Behind CMG’s Pricing Strategy

At Columbia Marketing Group, we like to do things a little different. Typically, the agency model has structured their revenue streams to be based on billable hours to the client, which leaves things open-ended and vague. It’s therefore not unusual to get bills with higher than expected costs and surprise fees.

CMG believes their commitment to the client should be made on a pre-agreed fee structure. We use a guide for how much we charge for projects based on desired scope of the project, our internal expenses, anticipated number of hours, the resources we invest in, and the market value of our services.

However, once we reach an agreement with the client on the scope of a project and a timeline, we believe fully that it is up to our team to be efficient with our time and to deliver on our promises. The price will not change regardless of circumstance whether it’s for graphic design, a brand development project, a new website to be developed, social media management, or your ongoing SEO efforts.

Additionally, we are more than happy publishing our pricing. It is our goal to always live up to our two most valued traits of authenticity and accountability. Would you like to know what your project will cost ahead of time with no surprises? Perfect. We do, too. Would you like to be able to compare our prices with other providers during your research and investigation phase as you pick a provider? No problem. Here it is. What else do you need? We want to make sure that you have all the information necessary to make the best choice when choosing your partner for marketing and communications. Your marketing firm is a very important partner. The group you select will be casting the vision of your company and will be a reflection of you as a person to the world. You need a partner that you can know what to expect from always.

If you’d like to discuss our pricing or potential projects that you have, we’re happy to meet with you. Let me know what you’d like to discuss … our pricing, your culture, or my recommended reading lists … and we’ll do that over coffee.

The Benefits of Personality Assessments

I am typically a behind-the-scenes kind of girl. Pretty stereotypical of an editor type. I prefer to interview and photograph those with the story, not be at the center of the story.

And while I can stand in front of a large audience when I have something to say, it also makes me feel anxious and vulnerable.

I don’t prefer the spotlight and I would rather listen to you than talk about myself.

Except when it comes to personality assessments.

If you ask me what makes me uniquely me, I’m quick to offer an answer. Not because I’m impressed with myself, but because I strongly believe that being vulnerable with who I am is a gateway to building healthy, meaningful relationships.

I believe the same is true about you and the teams you lead. The more we understand ourselves and strive to understand each other, the stronger bridges we build to connecting with those who are different than us.

So, what about me?

I’m people-structured, and according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’m an ENFJ (just barely an E. If in doubt, see above).

By DISC Profile standards, I’m an SC combination.

Prefer Strength Finders? My top five are relator, strategic, maximizer, responsibility, and discipline.

I’m also the color blue on the True Colors Personality Test, and I strive to be playful, engaging, affectionate, loyal, and courageous, the qualities of a counterphobic Enneagram six.

These assessments don’t determine my worth or tell me how to act. They simply describe who I already am. And with that clarity, I can better engage my inner self and the world around me.

But it’s not all about me.

Armed with the same information about my team, I seek to make sure that their roles line up with how they’re instinctively wired. For example, our best sales people are often “I’s” on the DISC, as well as the color orange. Great project managers are usually task-oriented and have some gold in their profile or show up as a “C” on the DISC profile.

The DISC and True Colors Personality Test do a great job of helping people know where they best fit. Does a person’s role fit their natural bent?

The Strength Finder and Enneagram tools are more advanced and lend in-depth information into how people will do their job and what motivates them.

The possibilities are endless, yet the outcome is clear. The more you know, and help your employees explore, the more engaged and productive team you’ll have.

Social Media: How Much is TOO Much?

For many businesses, social media remains intimidating territory. There’s no denying the fact that your target audience is there, but the notion of accumulating content, adhering to your voice, promoting your brand, and controlling your online image can seem like too much to handle. 

At CMG, we operate under the golden rule: consistent content is king. 

Your audience must SEE your brand in order to interact with it, and that only comes from posting consistently.

However, on the flip side of the coin, posting too frequently can lead to your brand becoming more “white noise” than a fun page to interact with. The last thing you want your brand to become associated with is annoying newsfeed clutter. 

So, how much is too much?  As with most things with life, social media moderation is extremely important. 

