“Twenty months in; here we go. It’s Heirank twenty…twenty-two point O!
Pivot, pivot! We’re changing.
Okay, not really changing, but clarifying. Crystalizing. It’s been a fun twenty months since sweating through that very first Facebook Live video to a few hundred friends on my apartment balcony on June 15, 2020.
The message that day was clear:
“Hey friends, Hierank is open for business. Like, all business. I do stuff. I want money. Printing, promotions, digital marketing, and design; we’ll get you what you need. Bring me your business.”– Matthew Hall, Chief Agent (not a real quote…mostly)
And you did bring me business. You came through. Thank you!
Now, I owe you…
- clarity on what we do very well.
- clarity on what we do less-well.
- to evolve.
- and to be the best agency that we can in every arena where we decide to play.
With 20 months active, 73 clients serviced, 5 contract employees paid, and 171 unique product SKUs transacted since that blue-sky day, we’ve learned a ton and we’re excited to share here where we’re going next.
This peak behind the curtain tells our story in three phases, best described like this:
- Phase 0 – “Where do I go from here?”
- Phase I – Building a business to successfully operate.
- Phase II – Building a business to proudly market and scale.
So first…a quick hop back to the beginning.
Phase 0 – Them Fertile Ashes (Mar 2020 – June 2020)
Where do I go from here?
Like many others, I was laid off in March of 2020 from my then-employer (and now friendly partner/vendor MAD Creative Concepts) due to a certain virus and the tsunami of event cancelations and fiscal uncertainty that ensued. Myself and another sales professional had JUST been hired as part of exciting growth there too.
Getting let go was disappointing and worrying – less shameful than normal since the world had just broke, but still – not the ideal situation.
Thankfully unemployment was generous and I wasn’t the only one affected that week or month. The most important question at the time quickly became this:
“What’s next?”– Matthew Hall, scared-unemployed-not-yet-Chief Agent (March 2020)
To that point, my professional experience had been a mishmash of:
- Three years toward an incomplete Civil Engineering degree.
- Spending those same three summers contracting residential paint jobs.
Quick shoutout to Paul Evans, O.G. Sales Trainer and inspiration for our company’s tagline with this quote:
“If you can get people what they need, you’ll never have to SELL anything.”
- A five year stint selling advertising and media products for two newsprint conglomerates.
(One was notoriously bad for the whole media industry, everyone in it, and arguably for the sake of a functioning and informed democracy; and one that did a lot right while battling uphill in the business environment of its time.)
- Four years at another local printing agency.
In 2022 you still see my face on the site and get my recorded voice there when you call.
- A four month fresh-start at the aforementioned MAD since the previous December.
- Almost three years casually learning about website coding, design, and web infrastructure – with high hopes that a Football Power Ranking algorithm I’d been playing with in my spare time since 2017 would be my eventual ‘ticket’.
Having just passed 9.5 years since my first media hire-date (OK 10 years…who’s counting?) and with a broad but not highly-specialized body of skills and experience – despair might’ve been easy but the next step was clear.
The next step had always had been clear; I only needed the right push to do it. And now the push had come.
Phase I – Throwing Seeds at the Garden (Jun 2020 – Dec 2021)
Building a business to successfully operate.
When you run a business, it’s good to make money.
Especially a new business.
Especially a new business started during a pandemic.
Especially a new business started during a pandemic when it’s your only source of income.
It was showtime. Without any Hierank Angel Investors, it was time to make money. With broad skills across multiple marketing disciplines – SEO, Adwords, CPM-based web ads, publication print ads, circulars, displays, promotional products, websites, signage, event planning & sponsorships, media buying & planning, copy writing, design, etc. – and the hungry willingness to transact wherever needs may occur – it’s fair to say Hierank did NOT start out with a core specialty or focus.
I could do all of these things fairly well, delivering real value at better prices than most. I even summed up our cluster of services about as elegantly as one could, with the tagline, “We’ll get you what you need.”
And we got a good number of people, organizations, and groups what they needed when they needed it. That said, SPOILER:
I would NOT recommend this as a business strategy.
In the earliest days, I remember meeting with a friend from Google, two other friends running their own digital outfits, and a few others that contacted me with varying opportunities to buy or sell what I was doing. It was very exciting but I was also quickly overwhelmed:
We built websites. We sold business cards. We quoted Google My Business and Office 365 setups. We purchased domains. We moved domains. We popped up online stores. We sold signs. We showed up and took onsite photos and measurements. We brokered a giant school signage job. We designed a couple logos. We installed stuff.
It was a LOT. And it went OK.
Phase II – Watering the Winners (Jan 2022 – Present)
Building a business to successfully market and scale.
