Michelle Lefebvre and Marc Lefebvre, owners of DLA Creative, Inc., know they’re not the largest agency in town, and that’s fine with them. “We’ve developed a niche that serves medium-sized businesses, especially those in health care, finance, and other service-oriented organizations. Because our agency isn’t huge, our clients get to work with the same staff on an ongoing basis; this makes it possible for us to form solid relationships with each client. Since we’ve been partners with most of our clients for many years, it’s been exciting to watch their businesses thrive and grow as time goes on,” Michelle said.
DLA is a full-service marketing communications agency, which Michelle said means they take care of clients all the way from strategic planning to tactical execution. “Some of these services include creative development, print production, creating a web presence, audio and video production, etc. Basically, we try to provide whatever our clients need to meet their marketing objectives.”
The idea for the company sprang to life during a long drive to California in early 1993. “Pat Doyle and Marc dreamed about a business where people would enjoy their jobs and have the opportunity to express their creativity while providing clients with excellent service. Upon their return, they decided to make the dream a reality and started the business in June of that year,” she said.
Using their design degrees and previous experience—Marc at a service bureau/printing company and Pat at an ad agency—the business quickly took off with a steady stream of print-based design projects. “Within a year, they moved to a downtown office and began adding employees. DLA Creative stayed focused on the changing market and began to increase its offerings to include some basic web site design,” Michelle said.
When, after eight years with the growing company, Pat left to join Caterpillar, Marc asked Michelle to come on board. “Since then, we’ve become more specialized in the markets we focus on and have added a variety of new services,” she said.
The company’s vision has never been to be the largest or the most award-winning agency, she said. Instead, our vision has always been to take excellent care of each client. We realize everyone says that, but we’re committed to making this happen. Because we aren’t driven by unrealistic growth or a focus on awards, we truly are able to work side by side our clients in helping them achieve their business goals. It may seem odd that I state it as helping our clients with their business goals instead of their marketing goals, but in reality, marketing is a means to an end, and for our clients, that end is achieving success in their overall business strategy.”
One way DLA goes above and beyond for its clients is to learn to speak the same language. “We take the time to know our clients’ areas of expertise so that when they use specific industry jargon, they don’t have to ‘dumb it down’ for us to understand what they want to accomplish.”
In its early years, Michelle said DLA focused on design and print projects, but they’ve added many new services to become a marketing agency. “Within the last few years, we’ve enhanced web site capabilities, increased the sophistication of our copywriting, and have begun to expand into handling more media responsibilities for our clients. In some cases, we find it makes sense to offer these services directly from our own staff. In other situations, where specialized equipment and training are needed—such as high-end photography, videography, and market research—we believe we can better serve our clients by forming alliances with people who’re extremely experienced in these areas. We have good working relationships with a variety of local creative talent—and even some from as far away as New York.”
Technological advances have changed the way DLA and other marketing agencies operate, as it has other industries. “Fortunately, Marc had the foresight to begin researching and developing emerging technologies before they were forced upon us,” Michelle said. “In the marketing world, the greatest change has been the significant role a web site has in a client’s business plan. Now, it’s not just an afterthought; it’s a critical part of their branding efforts. In some cases, their web site is the first and most dominant part of the brand.”
She said DLA will continue to add new service capabilities as it makes sense for clients. “We’ve recently added some audio production and editing capabilities and plan to add video editing within the next few months. Of course, we stay on top of industry trends and strive to be ahead of the curve, especially when it comes to technology. We’d also like to enhance the public relations services we offer.”
One misperception she encounters is that it’s more cost-effective for medium-sized businesses to handle marketing in-house. “We’ve found the most successful medium-sized businesses are those that have a leader within the organization who believes in the impact marketing can have on the business—but realizes his or her time is better spent handling internal strategic issues and trusts an agency to help with the details of marketing. We understand everyone is looking to cut costs and that there’s an increase in technology available to create your own print materials or basic web sites, but busy staff members don’t always have the time to learn the best ways to utilize the technology—or how to incorporate the marketing mindset into using the technology. If the marketing director or other company leader works with an agency, they have the resources and talent of multiple specialized professionals.”
Michelle said one of DLA’s surgical group clients put it very well when they first started working with him. “He said, ‘I won’t do marketing if you don’t do surgery.’ It was the first step in defining the roles of our partnership.”
While Michelle and Marc’s greatest challenge is finding time to implement all of their marketing ideas, she said the best aspect is when their efforts culminate in success for their clients. “It’s rewarding when a client tells us they appreciate what we’ve done for them—and when they value our skills enough to refer us to other quality organizations. It’s also exciting when we can see our hard work has helped other local businesses increase their success in our community.” IBI