CMI/Compas, the family of companies known for media planning, buying and strategy, is finally getting comfortable with attention—23 years after its founding.
The 181-person firm, which is set to grow by an additional 12 this year, has cultivated decades-long relationships with many of its clients but has done so quietly. “We have been so focused on doing and not telling,” President and CEO Stanley Woodland explained. Remedying that situation included hiring VP of Strategic Marketing and Communications Carly Kuper in 2011. Kuper is charged with helping clients understand just how much this independent media buying and planning shop has to offer.
“She's really discovered that we have a wealth of knowledge,” Woodland said. Looking at the firm's numbers, it becomes clear that the CEO is a fan of understatement. It's also clear that Kuper, the company's first-ever marketing VP, has a deep pool of expertise to promote. In fact, Kuper said, clients have been actively lobbying to get the company's opinion about what's going on in the space. The company has responded, not with a splashy campaign, but with Point-of-View pieces and white papers it sends out to clients on a daily basis.
This is part of the story Kuper has to tell: Based in King of Prussia, PA, with outposts in New York, Philadelphia and Pennsauken, NJ, Woodland's shop landed 17 new clients last year. In addition, he said the $25–$35 million year the company had in 2011 may be the best in its history. Last year also saw CMI's business portfolio grow to more than 45 pharmaceutical clients for a roster that reads like something close to an industry dictionary—kicking off with Abbott, Amgen, Amylin and Astellas.
The expanding footprint comes on the heels of finalizing an internal alignment of the CMI/Compas businesses under one internal structure. Woodland said the restructuring has made the company more efficient by putting two companies who shared the same parent and regularly worked together under one roof. Woodland says the internal unity lets them “look at clients across [our] capabilities,” which include customer insight (15% of the business), media planning and buying (74% of the business), innovation (8%) and technology (3%).
Woodland said that while fighting it out in RFPs accounted for some of the new business acquired, it wasn't the core of their growth. “We have incredibly strong relationships with existing clients, and a lot of that new business growth came from word-of-mouth referrals from existing relationships we had,” he said.
The company's overall expansion is of particular note in the healthcare industry, where shrinkage has become far more commonplace. But it takes more than simply toughing it out to win in a tough economic climate. “Every one of our clients currently has an advertising agency who has a media planning and buying department, and yet they have made a conscious decision to utilize us instead,” Woodland said, adding, “We don't make the ads, but we make the ads work for our clients.”
The CEO attributed part of his company's success to its independence, which he says frees employees to be “driven by clients being happy by what we do,” without putting service in the context of outside investor demands. “And we really do and have demonstrated over and over, year after year that we have our clients' best interest at heart,” he said.
He said the success is also due to the firm's full-circle relationships: CMI/Compas considers suppliers as partners, and the two exchange ideas and work on solutions for the media space. Woodland said this has made CMI/Compas a destination point when vendors have something new to offer, and if it looks like a fit, CMI brings it in house to offer to its clients. He said recommendations aren't made lightly and his clients know this.
Woodland said a client confided that there was something he, as a client, shouldn't reveal, but he had to. “We just trust you guys,” is what he told Woodland.