Philadelphia Business Journal, September 22, 2006
When companies hire the Communicators Group for marketing projects, they’re hiring not just one expert, but many. The group is an informal, networked consortium of South Jersey business owners in the marketing field who join forces as needed to provide clients with a full complement of skills.
The core of the group consists of four company founders: Nancy Sipera, president of First Impressions Advertising in Cherry Hill; Valerie Schlitt, president of Valerie Schlitt Associates in Haddonfield; Tobi Schwartz-Cassell, president of The Word Source, LLC in Cherry Hill; and Jackie Pantaliano, president of ImPRessions Public Relations in Voorhees. Other members with expertise in Web design and corporate gifts, among other specialties, cycle in and out of the group as they’re needed.
Each is an accomplished business-woman in her own right. And when they combine their talents in the areas of lead qualifications, copywriting, graphic design plus public relations, advertising and marketing, they become a force to be reckoned with, they say.
“In a sense,” Pantaliano said, “it’s like a client getting four or five presidents working for them, rather than the typical structure, where you meet with the president once or twice, and then have lower level employees doing the actual work on your account. When we join together it translates into clear benefits not only for us, but, more importantly, for our customers. The brainstorming is absolutely amazing.”
The foursome, who met through personal introductions and networking groups, began working together in 2004, usual under the name of one of their individual firms, and came up the name Communicators Group this year.
They work in different groupings with clients, based on synergies and budget. Schwartz-Cassell, Sipera and Pantaliano worked together on a grand opening for a furniture store, for instance, while Schlitt, Sipera and Pantaliano all share an elder attorney client. Others come and go as required.
Collaboration allows them to maximize results for their clients while managing their personal lives.
“We’ve all been at the top of our professions,” said Pantaliano, who as the mother of a child with special needs values the flexibility of being her own boss. “Many of us gave up the corporate life to have our own businesses, because that’s what works best in our lives at this moment. By doing so, we can be free to exercise our creativity, yet still have the flexibility to be with our families.”
Each brings a wealth of experience to the table, Schlitt, for example, worked for American Express, Cigna and Travelers, implementing marketing programs that were supported by call centers.
Sipera, Pantaliano and Schwartz-Cassell all have extensive adverting agency backgrounds, as well as experience in retail and publishing. Rounding out the talent mix is Schwartz-Cassell’s 20-plus year stint as a broadcast journalist with Philadelphia radio stations and various cable TV shows in South Jersey.
Each has a clearly defined project role, with Sipera taking the lead in graphic design. She is supported by Schwartz-Cassell’s wordsmithing prowess and Pantaliano’s knowledge of public relations. Schlitt, meanwhile, keeps it all together as the group’s project and sales manager.
“We have a passion for what we do,” said Schwartz-Cassell. “We all share a sense of high expectations and commitment to doing the best possible jobs for our clients.”
“Best of all,” she added, “we really do have a lot of fun.”
Recently Schlitt, Sipera and Schwartz-Cassell collaborated on a brochure about elevator advertising.
Schlitt quickly realized her client was perfectly positioned for more than just lead qualification. It was a good opportunity to think outside the box.
“When you take a chance and use humor, there is no question that people respond,” said Sipera. “Sometimes you think it’s a bit risky, but it really does work.”
“People will do just about anything to avoid eye contact in an elevator,” said copywriter Schwartz-Cassell. “Val, Nancy and I capitalized on that notion to make the point that a captive audience translates into better message retention.”
The “What do People Do in Elevators??…Nothing!!” brochure snared the trio a 2006 Communicator Award of Distinction from an independent Arlington, Texas-based international competition of the same name.
Another recently completed campaign showcased an advertising specialties company. Market research revealed that people bought from the company simply because they like doing business with the owner, Debi Detwiler, said Schlitt.
So they designed a brochure in which specialty items were magnified to enormous proportions and then placed Detwiler in the middle of the products.
The promo piece used images showing clients could save money and time and avoid aggravation by using Debi Detwiler Associates, a promotional products and apparel company in Mount Laurel.
“It wasn’t the least expensive thing I have done,” Detwiler said. “By the same token, I really got a strong sense that these women were totally committed to my success.”
The Communicators Group isn’t the only collaborative marketing-related group in South Jersey. Both Schlitt and Pantaliano participated in another group, called The Marketing Resource Speakers Group, comprised of eight mostly female business owners in the marketing field who deliver presentations to companies on how to market better.
“I have found that it greatly enhances our capacity to serve our customers when we understand their challenges and visa versa,” said Holly Sanborn, owner of Sir Speedy Printing in Cherry Hill, who launched the speakers series last spring. “Asking the right questions from both our perspectives can mean the difference between success and failure.”
“The speakers really gave our membership a well-rounded look at what it takes to run a successful business,” said Marlene Spencer, director of marketing and operations for the trade group Builders League of South Jersey, which recently invited the speakers to present to its members. Spencer is considering having them back for an encore.
“The real power, when developing a marketing campaign, comes when you take your experience and combine it with the strengths of others,” Schlitt said.