5ish Questions: Talking Growth and Engagement with Anne Zizzo

5-ish Questions is a blog series in which we introduce you to the people and personalities that make up the ZG team. In our inaugural edition, we’re talking to none other than Anne Zizzo, our Owner, President, CEO and Fearless Leader.

A big part of appreciating where we are is found in understanding where we came from, so tell me a bit about ZG’s origins.

Is this the basement story?

Well I started Zizzo Group in my very small, half basement 21 years ago. Back then, we – I say “we” because it was only myself and Sue Colegrove [current Executive Vice President of Integrated Marketing] – were doing mainly media buying and strategic marketing consultancy. After the first year, we had seven people working in that basement and about $7 million in billings.

Over the years we’ve had a lot of opportunities to grow Zizzo Group and, for the most part, we’ve made the right decisions. We take a three-pronged approach to growth that uses word-of-mouth referrals, strategic acquisition, and focused development of measurable marketing products to propel us forward.

Zizzo Group is 21 years old and still going strong – that’s a serious accomplishment. You don’t see that kind of longevity in this industry by standing still. How has ZG managed to stay so relevant over the years?

I’ve always been someone who sees “opportunity” rather than “risk”; and when doors open, I typically run through them. My overarching approach? Just go for it. Surround yourself with smart people to help make smart, strategic decisions, and don’t be afraid to swing for the fences because you learn more from strikeouts than home runs.

I’ve also found that what you sell is only as good as the people you have to serve it up. So as we became more established and as we expanded the breadth and depth of our offerings, it’s allowed us to hire, develop and retain the regions’ best talented, reliable (and really nice) employees. That kind of continuity has elevated the candid, open, trusting relationships we have with our clients.

Then there’s the ZG culture. Culturally, we love our clients and we sincerely want to do good, measurable work for them. Whether that means making things happen when they’re in a bind or serving as longstanding counsel, we want our clients to know this we are their partners. That we’re in this together. As CEO, I try to make sure every person here feels empowered to do that – to take ownership of their client relationships and to nurture their desires to get the job done right. It makes for better results and stronger, more authentic relationships, which our clients truly value and appreciate.

That brings us to today. We’ve acquired Thirsty Boy Digital and brought on their team. How did this come about and what does that mean for the future of ZG?

For the past 12 months, we’ve been going through a strategic engagement-forward rebranding process. With that, we really wanted to take our digital capabilities to the next level. So I began reaching out to founders and CEOs of other area boutiques and agencies with the hopes of finding that right fit – the right service offerings, the right thought leadership, and the right personality. When I met Steve Koeneke from Thirsty Boy and started learning more about his career and accomplishments – then really got to know him and his passions – I knew I’d found that that perfect match.

What’s really amazing is how well ZG’s strengths complement Thirsty Boy’s. And they have added a wealth of experience in app development, content optimization, SEO and immersive technology, so the breadth and depth of combined services and experience we can now offer clients is really exciting – personally and for the region.

Together, we’re planting our flag in the ground. This is who we are. We are ZG, an engagement agency.

In addition to the awesome new teammates and the first phase of our shiny new website, we’ve recently undergone some rebranding and taken a hard look at why we do what we do. Part of that is this shift to an engagement agency. How did that come about?

Strategically, our shift to stepping out and owning the “Engagement Agency” space is a huge differentiator. (We’ve only found a handful of engagement agencies that offer the full suite of integrated marketing in all of North America.) It feels invigorating – but also very natural however – because we’ve been building up to it for years. And in true ZG fashion, we are adapting our services to anticipate our clients’ needs and, really, to what the marketplace demands.

Today, CEOs, executives and CMOs realize that it’s not a matter of hitting people over the head with advertising and telling them to “buy my stuff”. They deploy marketing budgets to create engagement – 2-way conversations, storytelling and re-storytelling to connect customers to their brands, products and services in a transparent, authentic way.

In moving forward as “ZG, engagement agency,” I am excited because we’re really getting at the core of what we do – and that is using all of our tools, talents and experience to engage customers from all angles and create measurable results for our clients.

As you said, the most effective branding comes from a place of authenticity. With the new attitude and new staff, how has the agency embraced and embodied this shift?

It’s so ingrained in our culture that we were already living the engagement agency life without even knowing it.

How so?

Well, we’re a very entrepreneurial company, and when it comes to our culture, we joke that it’s like building a plane while flying it. We have a lot of people here that are dedicated to building a real, inclusive, open company culture, which, in one way or another, touches every aspect of what we do. From how we interact with clients, to our vendor relationships, to just that friendliness and willingness to help out amongst colleagues – you can’t manufacture it. That’s the heart of engagement in very real, very tangible ways.

So, other than the healthy turbulence that comes with growing your staff size by, what, thirty percent, and streamlining operations and settling in on our way to that “smooth air”, there’s no huge, noticeable shift.

We still love our clients. We still love working together. And we’re still Zizzo Group.

 


Check It Out

Learn what engagement means to Anne and Steve and how ZG and Thirsty Boy are uniting under this shared passion.

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