In general, the answer depends on the size of your following. 

At CMG, we love to contribute to our local community, which means we manage primarily smaller businesses ranging from a few hundred followers to a few thousand. For pages of such sizes, we find that posting three to four times per week hits the sweet spot of providing steady content without annoying users to the point of them hitting the dreaded “hide all content from this page” button. 

Spacing your posts out for a day or two here and there is a great way to offer your audience some breathing room. If that seems a little light for your taste, increase your weekly post count incrementally. Just remember to keep it capped at one post per day! A study by Hubspot recently found that posting any more than that will lead to diminishing returns

Always consider your company’s overall goal when it comes to social media. Are you a relatively new entity? Perhaps brand awareness is the way to go, in which case, posting more frequently would serve you well.

Or maybe your end goal is to drive customers to your brick-and-mortar store? Pace yourself a bit and include sponsored incentives that give your page more evergreen exposure. These are great ways to prompt your online users to leave the comfort of their chairs. 

Whatever the case may be, just remember to remain consistent in churning out content. Then, when the engagement inevitably comes, interact with your audience! The whole draw of establishing an online community is the ability to forge personal connections with your customers in the first place. 

“Yeah, yeah, so what’s the TLDR?” 

When it comes to social media, your company’s needs will be different than your neighbors across the street. Take your overarching goals into consideration and conduct a little trial and error. Strategically increase your post frequency while monitoring your unfollows. Generally speaking, never post more than once per day. Soon enough, you’ll find your own sweet spot. 

Above all else, when your audience bites on your content, make sure you’re logged on and interacting with them!

While “everyone is different” might seem like a cop-out, that’s actually what we find so rewarding about social media management at CMG! Our agency invites every single client into our office to discuss a digital strategy specifically tailored to them. This level of familiarity reaps rewards across the board, especially on your company’s social platforms. 

If you have questions about social media management, or you’re interested in the benefits we can offer your company, contact us! We’d love to meet with you at your favorite coffee shop.

10 Guiding Principles for Working Together

I don’t mind saying it. Working for COMO magazine and Columbia Marketing Group is pretty great. The community has tended to agree in the past by awarding us the 2017 Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year and the 2017 Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year.

But it’s not like it just magically shows up every morning like fairy dust delivered by flying llamas with magical carafes of coffee. It takes hard work and consistent commitment by all parties to a unified vision. Here is the approach we use to ensure we protect the most important part of our company … our culture.

The Business Times Company culture involves three core areas:

  • Care for the cause.
  • Care for our community.
  • Care for ourselves.

Individually, and as a group, we commit to:

Care for the Cause.

  1. Manage by objective. Our goal is to deliver a high-quality product, on time, without pissing off our co-workers! We actively respect the product, the process, and the people, and take responsibility for delivering on what we promise.
  2. Do whatever it takes. We are not bound by roles or job descriptions. We know it takes us all, chipping in, to meet our objectives. Some weeks that means going the extra mile.
  3. Prioritize the mission. We understand that our company mission stems from our love for Mid-Missouri, small business, and healthy team dynamics. For the sake of that mission, we collaborate always, yet respect clear decisions by the person responsible.

Care for our Community.

  1. Acknowledge problems early. We open and honestly embrace conflict before it becomes toxic. We share concerns when they are a 10% problem, before they become a 70% problem. We acknowledge the difference between a problem to solve and a tension to manage.
  2. Share feelings appropriately. We agree to give the benefit of the doubt and work to understand where the other person is coming from. We process our emotions before venting, qualify conflict, and respectfully give constructive feedback.
  3. Refrain from gossip. We commit to talk about a problem with someone who can solve it. We understand that gossip is a fireable offense.
  4. Embrace both sides of the coin. We strive to know the whole person (personality, skills, and strengths), and we understand that we can’t eliminate the qualities we dislike without damaging the ones we love.
  5. Communicate with perspective. When problem solving, we let our co-workers know if we’re talking about a $10, $500, $100,000 or $1 million-dollar issue.

Care for Ourselves.