The opening hustle wasn’t sustainable. Stretched, haphazard, and resourceful-to-a-fault are not the things I want this business to be. To paraphrase oft-quoted 21st Century thinker Ron Swanson, “Why half-ass two things when you can whole-ass one thing?”
He has a point, that Ron.
To that point: The age of half-assery…or of octa/dodeca/centi-assery…nevermind: The age of doing too many things IS OVER.
And here comes the pivot.
What do we do very well? What do we do less well?
Now we know.
What do we do very well? Six major service areas:
These all break down into sub-categories of service too. We’ll get there.
(Technically, one could still call this hexa-assery, but it IS a major tightening of focus…Shh!!)
What do we do less well? After gulping down a little pride, that’s easy:
- Digital Marketing
- Social Media & Media Production
- Event Planning & Production
- Campaign Strategy
We’ve learned that to stay true to our promise that “We’ll get you what you need,” we must operate primarily as a global supplier of goods, with locally-focused service and expertise for coordinating all the pieces your team needs to realize its marketing vision. What we do very well is now clear:
We supply and support marketers with all the materials they need to successfully execute their strategies.
To pretend we did more would be a disservice to you, and just get in the way of the things we’ve learned we’re great at. We love sharing insights and ideas but prefer them to be of added value where appropriate with your purchase, and not the core of your campaign.
Similarly, we know enough about Digital Marketing and Media to know that it changes immensely fast and that many of our partners know it better. We’ll gladly answer questions to the best of our ability, offer useful tips, and ultimately refer you out to receive real help as required.
While we’re no longer fearful of saying what we don’t specialize in, let’s talk more about what we CAN do very well.
These are our six major service areas of renewed focus in 2022.
For printing marketing pieces such as business cards or flyers, branded stationary, or utility and logistical pieces like labels, tags and packaging, we have secured wholesale printing relationships with contract-only plants across the map to always deliver what you need, at low cost, before you need it.
Whether your goals are a rushed turnaround, a premium selection, or simply the best product at the best price – we’ll know very quickly how to satisfy your need, or can intervene right away if we believe it’s a goal that cannot reasonably be met.
Not sure what all ‘printing‘ might entail? It’s simply a message + a medium.
Here are some of the top printed items we provide:
- Business Cards
- Pocket Folders
- Flyers & Brochures
- Door Hangers & Tent Cards
Office & Stationary
- Standard Envelopes
- Legal Envelopes
- Greeting Cards
- Retail Boxes
- Shelf Display Boxes
- Mailer Boxes
While thinking in terms of a message + a medium, sometimes you need a more exciting medium than flat paper, vinyl, or cardboard.
Make a much larger impression over time by brand-customizing things people actively encounter and use in their daily lives. This can include quantities of handout items or gifts like tote bags, backpacks, coffee mugs, lanyards or water bottles, OR they can be singular promotional display pieces like a printed tent canopy, a table throw, a flag, a fabric backdrop, or a standing banner.
As members of the nation’s largest promotional product trade group since 2020, we have privileged access to supply over 500,000 unique products from thousands of manufacturers, ready to be customized with YOUR brand or messaging.
With over 6 years now selling these products, we have plenty of knowledge of what items are popular, what fits what budget, what gets done how quickly, and how to get you the best price on a product that meets your goals.
Repeating a few from above, these are some of our top-moving promotional items:
- Fidget or Throw Toys
- Water Bottles
- Keychain Openers
- Tote Bags
- Koozie Drink Coolers
- Microfiber Cloth
- Vacuum Tumblers
- Drinking Glasses
- Cutting Boards
- Wine Openers
- Custom Chocolates
- Bluetooth speakers
- Leather goods
- Table throws
- Retractable banner stands
- Sublimated Tents
- Sail signs, Feather flags
- A-frame signs
- Booth backdrops
Pro tip: Event coming up? Think promotions; call Hierank.
In sales, what you’re wearing is part of what you’re sharing. In marketing, every person has the potential to be a billboard.
At Hierank, we encourage leveraging these two truths. Thankfully we also provide the professional gear or handout S.W.A.G. it takes (“stuff we all get”–now you know), plus all the customization services to help you do it.
With special dealer access to the nation’s three largest blank apparel suppliers (#1, #2, #3) and a top U.S. apparel manufacturer – as well as decoration capabilities spanning from specialty work in our friend’s garage in Highland, MI all the way to high-volume production from our partner plants in the South and Midwest – you can be sure we’ll provide you with and direct you toward the choices that best fit your needs and budget.
