and Happy Family Brands, have been communicating with consumers in the way today’s brands have been striving to do for years. Consumers have always valued transparency. They’ve always wanted to know who the people behind their favorite brands are. They’ve always sought after open lines of communication between themselves and a company.
Today, however, brands are asked to make themselves more readily available with the advent of social media. So, while technology and the means of communication have changed, the conversations shoppers are looking for and the messaging being shared by brands has only shifted slightly. There is no longer any control over the conversations consumers are having about a brand, but the best-managed brands are those that leverage those conversations.
Any industry opportunities or challenges?
Today, consumers are inundated with brand messaging, data, newsfeeds that are incessantly updated and much more. It’s more difficult than ever for brands to stay connected with their consumers. At the same time, many clients are tightening their budgets in certain areas, as opposed to expanding their marketing budgets. In reality, success in this arena usually means brands need to invest more heavily in aggressive brand messaging and data, ultimately becoming a major part of those newsfeeds. As they look for ways to tie marketing to tangible results and sales, they are looking for ways to get more out of their marketing dollars.
In making the desire to become a more apparent part of consumers’ lives reality, we have seen influencer programs growing at a rapid rate. Additionally, experiential opportunities have helped to redefine the way brands talk to their consumers today. At these strategic experiential opportunities, brands have a direct way to make meaningful connections that ultimately help to expand their reach and awareness within retailers’ store aisles.
Inspiration for the business idea, and your vision for the Business?
At RMD’s advent, we worked with a broad range of brands, across all industries. Once we got a taste of our first food brand (nearly 15 years into our experience), we fell in love with the entire industry. The food industry is like no other, and we realized that this was an underserved niche that we had the ability to serve with expertise and unparalleled passion.
With our projected growth of the next year will come new staffing challenges and new opportunities that will challenge our thinking, both of which are always exciting to us. We’re always looking for a way to balance that innovation with strong leadership and new ways to maximize happiness within the agency. It’s a belief that we hold firmly at RMD – happiness and energy in the workplace begets outstanding work and excellence on the part of each and every RMD team member.
What's next for the Business in the near future?
Right now, RMD is 25 years young, and we’re embarking on chapter two. We consider these the teenager years, a youthful stage of the business lifecycle. We’ve learned enough from our experiences that we’re smart enough to consider ourselves experts in our niche, but still youthful so that we can keep pace with our whip-smart and fast-moving clients. We expect our income to increase 60 percent this upcoming year.
Your key initiatives for the success of the Business?
Key initiatives to maintain RMD’s growth include maximizing the opportunity for education across the company, enlisting books and other educational resources, instilling proven state-changing tools and tactics and ensuring each team member is dedicated to a growth mindset. This growth mindset will be inspired, in part, by the general culture of giving we’ve applied at RMD.
Your most difficult moment at the Business? (and what did you learn?)
RMD did not fare well during the first recession following the Tech Bubble Burst. The second recession, however, we learned from our first experience, and not only did we survive, but we thrived. There were a couple keys to finding success amidst an recession:
Firstly, we refused to use the “r” word. With that, we refused to operate as if we were in the middle of a recession. In turn, the energy, authority, courage and impeccable work we brought to our clients inspired their work. By the year’s end, we had grown 66 percent.
Ideal experience for a customer/client?
Each RMD client can expect to enjoy a return on investment above the agency norm with the confidence that accompanies knowing we simply don’t fail. Because we work with food brands, and only with food brands, we have unparalleled expertise within the industry. This allows us to better serve the hyper-specific needs of our clients. Above all, we work as hard on an account as if it were our own brand. This is a personal perspective that gives RMD the heart it has.
How do you motivate others?
I prefer to inspire others by being an example of what I would like RMD to look like. It is important for me to stay primed and in peak state by keeping moving, feeding my brain, and by refusing to listen to the ‘nay sayers’. I hold the belief that if I come to work pumped and ready to go, others will follow suit.
We are also adamant about continued growth and education, so our agency-wide book club allows us to learn from other thought leaders, while fine tuning our minds to best practices and opening them up to new ideas. I work diligently to encourage RMD’ers to take the initiative to grow in whatever ways they can.
Career advice to those in your industry?
I would advise young professionals to stop selling themselves. Don’t be afraid to lean in for the first few years you’re establishing your career. Instead, think about how you can grow the business and increase revenue. Until you’ve learned how to do that effectively, it’s important to work harder to balance out the value/salary proposition. Learn, learn, learn and invest in yourself to drive true value.