Marketing firm grows through artistic touchWritten by Caitlin McGlade | | email@example.com
Beneath the high ceilings and among the mess of building expansion at R-P Marketing Public Relations, you’d never know the economy is lagging.
The Holland-based business is adding four new employees and 2,400 square feet of office space. President Martha Vetter said the company will probably hire five to 10 more employees in upcoming years.
R-P, which has nearly two dozen clients and 35 employees, started with three women and less than $8,000 to invest.
“So many people say, ‘I wish I could start my own business,’” Vetter said. “But it’s all about just jumping in. We could save our money but what good would that do?”
Vetter’s 17-year-old success story comes at a time when unemployment hangs around more than 9 percent nationwide. So what’s the secret?
She and her friends Anne Roman and Jennifer Wilson worked for a marketing agency in Toledo before they started R-P. The three had always wanted to branch off.
Thus, the decision was simple; they figured that failure wouldn’t mean the demise of their careers.
“We thought, ‘Why not? What do we have to lose?’” Vetter said.
So Vetter borrowed money from her mother and the other two contributed about the same amount. They knew how much they had to make to succeed and how many clients they needed. They were determined to provide quality designs for advertising to businesses — but they weren’t going to be the cheapest on the block, Vetter said.
The trio landed a deal designing for Borders Books fairly quickly. Within the second month, they made a profit. The other two women have since left.
The company focuses on the arts, building products and health care. One of its largest clients is Mercy Health Partners, for which R-P designed a cross-medium ad campaign emphasizing caring and personalized staff.
“It’s storytelling, it really is,” said David Proudfoot, the creative director. “It’s that personal feeling and it draws the consumer into it. There’s an emotional connection being made.”
Proudfoot said R-P has helped Mercy transform advertising from product-focused to more service-driven. Proudfoot got into the art business as a kid, when his brother didn’t want to take art classes his mother had bought. He liked the classes so much he made a career out of art, he said.
He and the design crew center advertising around one focal point so that the consumer leaves with an undoubted message, rather than a hodgepodge of offers, he said.
Other clients include The American Red Cross, Macy’s, Inc. and the Smithsonian Institution’s Lemelson Center in Washington, D.C. R-P also started a branch called Transcend specifically for hospice marketing.
While the company continues to take on clients across the country, Vetter said she has no interest in expanding into a mega-business.
“So often businesses have a history of getting really big and contracting and expanding,” Vetter said. “We would rather stay smaller, have fewer employees and work harder so if the economy gets bad we don’t have to lay people off.”
Kelley Yoder, one of the new hires, left her marketing manager position at O-I for a public relations spot at R-P. She will focus on building product clients.
“What drew me to R-P was the culture and the focus and the drive they have,” Yoder said.