Here are some items and decorating methods we commonly provide for clients:
- Button-Down Shirts
- Mechanic Shirts
- Sport Sideline Apparel
S.W.A.G. Handout Apparel
- Tank Tops
- Jogger Sweatpants
- Yoga Pants
Decorating or Customization Methods
- Logo Embroidery
- Screen Printing
- Direct-to-Garment Printing
- Personalized Embroidery
- Pressed vinyl
Once your item(s) is/are confirmed, we even have the capability to put them into an easy online store so that your teammates, employees, or members can place orders directly and you can spend less time playing “middle man”. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here though. More on that under Websites.
In an increasingly-digital world marketplace, it’s very easy to understate the importance of place, or of being maximally present in the physical world.
We may all live online now, but people still get out; deliveries still need to be made; our city centers aren’t ghost towns yet. Enter: signs.
Signage, similar to printing, is just a message + a medium, but in this case posted to be displayed indiscriminately to whoever may direct their gaze. Every building, door, kiosk, and vehicle meant for commercial use deserves a sign. Not only is it a label of place or ownership or direction – it’s another opportunity to impart influence from your brand.
At Hierank, we supply signage in the form of wide-format printing and its associated hardware that often takes these finished forms:
- Yard Signs
- Real Estate & Contractor Signs
- Parking Signs
- PVC Signs
- Metal Signs
- Polystyrene Inserts
- Hanging Banners
- Lamp Post or Street Banners
- Fabric Banners
- Wind Screens
- Polystyrene Posters
- Cut Vinyl
- Reflective Vinyl
- Window Perforated Vinyl
- Dry-Erase Vinyl
- Low-Tac Wall Vinyl
- Anti-Slip Floor Vinyl
Maybe we took some liberty with the word “sign” here. “Wide-format printing” is a bit esoteric, and these all perform the basic duties of signage.
If you’re seeking custom lighting, structural signs, or channel letters – we aren’t your outfit, but do have some friends to refer you to as well! When we said we’d get you what you need – we mean it.
Despite above swearing off “digital marketing” as a core competency, we are still very adept at building websites which we view as a critical centerpiece to any brand or sales operation.
Our websites are built responsively and securely hosted—with strong concern for loading speed, SEO, modern design trends, and other known best-practices—all on the ubiquitous WordPress platform.
From here, they are perfectly-ready for our smarter digital marketing friends to fully-engage with them and measure campaigns as needed, with full CMS access and further custom designing and integration services available.
As far as service, we have two major types of websites we do for clients, and at multiple service levels:
All of our designed websites are fully-custom, but we start at an identified level of service, based on needed functionality and total pages delivered.
- Starter Website
- Single landing page website.
- Includes menu bar, separated sections, all prudent information, and contact form.
- Focused on having an actionable presence.
- Full Website
- The standard ‘Small Business Website’.
- 3-10 pages covering Home, About, and major service areas.
- May include 1-2 special design elements.
- Focused on good content and conversions.
- Comprehensive Website
- Full, but taken to the next level.
- Typically 10-50 pages.
- May include categories and subcategories of service, client-controlled blog or small e-commerce functionality.
- Focused on beating out competition within one’s field.
- Advanced Website ($8,000+)
- A comprehensive store, membership, or booking site.
- Includes multitudes of rich functionality, media and MAY include need for custom development.
- Its focus is to solve custom and complex problems.
We have a plug & play product available that will host any items that your team or organization is regularly purchasing from Hierank, in one simple place! These are great for…
- Fundraiser Stores
- Spirit Stores
- Employee Stores
- Member Stores
- Departmental Purchasing
For Hierank’s Webstores, orders and payments can be made individually at purchase, or orders can be made individually but with approval and payment flowing through one party to be handled at a group level.
And finally – the service that supports all of our other services – DESIGN.
What kind of agency would we be if we required perfect files for all our projects, already spec’d for print? Not a very helpful one, we’d say.
Thankfully at Hierank, we have a professional graphic designer available full-time to compose your vision or take the vision you give us and get it to fit its final canvas. If that isn’t enough, we have two others we work with who have varying specialties that may better appeal to your style.
Most of our products at Hierank are marketing widget commodities, but good impactful design (graphic and web) is the true key to punching up your campaigns when ad dollars are limited!
Our services are charged on an hourly basis, but as professionals we pride ourselves in putting firm estimates up front for most typical projects, rather than put the stress on you of having an unknown running total.
With these well-defined measures in place, we cannot wait to take your next project from concept, to production, to success.
Promotions, Printing, Digital Marketing and Design. We’ll get you what you need.
Printing, Promotions, Apparel, Signs, Websites, Design.
We’ll get you what you need.
It sure took a lot of words just to say that. Now we intend to reflect this pivot increasingly everywhere throughout our site content, language, and company actions. This is how we grow. Thank you for your support!