Jackie Steinmetz is the founder of Accelity Marketing, formerly Jackie Steinmetz Consulting, where she focuses on marketing strategy and manages client relationships. Jackie began her career at GE Healthcare, then managed the marketing department at Zywave, a well-known Milwaukee software company.
Jackie graduated Summa Cum Laude with an MBA in Marketing and Leadership from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. In her free time, Jackie explores Milwaukee with her family and volunteers for Local First Milwaukee.
In this Startup Savant interview, Jackie shares her mission for Accelity Marketing - to help startups get affordable marketing services. She also shares her goals for Accelity and what makes Accelity stand out. Her biggest piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs - Do it right. There is no success without hard work. Stay happy!
What motivated you to start Accelity Marketing? How did the idea come about?
I decided to leave my job managing the marketing department at Zywave, and wasn’t sure where to go next. I applied for a few jobs in Chicago and New York City and two companies responded that they needed someone local for the job but asked if I would be interested in freelancing.
Frankly, up until that point, I hadn’t considered consulting as a real option, but I did it outside of my full time job for a few months to see how I liked it. My husband and I were already running a vegan cookie company in our free time and were somewhat experienced entrepreneurs. I got too busy—20+ hours of consulting per week, cookies, and a baby—something had to give, and it was the full time job. That’s the whole story!
What was your mission at the beginning of starting your business?
I wanted to make marketing affordable for startups. There are many startups that partner with larger agencies looking for a silver bullet; they end up wasting their time and money. I really dug into my first few clients to make a real impact in their businesses at an affordable rate (and we still do that today!).
What do you attribute your success to? Is there a trait you have or a person who helped you along the way?
I am a very determined person and I believe there is no alternative to hard work. I’ve had a number of people bail on projects and deadlines at the last minute, but my clients never saw that. During one of my first projects, the freelance writer that I hired to help with the job contacted me at 11 pm in the evening before I had to present the work to tell me that she didn’t want the job anymore and hadn’t started.
I stayed up all night, finished the project, and took a nap in my car outside the client’s office over lunch. This taught me two things: 1. I never want to fail a client, no matter what, and 2. Managing client resources and getting work in advance is extremely important!
I have a lot of people that help advise me in growing Accelity. I bounce ideas off my husband constantly, my business coach, Rebecca holds me accountable and makes me do the things that I naturally shy away from (like business finances), and my family has always taken my risk-taking in stride and supported my business decisions!
When times get tough, what would you say motivates you to keep going? To not hit the snooze button and to keep fighting for your goals.
I am always aiming for something bigger. We set quarterly goals within Accelity but I am looking at the longer game… I want to retire early, travel, volunteer. None of these things will happen if I let the challenges along the way take me down.
Employees are one of the most important players to succeed in business. What do you look for in an employee?
I have really high expectations for employees. In a marketing agency, especially a small agency like Accelity, it’s important for employees to be able to communicate and hold their own with our clients and complete their work at the same time.
Our clients are generally strong risk-takers with big personalities and high expectations, so an employee that can make them happy is a keeper. We have core values and hire (and fire) based on those values. One of my favorite interview questions is: “What is people’s biggest misconception about you?” Someone asked me this a while ago and it stuck with me.
Even the most prepared interviewee is never prepared for that question and I like to see how they compose themselves and react, and what kind of answer they give.
What is unique about your business? Is there a competitive advantage that you have over the rest?
We are a Hubspot-certified agency and we work with B2B software and services companies. We only do what we know and we only take clients when we know we can show them a return on their investment with us.
I am constantly approached by B2C clients in various industries and I always tell them that there is an agency out there that is a better fit for them. I think a lot of agencies are not as specific about what they do and are afraid to turn away business; but I believe this makes us more successful.
Have you ever gotten a disappointed client or customer? If so, how did you handle the situation?
I can remember just a few times where our clients have been unhappy, and we always work to rectify the situation. We send out quarterly surveys to all current clients and any client that we completed projects for in the last quarter. If they have complaints, we want to hear them.
Complaints can be scary but they are really a gift because receiving a complaint helps you fix a problem before it reaches your next client. We’ve done things like paid for parts of client projects if they didn’t go well, and we’ll go the extra mile (even if it’s out of budget) to give the clients the results they’re looking for. We are very proud of our high satisfaction score and we want to keep it that way!
Is there a type of marketing that has worked amazingly for Accelity Marketing? If so, how did you stumble upon it?
Every kind of marketing we do for clients, we do for ourselves. Inbound marketing truly works—in the past two weeks, I’ve had three meetings with prospects that found us online. For a company that only takes a few new clients a quarter, that’s huge! As our company grows, our inbound marketing efforts increase, and our prospect list grows.
We are also constantly looking for new services and things to try for our own business and our clients. We just instituted 10% time: every employee spends 4 hours per week, or 10% of their time, on a project that either improves a current process or expands our offerings to our clients to increase client success. We present our projects at the end of September and I can’t wait to see what the team came up with!
Is there any resource or resources that helped you on your journey to becoming a business owner?
Reading really helps. I like to read books that are tactical how to’s and the bigger picture books that make you think. I fought audiobooks for a long time and am finally getting into them for the bigger picture/thinking books. It helps me get through them faster. The tactical books I need to have a paper copy to refer back to.
What are the three best pieces of advice that you would give to anyone starting a business in Wisconsin? What do they need to know from the very beginning?
- Do it right. Get the foundation of your business together: name, logo, website, tagline, etc. It may not seem important to have core values, a mission, or a vision upfront but it really helps shape your business as you grow.
- There is no success without hard work. Everyone’s into “working smarter, not harder” these days—but what if you do both? A business really only has a year to become profitable and viable, unless you have massive savings to live off of… make it count.
- Happiness is the most important of all. This sounds super cheesy and mushy, but if I didn’t like what I was doing, I would close Accelity’s doors. I work really hard and I also take 3+ vacations a year, leave work early to see my son at Tae Kwon Do, go on field trips with and volunteer in my kid's classrooms, and take time for family and friends. There is no such thing as “too busy” to spend time with family or help a friend, there is a desire to do something or a desire not to do it.