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Kelly Heilpern on Strategies for Online Visibility and Engagement

As industry leaders begin to uncover more and more possibilities for their businesses, it's never been more important to have a strategy in place for online visibility. Today, Kelly Heilpern, Chief Strategy Officer of Ammunition, shares her knowledge to help other business leaders get noticed.

Can you share a bit about your business and how it has embraced the digital landscape for growth and visibility?

I joined Ammunition at its start when Jeremy Heilpern, the CEO and founder, saw a unique market opportunity. His goal was to create a digital-first agency that blends technology and creativity seamlessly. The focus was on delivering impactful results, especially for brands navigating complex paths to purchase in long-term selling environments. Breaking away from traditional advertising, he wanted to build an agency that truly connects with contemporary audiences.

At Ammunition, being digital-first is not just a strategy; it's woven into our company culture, influencing everything from our work products to our collaborative processes. As a growth-driven organization, we aim to cultivate the next great agency, providing an environment where individuals driven by growth can excel in both their professional and personal lives.

Ammunition distinguishes itself by investing in functions often outsourced or overlooked by others. Our technology department is versatile, handling diverse projects such as AI, AR, app development, and enterprise websites – all executed within our Atlanta headquarters.

This unique capability allows us to stay at the forefront of cutting-edge technology.

Similarly, our strategy team goes beyond traditional marketing. We encompass media, SEO, digital strategy, content strategy, CRM management, tracking, and analytics, forming a dedicated team that orchestrates the integration of these components to launch effective marketing automation solutions.

Ammunition is client-centric. We consider ourselves a service business, making our clients' challenges our own. We leverage creativity and technology as problem-solving tools, positioning ourselves as partners in our clients' success. At times, Ammunition feels like both a consultancy and an agency, offering a distinctive perspective.

In terms of growth and visibility, our approach is centered on our "right to win." We pitch business that aligns with our strengths, ensuring a meaningful impact on our clients' goals. This targeted approach has resulted in strong success metrics, propelling us to be recognized as one of the fastest-growing businesses in Atlanta for the past four years and recently named a fastest-growing agency. Potential talent and our existing team are drawn to the momentum, and eager to be contributors to shaping the success of building the next great agency.

What specific strategies have you employed to enhance your online presence and engage with your target audience?

Our website serves as a true reflection of our agency's perspective. It is a platform where we prioritize showcasing our clients, the impactful work we do, and the shared values that underscore our team's collaborative efforts. While we strategically utilize SEO to position Ammunition as the ideal partner or agency for potential clients or team members, a significant portion of our audience engagement stems from our cultivated relationships.

Ammunition places a deliberate focus on building and nurturing strong connections with our partners and in our industry. Our active involvement in boards, committee memberships, and leadership roles within the marketing and advertising realms keeps us at the forefront of industry trends. We extend this commitment to the industries we serve, ensuring a thorough understanding of our clients' landscapes.

One notable advantage of Ammunition is our proactive approach to relationship-building, eliminating the need for clients to extensively "teach us their business." This streamlined understanding is a significant win for us and positions Ammunition as a valuable partner with a deep understanding of our clients' needs and industries.

Can you provide an example of a digital campaign or initiative that significantly boosted your business’s visibility or customer engagement?

While singling out one specific initiative that significantly boosted our visibility is challenging, we can highlight several key factors that have contributed to Ammunition's growth since its launch in 2017. Ammunition earned recognition as Atlanta's fastest-growing advertising agency in 2023, acknowledged by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. This distinction not only placed us prominently in the local market but also facilitated the expansion of our client base and rapid team growth. Since our inception, we have maintained a growth rate of around 50% annually, achieving a 70% revenue growth in the most recent fiscal year. This success is a testament to our creativity and industry expertise. Operating without external funding from day one, Ammunition adopted a proactive "land and expand" approach in new business development, emphasizing our ability to deliver measurable outcomes for clients right from the start.

