The Simple Strat team planned to shoot the first scene of their branding video in the middle of the Haymarket.
Figuring a time late in the evening would be safe to avoid the noise and commotion commonly associated with a downtown location, they quickly realized they were wrong.
“The energy of downtown Lincoln never dies down,” said Ali Schwanke, CEO and founder of Simple Strat. “We had to dodge late night cleaners, social groups, the beer-bike tour, interested passers-by and more while we were shooting our branding video.”
The video, which is now available on the Simple Strat website, encompasses the energy and excitement commonly found in the Haymarket and other areas of downtown Lincoln.
Schwanke said the decision to grow their company in downtown Lincoln was a strategic and intentional one.
We recently sat down with Schwanke to talk about Simple Strat and what it’s like to grow a business in downtown Lincoln.
Q: How long has Simple Strat been in business?
A: We officially launched Simple Strat early in 2016, but I’d been operating a solo consulting business prior to that. The focus has always been on helping companies establish a firm foundation of marketing strategy and then tactical services to help them grow. However, the shift to Simple Strat as an agency meant adding specific skill sets through new team members and extending our efforts outside the Lincoln area.
Q: Why did you decide to open an office in downtown Lincoln?
A: I’ve spent the majority of my professional career in Lincoln, and there’s always been an incredible draw to the downtown area. With the addition of the Railyard and the swell of startups and technological innovation in the Haymarket with companies like Hudl and Nebraska Global, we believed downtown Lincoln would be the prime place to launch and grow a strategic marketing company. Especially one that also has a significant focus on marketing technology. Our first office was in the Fuse Coworking space. It provided incredible flexibility for us to grow as it was a month-to-month lease. But we outgrew that office before we knew it. When one of us had to use the restroom or go to lunch, you’d have to get up and push in your chair so they could get by you. From there we moved to South Lincoln for a few months to get more space, but quickly realized that we missed the energy, excitement, and collaboration of downtown Lincoln. When we had an opportunity to move back and take over a lease in the Apothecary Building with Haymarket Developers in December 2016, we took it. After a few months there, we finally moved up to a 4th floor set of offices in April of 2017 and have been there ever since.
Q: What does Simple Strat do?
A: We’re the marketing agency for companies that are serious about growth. In a nutshell, we focus on helping companies establish a foundation for their marketing efforts and then execute on that plan to increase their number of qualified leads and close more deals. For those who are looking for specifics, our services range from marketing strategy and planning to SEO, graphic design, sales collateral, video production, and website development. We’re also a certified HubSpot Partner Agency and Wistia partner. These are specific technologies that allow us to provide a high level of expertise in helping companies manage their data and leverage it to grow. This includes things like CRM, marketing automation, sales process consulting, and video marketing and analytics.
Q: Any significant successes or failures in the last couple of years in building Simple Strat?
A: Oh yes, plenty of those. When I think of successes, I think establishing our company as a HubSpot Partner Agency has been a difficult but rewarding journey. However, I believe the best is yet to come as we have some exciting announcements coming in 2018. I’m also very proud of the team we’ve been able to build. There’s a crazy amount of talent in this small company and we produce all of our own content in-house as well. In terms of failures, that could probably be a book of its own. One of the most significant failures in my mind was a situation with a company that had launched a new initiative that took a lot of our team’s effort. We laid off on sales efforts for that short period of time to focus on that project, which would have been ok – except that company pulled out of that project shortly after it started. That left us with a financial and outbound sales gap for a while. While it wasn’t good, it did provide an opportunity to learn. We’ve put procedures in place to lessen the risk of that happening in the future.
Q: Are there any crazy stories about working in downtown Lincoln?
A: From our office on the 4th floor, we have an excellent view of the Haymarket – particularly one of the busiest intersections in downtown Lincoln from a pedestrian perspective. We’ve seen fires, people climbing buildings, a guy belting out karaoke from his SUV at the top of his lungs, entertainers, panhandlers, and more. The Don’t Panic Labs rooftop party for the Eclipse was also a memorable experience. There’s never a dull moment here!
Q: Do you have any specific restaurants or go-to businesses that your team frequents in the Haymarket?
A: Yes, we’re definitely creatures of habit. You can find us fueling up on coffee at Crescent Moon, The Mill or Scooters. The Jimmy John’s delivery folks from the R street location definitely grace our office several times a week. We’ve done team outings to places like Gate 25, Buzzard Billy’s, the Arcade Bar, Lazlo’s and more. We also leverage Catalyst by Union Bank for longer strategic planning sessions as well as any local events, such as a HubSpot meetup or marketing workshop.
Q: What’s with the golden microphone in your branding video?
A: It was a way to send a message – to stand out. Our video production manager, Jason, was the brains behind our branding video and he suggested using a nostalgic looking gold-plated microphone. We had no idea where to get one, but as Facebook would have it, once we posted that we were looking to get our hands on a golden microphone, a few of our contacts said they had one! It served as a mysterious component in teaser photos until we were able to release the video in its entirety to show how it all came together. We have a couple of behind-the-scenes videos about the making of this video too – you can find those on our Instagram channel.
Q: Where can people find out more about Simple Strat?
A: Our website is a wealth of information. In addition to learning about our services, you can also find a plethora of free resources, how-to articles, and videos. Our goal is to educate and build trust prior to engaging in a sales relationship. We’re also very active on social media, so look for us on almost all social media platforms.