  1. Work and play hard. We give 110% to the job during office hours, but also prioritize rest, down time, self-care, and self-awareness. We take advantage of the time given by the company to divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually.
  2. Understand emotions. We work to stay emotionally healthy and keep our emotional cups from overflowing. We strive to bring our full and best selves to our jobs (and lives) daily.

A Holiday Gift Guide for the Creatives in Your Life

Are you a Sadie, Cassidy, or Jordan? Which one of our designers’ suggestions could you gift to the creatives in YOUR company?

Sadie’s Picks!

  1. Ampersand Ring: I’m obsessed with ampersands and love minimalist jewelry. (If you are a fan too, follow theampersandstorm on Instagram.)

  2. Pantone Mug: I just think Pantone swatches are so cool. (Yes, this is a “tea” cup, but it holds more than your standard coffee mug, sooo….)
  3. NEVER Tote Bag by Wasted Rita: Because I’m obsessed with typefaces. And I love bags.
  4. A magazine subscription to The Magnolia Journal: Designers can always use more magazine subscriptions (of their choosing, not just any ole mag). I love watching “Fixer Upper” and Chip and Joanna. I think their publication is just so beautiful, and I always feel comforted and relaxed while looking through it.
  5. Letterpress Cookie Cutters: Did I mention I love typefaces?

Cassidy’s Picks!

  1. A subscription to “Tapas”: “Tapas” covers are amazing. I’m dying to know what is inside. Bonus points for supporting print media.
  2. Gradient Puzzle: This is how I hygge.
  3. Locally made cookies: Check out the Berlin Bazaar Winter Market and get allll of Shelly La Fata’s Amaretti cookies. I love supporting local creators.
  4. Stocking stuffer affirmations: This guy was a riot at our design conference last year.
  5. Bougie oyster accessories: I’m obsessed with “Garden & Gun” magazine’s field shop. And oysters.

Jordan’s Picks!

  1. BOOKS! So many books, so little time! It can be hard to know where to start, but these are my personal picks for topics I want to cover in the new year: creative team management, practical day-to-day business stuff, and some classic inspiration from industry legends. (Bonus points if you pick them up from a local bookstore or directly from the author’s website.)
  1. La Croix planter: Handmade ceramics + La Croix = a perfect desk accessory. #teamcoconut (p.s. These come complete with an air plant, perfect for a lazy – uh, I mean, busy – designer.)
  2. Enamel pins: Pins are an easy way to jazz up my daily uniform of black skinny jeans and striped t-shirts.
  1. Pocket Art Director: It’s funny because it’s true.
  2. Anything and everything from Parks Project: Some of the best memories of my life have taken place in National Parks. I got married in Joshua Tree, vacationed in Yosemite, and moved my life across the country, stopping in many along the way. Rather than donating a percentage of the profit, Parks Project partners with conservancies to fund their most immediate and needed projects. So, the parks get some much needed TLC, and you get a beautifully designed good in return. That’s what I like to call a win-win situation.

Erica’s Wordy End of Year Reflections

by Erica Pefferman

I’ve been doing something really cool this fall. I’ve checked something big off of my bucket list! I have been teaching at Stephens College as an adjunct professor for their magazine publishing course “Stephens Life.” It’s been a lot of fun and has brought my own experience as a non-traditional student full circle. I graduated with my undergrad degree in July after an on again, off again journey of 23 years and sent two sons off to college in August. Graduation and accomplishment have been a theme for 2019 for me as I reflect back on this year. It brings to mind a commencement speech I gave at Stephens College a year and a half ago where I talked about how everyone needs six things for the next chapter of their life. As we look ahead to a new year and those pesky new year’s resolutions, I submit these six things to you as I did those students.

One: You will need a community.

You need a community of people that you like to do life with. You’ve all heard how important networking is. And it is!! But, I know that some of you may hear the word networking and think that it’s an inauthentic bid to meet someone for the sole purpose of what they can give you. But the truth is…networking is about building a community of people that are mutually interested in your success. True, authentic networking is about learning who the person you’re talking to is. What makes them tick? What are they trying to accomplish and what can you do to help them with that? That’s true networking. I’ve met my best friends by being engaged in non-profit work and the Chamber of Commerce.

