Small Business Spotlight of the Week: Olander Group

There’s this myth out there in the world of professional services that the traditional agency model and crowdsourcing are mortal enemies.  Trying to get the two of them in the same room is like smashing two south pole magnets together.  If the traditional agency model and crowdsourcing were families, their fourteen-year-old children would enter into a three-day whirlwind romance that would end with a dramatic poisoning.

However, it’s simply not the case.   Traditional agencies of all types, from financial institutions to advertising and design, have used crowdsourcing and the two models have proven to be quite complimentary.

This week, we’re proud to feature a media planning and buying firm as our Small Business Spotlight.  Olander Group has worked with clients like Elmhurst College and the Elysian Hotel Chicago (now the Waldorf-Astoria) to increase their presence in both traditional forms of media and new forms, like mobile, social, and interactive.  They also specialize in collecting analytics and analyzing what those numbers mean for their clients.

Mike talks more about the media buying business below:

How would you explain what you do to somebody’s grandmother?

Olander Group researches, plans, and buys advertising space for clients on every media type. We work with TV, Radio, Print, Direct Mail & E-Mail, Outdoor, Interactive Advertising, Social Media, Search Engine Marketing, and Mobile Advertising. We also manage the advertising as it runs and report on its effectiveness for meeting our clients’ goals after it runs.

What are some industry specific challenges you faced?  

We go head-to-head with a lot of very big companies in the media planning & buying space. We also go against a lot of full-service advertising agencies with back-office media departments as well as some independent consultants. So the breadth of competition is very wide.

It sounds strange, but we have managed to overcome this by being very honest. We are not the biggest, we can’t do everything – We’re just a small team focused entirely on media. It’s the only thing we do, the only thing we care to do, and because of that, we are really good at it. This honesty seems to hit a chord with prospects and clients alike.

What was your biggest learning curve/experience?

The biggest learning curve has been the constant education to keep up with all the changes in the industry. When we first started the business over a decade ago, most of the media we placed was print. Now, most of the media we place is digital – we even place digital billboards now!

What made you use crowdSPRING? 

We first read about crowdSPRING in industry publications and thought the concept was very interesting. We decided to give it a try and then recommend to any clients that needed the type of design/creative/writing services it offered because we do not handle those types of projects. We were very impressed with the speed, flexibility, and pricing of crowdSPRING. We have recommended it to numerous clients!

What’s the craziest story you have from starting your own business?  

We were awarded media planning & buying duties for a client that was unhappy with their current vendor. Unbeknownst to us, this vendor decided to take out their frustrations on us by devising an elaborate con where they pretended to be an out-of-state client looking for media (which they wanted us to front for them, of course). This con included not only a fake company name, but falsified contracts, fictitious employees – even calls from phone booths so calls could not be traced.

Imagine if this vendor had only put this level of imagination, thought, and hard work into the account. No doubt they would have kept it!

If you could go back, would you do anything differently? If so, what and why?

If we could go back, I think we would have focused exclusively on media planning & buying from the very beginning. When you first start out, you may have the tendency to want to accept everything that comes your way because A.) You need to keep the lights on, and/or B.) You want to help any client with whatever they may need. I think that this is a mistake. It is cliché, but it is true – You can’t be everything to everybody. Trying to do so will only make you spin your wheels, increase your competition, and detract from what you are really good at. Find your focus, find your niche, and then hit it out of the park.

How do you see your company growing in the future?

I wish I had a crystal ball, I really do. It would be so much easier. But I guess then it would also be boring.

To be completely honest, I see us continuing to get better and better at serving our clients and understanding emerging digital media, but I am not sure how the future will unfold.  Will we land GM, Nike, or P&G? It would be nice – but I’m not holding my breath. It’s hard for the little guy as we all know.

Six words of advice to those looking to start their own company.  

Be Yourself. Serve Your Clients. Repeat.

What it really comes down to for us is that we serve our clients extremely well. The rest should then take care of itself.

Olander Group’s call for a new logo received 104 entries.