While attending PittCon 2019 last week in Philadelphia, I experienced a flood of professional nostalgia. Forty years ago my father, Robert Norton, founded Scientific Marketing Services, Inc. to address the specific marketing needs of companies in the scientific marketplaces. He saw an opportunity to service clients with a unique structure that quoted on a project-by-project basis without budget-straining retainer fees, and offered a wide array of in-house creative and fulfillment services that avoided cascading multiple vendor markups. Most importantly, he felt that a marketing agency should know their clients’ markets and speak their language. He was right. There were no shortage of companies literally cheering after being told they wouldn’t have to write their own copy, and meetings rarely resulted in a polite parting of ways. SMS was built for profitable relationships that lasted for decades.
All of that is still true. Forty years on, we continue to fully service or seamlessly complement our clients’ often complex marketing needs, but have expanded into other high-tech B2B industries such as manufacturing, processing, healthcare and more. We’ve shepherded clients through economic recessions and technological revolutions, keeping them visible and getting them found. Walking the halls of the Pennsylvania Convention Center and stopping to talk to familiar and unfamiliar faces was a refresher course in how things really do remain the same despite a constantly changing world. Companies are still looking for affordable ways to extend budgets and bring their products and services to market. Their messages may be more electronic these days, but they still need to connect in the same way. They need to reach the right people and convey what’s “in it for them” as succinctly and cost-effectively as possible.
So, back to the word “scientific”. SMS continues to broaden our scope of clients beyond the scientific marketplaces, and there was some discussion years back about rebranding as “Specialized Marketing Services”. Doing so, we felt, could loosen the market reins while maintaining focus on the kinds of B2B companies that best suited our experience and structure. What’s more, advancements in communication technologies allowed marketers to achieve unprecedented statistical depth within the various marketing disciplines. Troves of data are now mined to inform marketing initiatives boasting pinpoint precision, rendering small, full-service agencies a rare breed. SMS has dug deeply into the data-mining philosophy with a wide variety of in-house digital programs, but selecting one highly-specialized sales partner for each marketing initiative is increasingly the order of the day, bringing many companies back to the start with multiple vendors needing to find ways to work together without siphoning too many dollars from their clients’ marketplaces.
Quite often the result is companies either returning to old form with sales teams and flesh-pressing contacts, or allowing one or two trendy (and potentially expensive) Internet search engine tools to carry the full marketing weight. The former often requires staff to work on 100% commission, while the latter fails to properly engage, relegates lead generation to search engines alone, and forces one or two “marketing people” to wear more hats than there are hooks. Programs begin and are left unfinished. Remote salespeople lose motivation and lack the in-house knowledge to properly service accounts. Marketing efforts – if they can even be considered as much – become a merry-go-round of unrealized ideas that leave general managers feeling distrustful and desperate. Again, we find ourselves back at the beginning.
Which is why SMS has retained our structure, and our name. Sure, there’s a lot of required homework and perpetual learning curves, but forty years on we still feel strongly that companies need a reliable full-service marketing partner with proven experience who will research their clients’ markets, learn their daily activities, customize a thoroughly considered budget plan that includes an effective marketing mix, and regard all technologically advanced marketing tools with a critical eye. We do believe there’s something of a “science” to marketing and that the smallest details matter, but we don’t believe that new is always better or that allocating more resources necessarily leads to better results. In fact, one definition of the term “scientific method” involves “careful observation, applying rigorous skepticism about what is observed”. It covers rather nicely how SMS came about, and perhaps why we’re still here.
Maybe it’s too hard to change after forty years. Maybe we’re stuck in our ways. More likely, it’s just how we’re built: to help companies grow through careful, considered and affordable marketing programs.
– S. Norton
For more information on how SMS’ unique structure can keep your company competitive despite the ever-changing technological landscape, contact us for a free, no-obligation consultation or simply fill out our short contact form.