Two: You will need wine.

You’ll need a great glass of wine to celebrate with…to rest and to reflect. There’s something about the elegance of the glass, the feel of it in your hand, the taste of it on your tongue. For me, a glass of great cabernet is the pause button for me. Pause to think. Pause to relish. Pause to appreciate. If you don’t drink…what else is that in your life? Find something that feels indulgent to you and participate. A great cup of coffee. That piece of rich, dark chocolate. What makes you feel good? What is a signal to you and to your brain to take a break.

Three: You will need a break.

You need a break. You’ve worked hard this year. Are you tired? It’s okay if you are! I am too! Take an actual break from all things. It’s ok. The world WILL survive without you and you certainly deserve it. I know how hard it can be, but I have done it myself and lived to tell the tale.

Since I joined the 40’s last year, I have committed to doing as many things for myself as I could. New things to try. New places to go. It has included trying new music, getting a new tattoo and the biggest thing yet…going on vacation alone. As an extrovert that likes to get things accomplished ALL the time, taking a week long solo vacation was a huge risk for me. I picked a place I’d never been. I planned to do things I’ve never done. I ate things I’ve never eaten. And I learned how to be comfortable in my own skin without the coulda woulda shouldas that we do to ourselves all the time.

Four: You are going to need another goal.

You’ve accomplished some things this year. What’s next? What will keep you moving forward from here? Is it a new job? Writing that book that you’ve been thinking about incessantly? We all need a next thing. In fact, I think we all need the next several things. What is the goal you have for your life? For me, my ultimate goal is to slide in sideways at my own funeral and leave a huge group of people laughing and telling stories about all the fun things we did together. I want children that saw me work hard and give a lot to those around us in our community. I want them to know that I lived an authentic life and hopefully will have passed that value on to them. What goals do you have for yourself?

Five: You will need flexibility because your path will be twisty.

One of my favorite quotes is God draws straight with crooked lines. I resemble this A LOT. I don’t know about you, but my life looks NOTHING like I thought it would when I was 10 years old. It also doesn’t reflect anything I thought my life would be when I was 30 years old. Heck, life threw me a pretty good curveball just three years ago. The one thing I know to be true in life is that none of us know what will happen or what choices we will be faced with. And knowing this, you must remain flexible and pliable to changes as they come up. When a door is shut, look for a window to crawl through. And if there is no window, ninja kick that thing open. There’s ALWAYS a choice. Often more than one. Step back, assess and move forward with intensity.

Six: You will need to stay hungry, humble and smart.

My favorite author and speaker Patrick Lencioni recently came out with a new book. It’s called the Ideal Team Player. Basically, anything he writes is required reading for our company but this one in particular gave my leadership team and myself the words we’d been looking for that describes who we hire and ultimately who we keep at the Business Times Company. Hungry, humble and smart describes what you must be to be on our team.

Hungry refers specifically to your work ethic. You must have a strong work ethic to succeed. I’m not talking about merely the number of hours you work. In fact, an overabundance of time spent on work is often an unhealthy thing. I’m talking about a desire to be better. To grow and learn more. Your internal motivation.

Humble isn’t just being humble yourself. It’s bringing your full self to what you do for the sake of your team. Being humble is a great thing. It’s required on our team. We have no divas. But, being too humble can also be a horrible thing. If you err on the side of so much humility that you actually keep yourself from putting your gifts in play for the betterment of your company and team, you are stealing from your community and yourself.

Lastly, stay smart. I am not talking about your skill level or intelligence. I’m going to assume that you’ve got the necessary skills and intelligence to do your job. I’m talking about emotional intelligence. If you don’t know how or why you process thought, are recharged or deal with conflict…how will you understand those around you? Smart is being able to read the people around you. Smart is being able to know when to talk and when to listen. Smart is knowing how to successfully be an engaged member of a community. Smart is being what they call people smart. It’s sometimes even more important than being book smart.

In closing…if you read this whole thing, you get a very special prize. Email me here to not only prove Bethany wrong (she didn’t think you would) but to get your awesome prize!