Q: How did you come to start fluent?
My first job after college was in a marketing agency. I loved the culture and creativity. From there I was in an in-house position for almost a decade that allowed me to work with outside PR and design agencies. The ones that truly understood how to market an intangible service vs. a product were all out-of-state, so after I finished my MBA, I decided it was time for a change. I launched fluent with two clients — a CPA firm and a wealth management group — and have grown from there.
Q: Why did you choose the name fluent?
When I launched fluent, I was primarily targeting clients that wanted to reach buyers of highly-valuable services. They were essentially selling their expertise. After floating a couple of other name ideas to my friends and industry peers (I was leaning toward a variation of the word “visible”), I happened to catch myself saying something along the lines of “my clients want to be known for their fluency in law/finance/etc…” I had also been seriously considering enrolling in a graduate program in IMC (integrated marketing communications) which introduced me to a couple of other agencies that used imc in their brand name. Our client base has expanded over the years but I’ve been pleased to see that even a non-profit or a more B2B focused client usually wants to be known for their expertise in a certain area. It’s widely applicable.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you’re facing as a business owner due to the pandemic?
Fortunately the pandemic didn’t result in any lost business for fluent, but we certainly have clients that needed help with abruptly adapting their entire marketing or communications program. Now that we’re nearing the end of the year, it’s challenging to figure out how to plan for 2021 because the pandemic certainly isn’t over. Clients need guidance on finding their way and staying relevant in a “new normal” and we all have the same amount of experience with something this huge and life-altering — which is none. It’s all new and we’re all using our best instincts and professional talents to find a way through. It’s not easy for anyone.
Q: In what ways is fluent best positioned to help clients through this difficult time in history?
I think the nature of our approach is to always be coming back to a big-picture strategy and not staying too lost in the tactical weeds. That was absolutely necessary back in March and it’s more important in Q4 2020 than ever before. We’re very strong on the strategy side and we always look at how a program can be fully integrated. The benefit for clients is that our programs, by design, leave room for a business to shift and move from one channel to another without a lot of disruption internally or externally.
Q: What’s on your wish list for 2021?
I think everyone is eager to say good-bye to 2020. As hard as it has been, we’ve been very fortunate to have stable ongoing client relationships. That model has served us and our clients well, but it doesn’t always feel welcoming to a smaller organization that isn’t ready for an ongoing agency relationship. We want to be as accessible and helpful as possible, so we’re working on launching training programs for in-house marketers and communications professionals. We’ve seen numerous situations where in-house coordinators, specialists and even some managers are hired as generalists and then suddenly are expected to be handling strategic marketing planning, media relations or more specialized skills. We’d like to offer our expertise in those areas by stepping in, teaching the skills that the particular team desires over a series of sessions, coach and mentor and then step out and let them succeed with a stronger set of skills.
Aside from that, I’m wishing for less Zoom and more in-person meetings and coffees when it’s safe. I miss real human interactions!