Welcome to Q&Agency! Each week, I talk to agencies small and large and get to hear (in their words) what differentiates them and the experiences they create. To help bring some of that information to you, I'm showcasing an ongoing series of interviews with small to midsize interactive and design agencies. If you'd like to see your agency or an agency you work with here, let me know!

On May 10th, I spoke with David Clarke, co-founder and managing partner; Andrea Fishman, partner, VP of global strategy and head of BGT Chicago; and Michael Marsowicz, partner and VP of client services at BGT Partners.


Forrester: Tell me a little bit about BGT Partners?

David: We were founded in 1996 so we're celebrating our 15th anniversary this year. That makes us one of the oldest interactive agencies in the country. We have over 165 people in our main office in Miami and our newer office in Chicago. We’re a partnership that’s wholly owned by our 10 partners. Our focus is on experience design, digital marketing, strategy, and analytics. People hire us to solve business problems like increasing conversion, lowering abandonment, or increasing the number of people coming into the funnel. Strategy is where we start, but we take a project all the way through execution to advanced analytics.

Forrester: What is your elevator pitch?

Michael: BGT is a leading global interactive agency that focuses on making the complex simple. That might be through user experience by making a booking process simpler, or it might be with analytics by looking at data and culling out the most important information. We advance brands with advanced interactions.

Forrester: What are the three key things that differentiate you from your competitors?

Andrea: The first is our culture. It’s so important to have a team that’s engaged and happy to come to work. The better a place it is to work, the better work we deliver because there’s less transition — our staff retention rate is close to 100%. People who’ve been here understand our business goals. We also maintain a good work-life balance. We can do great things while we’re here, but we understand there’s a life outside of work as well. This helps our retention and results in better relationships with clients too.

The second is that we always lead with strategy and analytics. We don’t come in with a solution in mind already. We try to drive it back to the business challenges being solved. Then, we think about solutions. The investments we’ve made in analytics really help us identify the client’s problem, and we craft solutions around that challenge.

The third is our ability to deliver results. We’ve invested equally across disciplines like technology development, branding, and Web design so that we don’t have hand-off issues. We use analytics from end-to-end, to measure and optimize. This allows us to provide one cohesive experience as an agency to our clients.

Forrester: Why is your agency well suited to deliver a great customer experience for your clients?

David: We have some of the most experienced people in our industry, and we have a perfectly balanced team. As an interactive agency, we identified the skills needed to execute effectively, so we grew those skill sets and became certified at the highest levels with our partners, such as Microsoft, Adobe Omniture, and Google Analytics. Then, as we saw it was important to optimize, we brought in the analytics to tie it together, and we now work with fully integrated teams. We’ll often come in to help an advertising or public relations agency with pieces of what they do, so we know that most other firms we see haven’t succeeded at building a perfectly balanced team.

Michael: As an example, one of our industry-leading clients brought us in with a large business challenge. It presented us with a specific goal and asked us how to get there. Our strategists got to work, proposed a solution, and our analysts showed how to measure the results. That’s the type of relationship we like to build. We can lead with strategy and focus on tactics and work with our clients through an exciting business challenge.

David: When the challenges we tackle account for a large part of a client’s revenue or communications, digital isn’t just digital anymore — it’s business transformation. E-business is now just business.

Michael: Another example is one of our Fortune 500 clients that wanted to increase its online business. We began by doing primary research and analyzing all the data. With ethnographic research and persona creation, we were able to get to the heart of identifying the customers. We drove our recommendations and measurement strategy around that work. It helped frame every discussion in a strategic way.

Forrester: What’s it like to work at BGT?

Michael: We recently celebrated BGT Palooza: a week full of events showing that our senior management appreciates how hard our staff works. Many members of our staff have been here for a long time, and we know that part of the reason is that we’re very career-focused. Our motto is “trade your job in for a career,” and we allow people to move within the agency to expose them to different types of work and find their interests and talents.

In 2010, we were recognized by Advertising Age as one of the best places to work in marketing and media. We’re also a No. 1 place to work in south Florida two years in a row, according to the South Florida Business Journal, and in Chicago, we were named a best place to work two years in a row by the National Association for Business Resources. Our employees are reporting that we’re doing things right, and we like that they’re being asked.

Andrea: BGT is a relatively flat organization. Managers lead the delivery of work — which builds credibility, team collaboration, and open communications. This also helps train junior staff members who benefit by learning in a hands-on manner. Additionally, our investment in the BGT Mentorship Program and Special Projects Initiative ensures that our team is constantly receiving coaching and skills development and is able to devote time at work to innovative projects outside of daily tasks.

Michael: Accessibility is also big. You can walk into anyone’s office, and there are no off-limits discussions. We want the staff to give us feedback, and our doors are always open.