Ad Agency Fills a Need in Peoria Area

The Service Station owner Becky Wood was well versed in her field before opting to open her own business.

"I worked in sales for several years, and after moving into a sales/marketing management position going nowhere, I decided I needed a change. I was a representative for the No. 1 radio station and worked with clients on their radio, television, and print ads. I decided that was the area I wanted and networked to one of my radio clients, Bard Optical. In January 1999, The Service Station opened for business."

Bard Optical owner Diana Hall offered the financial backing for the company, and as president, offered a great foundation for the agency, Wood said. Wood became sole owner of The Service Station in May 2001.

The Service Station is a full-service advertising agency. Specialties include electronic media and branding campaigns, but the company also provides a wide variety of services based on individual client needs, Wood said. "We do media placement, the creative side of print, television, billboard, direct mail, etc. We also do Web site development, jingles, and logo designs. We’re considered by many of our clients as their marketing department without all of the expenses. We’re a team player with our clients."

Wood said she developed the concept of the agency based on previous, gentler eras. "The Service Station Advertising Agency is based on the old fashioned service stations of the 1950s. You might ring the bell for gas, but you received service on your tires, belts, fluids, and windows. The agency offers a variety of services to its clients, all based on three words—integrity, service, and knowledge. My idea has been—and will remain—going beyond our clients’ needs and expectations and building solid relationships."

Though Wood said The Service Station started out conservatively, there was never a doubt in her mind the agency would succeed. "I handled every facet of the agency development for the first year. As I enjoy sales and working with the clients, I have a dedicated crew of mechanics who write copy and design for me. Wanting to offer growth for students, the agency utilizes interns from Bradley University. Last year a part-time designer was added, as well as a part-time office administrator. As the agency progresses, more ‘mechanics’ will be added as needed. It keeps the costs down for the client when our overhead isn’t high."

In the past several years, Wood said she realized she can’t provide all of the necessary services on her own. "Like the boss of the service station has special mechanics, The Service Station Advertising Agency has diversified as well. Moving into a larger office space, adding writers, designers, and project specialists all served to enhance the original vision. The vision of servicing our clients will remain the No. 1 element of this agency in the next five, 10, or 20 years. We say what we’ll do, and we do what we say."

Wood said The Service Station has been blessed since its doors opened in 1999. "It’s expanded in space, offering 1,500 square feet of office; and it’s expanded in terms of clients served. The latest client is from Elk River, Minn. I attribute the growth to two sources. I have a strong faith and know I’m being cared for. I also work in a team atmosphere with the various media representatives. I see it as a three-legged stool—the client, the agency and the media. The agency will always focus on the client, but by treating the media with respect and as a partner, we’re able to give more to the client. Most of the growth is from clients and media representatives. Because I enjoy selling, I also prospect for quality clients who might benefit from The Service Station Advertising Agency’s beliefs."

Distinguishing her company from all of the others out there has not been a problem, Wood said. "The Service Station isn’t based on creative ideas being forced on clients. While there are a lot of good agencies out there, some forget the client. They worry more about awards, billing, charging, and putting their name on an item. The Service Station Advertising Agency is unique in its approach. We want to provide service, plain and simple, and our clients seem to like it that way."

Wood said as with any industry, the advertising business has gone through many adjustments. "Large agencies build business on one or two large accounts, adding overhead and billing in increments. The business owners have to look at ways to lower costs, and this has changed the advertising agency industry immensely. Large agencies have gone bankrupt and closed their doors; other agencies are getting more aggressive in taking clients. All of this has been an advantage for The Service Station Advertising Agency. We utilized the market patterns for our development."

Because her first love was sales, Wood is in a good position to sell her own company to prospective clients. "Being an old sales rep, the agency selects prospective clients and contacts them. We also utilize select media locally to complement the community involvement. The commitment to our local community is my way of giving back. Peoria is a great place to work and raise a family. I recommend Top of Mind Awareness (TOMA) for clients, and it’s important that the agency has the same."

Wood said recruiting quality employees has become increasingly difficult. "In the past, we put the word out we were looking and were fortunate to find staff. However, time and the economy made it difficult to utilize the various help-wanted Web sites. We found working with employment agencies for office help to be effective. We also work closely with the Bradley University staff for creative partners."

Not surprisingly, Wood’s greatest challenge these days is finding sufficient time to do all she needs to. "When you own a small business, there aren’t snow days or golf days. It’s so important to offer exceptional service, and sometimes, there just aren’t enough hours in a day. The most rewarding thing, however, is when the client calls and shares the good news of a campaign. One client wanted to increase his market share to 22 percent. He phoned to schedule a meeting, and upon arriving, he communicated we didn’t hit 22 percent. Instead, we went past 25 percent. Hearing that is as good as a fresh chocolate croissant and a cup of coffee."

Wood said the future will bring changes, while staying true to its founding vision. "When The Service Station Advertising Agency was first conceived, the sky was the limit. It never was my plan to stay in one market. The Service Station services a multitude of wonderful clients in various markets. We will continue to develop growth in each of those markets and expand into new ones.

"Life is filled with so many possibilities. The Service Station has a philosophy to provide quality services at very reasonable prices. Our goal is to continue servicing our clients, going beyond their expectations, and working side-by-side in whatever their marketing needs. Additional sales staff will be added over the next two years, as will additional clients. The goal is to keep the service bell tuned, the bay doors open, the coffee fresh, and showing the client on a daily basis we care. In this life we only get one chance to make a difference. Success is in the doing, not the getting—in the trying, not the triumph.

"Success is a personal standard, reaching for the highest in us, and becoming all we can be. If The Service Station Advertising Agency does our best, we are a success." IBI