Venture-Building Through Marketing

Ecommerce and digital marketing have taken over the marketing industry, and as direct-to-consumer brands have proliferated, consumers have become more savvy. Thus, simply running single-channel paid acquisition is no longer a viable growth strategy.

Darkroom helps commerce companies implement sustainable marketing programs by combining strategy, research, and execution to generate profitable growth. This is its story.

Digital Growth Agency

Darkroom is a digital growth agency that began as the brainchild of serial entrepreneur Lucas DiPietrantonio and creative director Jackson Corey. Both have deep experience in the ecommerce and digital marketing space. They started Darkroom in 2017 because they thought other agencies lacked competencies in human capital allocation, process, and creative production.

According to Lucas and Jackson, single-channel marketing agencies are becoming obsolete. As a result, they recognized the need to help agencies specifically and intentionally build services that integrate paid media, creative, retention, conversion rate optimization, data, and forecasting functions. This, they say, gives their clients fast, measurable, and sustainable results.

“When we started the agency, we started primarily designing brand identity systems and delivering website and digital product experiences for clients,” Lucas says. “And then we slowly expanded and expanded and expanded our service offerings. Today, we’re a fully integrated advertising and marketing firm.”

A Digital Marketing Agency With a Difference

Lucas says that in contrast to a traditional marketing agency, Darkroom is a “venture builder at heart.”

“A lot of what we do at the agency is we focus on scaling revenue for our clients, predominantly in the growth stage B2B sector,” he says. “So when we talk about venture building, a lot of the clients that we’re working with [are] high-scale companies, meaning they have large growth ambitions, they’re venture backed, they’re private equity backed. We’ve also worked with countless bootstraps startups. But I think the common through line between all these different startups is they want to grow revenue, they want to grow profitability, they are building to be acquired, they’re building to have more valuable businesses.”

Lucas says Darkroom helps these companies “strategize on the effective ways to leverage advertising [and] creative marketing communications to actually help them achieve those goals…. It’s really assisting [them] in growing the foundations, their marketing foundations, helping them rethink some of their marketing challenges and then setting them up for scale.”

Darkroom has evolved considerably since its inception. “Jackson and I started this business really as a consulting operation,” Lucas says. “[W]e were a design firm when we first started doing visual identity design and digital products, simple digital products, websites, and UI design. And then naturally we’ve continued to evolve, hone our services, identify spaces where we could be a lot more valuable to our customers, and now our core service is entirely differentiated.” That core service includes creative work, data infrastructure, and revenue growth, among other things.

Advice for Founders

Jackson advises founders and early-stage entrepreneurs to “think about what your idea could be at scale, at its peak, at its ultimate. What is the ultimate vision that you can envision? What is the impact that it could have on people? But also what is your ultimate, ultimate business objective?”

In other words, he says clearly define what the company is shooting for over the long run, as well as what the impact and exit of the business will look like. “Now, obviously that may change, but just try to always orient yourself to that,” he says.

Lucas agrees. “I think visualization and road mapping is a powerful exercise,” he says. “For me, for early stage founders, it is sometimes just about brute-forcing it and just showing up. So I would just say, show up, don’t stop. Just continue to believe in yourself [and] have a long-term vision.”

What’s Next for Darkroom

Jackson says the biggest thing Darkroom is working on in the short term is an educational effort that will be an “internal and external resource” for marketers. 

“One of the things that we noticed is that higher-education universities, as well as more independent boutique online courses, are… failing the marketing industry,” he says. “They’re not providing nearly enough value. Because the marketing landscape changes so rapidly with new technology, new tactics, it’s really hard for bigger institutions to keep up. And a lot of the more niche folks don’t want to give away all their secrets. But we feel like the only way to maintain and… improve the quality of our own team is by treating our company like a research institution.”

He offers the example of someone going to Stanford to work in science and being paired with a research professor. “We want to treat our strategists, our top level people, in that sort of way, where they’re running experiments and working in the most innovative vanguard of marketing, and then they’re turning around and teaching those practices and what they’re learning to the rest of our team and to the public as well,” he says. “So we think that that’s a huge opportunity to build some community and offer a ton of value by way of education.”

Jackson also says Darkroom wants to invest in more businesses over the next six to 12 months. In addition, it’s developing artificial intelligence software for marketing. 

“There’s a lot that we feel like we’re leaving on the table if we don’t invest in those things,” he says. We really want to be an ecosystem. Our mission is to be an ecosystem that really empowers the next era of business growth.”

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