When DGS Marketing Engineers signed a blockbuster deal this September with one of the nation's largest industrial chemical companies, owners of the ad agency knew making their micro-niche just a little broader was going to pay big dividends.
The local marketing and advertising agency recently decided to step outside its super-specific niche of working with companies that make machine tools to target companies working in just about any technical field.
"This is a specialized advertising field that goes beyond mere business-to-business expertise," said Aaron Baar, Adweek regional news editor in Chicago. "It has the potential to be a solid niche."
Though Baar said there is no shortage of firms doing business-to-business advertising and public relations, there aren't many mirroring DGS' strategy of targeting firms that work with technically minded clients.
The agency's new contract with the Alkali Chemical division of Philadelphiabased FMC Corp. is potentially its largest. Founder Marc Diebold estimates the deal with publicly traded FMC, which has annual revenue of $2 billion, could turn into a low-seven-figure annual deal.
"This is the sort of account that is sought after by much larger agencies," Diebold said. "It gives us a lot of confidence about our skill set, and the direction we've chosen for the company."
DGS will handle marketing and advertising for FMC's new line of industrial air-quality-control products, Diebold said, including devising product names and designing logos.
"The potential is tremendous because of the number of products that could be rolled into this," he said.
Diebold hopes to increase the 12-person firm's annual capitalized billings from $5.9 million to $8 million in the next year. While that pales in comparison to the market's largest ad agencies, which rack up $30 million to $50 million in annual capitalized billings, it lands DGS near the top 20 in this market.
Founded in December 1985 by Diebold and a partner who has since been bought out, DGS-formerly DGS Group-focused solely on the manufacturing sector.
But two years into another down cycle in manufacturing, Diebold, and his new partner, Leslie Galbreath, in 2003 began to rethink their strategy as they watched their revenue drop nearly 30 percent.
Diebold realized that 20 years of working with highly advanced manufacturing clients gave his agency a broader set of skills that could be applied to almost any technical company.
"Our whole focus is working with companies who market to technically minded people, and that could be an engineer, a scientist or a plant manager," Diebold said.
"Our accounts are articulated in a way that is relevant to a technically minded person," Galbreath said. "That type of person thinks differently, so we have to write differently and use different kinds of images."
Diebold, 50, and Galbreath, 31, even changed the company's name, and launched a marketing campaign of their own.
"DGS Marketing Engineers tells you the personality of the company," Diebold said. DGS recently signed its first clients not directly linked to the machine tool industry, when the firm inked deals with Indianapolis-based August Mack Environmental Inc. and Noblesville-based Industrial Dielectric Inc.
The biggest prize, FMC, found DGS while searching the Internet for ad agencies that could market to a technical audience. Those familiar with DGS' work think the firm has strong growth potential.
"The people at DGS take the time to learn the technology behind their clients' products," said Mark Albert, editor of Modern Machine Shop, a manufacturing industry trade publication. "Not only does this make them more effective at guiding each client's marketing efforts, but it also makes them more effective with media relations."
Instead of using TV, radio and other outlets common for consumer advertising, DGS orchestrates campaigns using specialty publications, direct marketing and public relations, and industry trade show presentations.
Previously, out-of-state clients have accounted for 90 percent of DGS' revenue. Diebold and Galbreath hope to add in-state clients with their push for diversification.