A notable example of our impact is exemplified in our collaboration with Westlake, a global industrial powerhouse recognized for manufacturing essential products. This partnership, initiated four years ago with one of their prominent brands, featured a strategically crafted three-email campaign using Pardot. The success of this initial campaign laid a solid foundation, showcasing our capabilities and effectiveness. This accomplishment propelled Ammunition into an expanded role, and we now proudly serve as the digital Agency of Record (AOR) not only for the corporate brand but also for multiple sub-brands within the Westlake portfolio. Our sustained success in this partnership underscores our digital campaign proficiency and the trust we've earned in handling diverse brands under the Westlake umbrella.

The digital world is constantly evolving. What challenges have you faced in maintaining an active and effective online presence, and how have you overcome them?

Our main challenge, from the agency perspective, stems from our prioritization of client work.

As our business model revolves around being a partner to our clients, we consistently place their needs first. This commitment can make it tough to find time for our own online presence, like maintaining a website that truly reflects our capabilities and showcases our work. Balancing our dedication to clients with highlighting our agency's innovation is a delicate task. Yet, we've assembled a team that handles these tasks adeptly, ensuring we stay current and effective in both areas.

For our clients, the challenge lies in content. The current landscape demands a continuous flow of content in various formats. However, having an agency that can be trusted to swiftly execute content strategies to meet the demands of scale and consumer expectations sets the stage for success.

What tools or platforms have you found most effective for building your online presence and engaging with your audience?

We advocate for a comprehensive full-funnel approach with our clients, ensuring they are intentional about filling the pipeline from an awareness standpoint. This involves strategically positioning and planning their brand, executing integrated creative campaigns, handling media planning and buying, implementing marketing automation and CRM, providing tech advisory & digital transformation services, crafting or updating websites and digital experiences, and engaging in video production. By seamlessly integrating these services, we empower our clients to address every stage of the funnel, creating a holistic strategy that maximizes their impact from awareness to conversion.

How do you measure the success of your digital strategies, and what key performance indicators do you focus on?

From the agency perspective, our key performance indicators (KPIs) are closely linked to the success of the business and the satisfaction of our team. Our top priority is delivering excellent work for clients and cultivating a positive team environment. A significant highlight is our track record of zero layoffs—a testament to our team's enduring success.

This achievement doesn't come from avoiding challenges but stems from our deliberate approach to hiring individuals for the long term. We take pride in investing in our team's growth. Our values-based interviewing ensures new recruits align with our mission and vision. Additionally, we keep a close eye on key agency performance indicators, including profitability, client retention, growth, new client acquisition, and the overall health of our business.

When it comes to our clients, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. We engage in collaborative efforts to tailor key performance indicators (KPIs) to the specific objectives of each project. For instance, a lead generation website might place emphasis on conversions and sales, while an email campaign could prioritize brand engagement, evaluated through metrics such as open rate, engagement rate, and click-through rate (CTR). We firmly believe in starting each project by clearly understanding its goals. This personalized approach extends to the chosen medium and its objectives, ensuring a tailored strategy for every project.

The digital landscape is always changing. How do you stay up-to-date with the latest trends and technologies, and how do you decide which ones to adopt?

As an agency, we keep up with current trends like remote work, team-building activities, and changes in job titles and functions. To navigate this dynamic environment, we look ahead five years in our planning. Our approach involves assessing whether a trend aligns with our long-term goals, helping us distinguish between passing fads and lasting developments that can significantly impact our brand.

When working with clients at Ammunition, our central focus is on driving change. Regarding trends, we actively engage in discussions to understand the implications of adopting a particular trend for their business. For instance, if incorporating an AI chatbot improves support processes and boosts brand interaction, we advocate for it. However, if a client is attracted to a Threads strategy, for example, primarily for its novelty, we take a consultative approach and push back when needed. Our aim is to steer clients toward optimizing their time and resources, making sure that adopting trends aligns with tangible benefits for their business objectives.

What advice would you give to businesses that are just starting to establish their online presence and engage with customers digitally?

To thrive in the digital landscape: ● Start by setting clear objectives for your business ● Understand your audience by delving into their needs and preferences, prioritizing a user-friendly experience on your online platforms ● Utilize data and analytics to gain insights into user behavior for informed decisions" ●  Stay agile and adaptable in the evolving space


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