It was no accident that Jackson-based GodwinGroup recently became the first Mississippi ad agency to achieve $50 million in annual billings. The $50-million level was set as a goal of the company that employs more than 100 people.
“Reaching the $50-million milestone was part of our vision of what we wanted to be,” said Danny Mitchell, chairman and CEO of GodwinGroup. “We’re a 63-year-old company, but we have never rested on being old as an attribute. People don’t rush to our agency just because of our longevity.”
Mitchell said GodwinGroup has several strategies for growth. One is positioning themselves as partners with client companies that want to grow. That way GodwinGroup grows along with the businesses it serves. Second, the ad agency seeks out new partnerships with businesses interested in long-term relationships, and not just project work. Third, the company grows through mergers and acquisitions such as the merger with Guice & Guice Advertising on the Coast to create GodwinGuice about a year ago.
“That has been a very successful venture for both of us,” Mitchell said. “That’s been good for us because of the growth on the Coast, and the recognition that the Gulf Coast is a tremendous economic focal point for the state.”
Mitchell said that by far the biggest growth has been through expanding existing business. GodwinGroup plans to continue to grow primarily by focusing on providing a full compliment of marketing and advertising services to existing business clients while seeking out new partnerships with businesses that they can build for the long term.
“About seven years ago we adopted a new credo that we succeed by helping our clients succeed,” said Philip Shirley, president and chief operating officer of GodwinGroup. “I think the major growth that has taken place in the agency has been because of that philosophy of helping existing clients grow. We put the client in the center of everything we do. Instead of thinking about our growth, we think about their’s. The result is that we get to grow with our clients.”
Only 16 years ago GodwinGroup had capitalized billing of less than $3 million per year. The growth plan that got them where they are today included attracting employees from all over the country who had the experience and credentials important to clients. The new talent complimented the base of Mississippi employees and Southern associates already with the firm.
“Part of the plan was also to identify the kind of business we could be most successful with, and go after those businesses,” Shirley said. “I think another reason for our success has been always trying to provide our clients with all the capabilities and disciplines that they need. We expanded our capability in database marketing and e-commerce so that our clients don’t have to go elsewhere and piecemeal, but can have an integrated marketing approach.”
Besides e-commerce and database marketing, other ancillary divisions that are important to the marketing mix include public relations, research and direct mail.
GodwinGroup is increasingly doing more out-of-state work, and has clients with operations in nearly every state in the country. But while more work is coming from other parts of the U.S., GodwinGroup remains committed to its core clientele of Mississippi businesses.
“We hold very dearly the clients that brought us to the dance, the clients that have been with us in Mississippi for quite some time,” Mitchell said. “Trustmark Bank actually helped us open our doors in 1937, and they are still one of our major clients. Of course, Hancock Bank on the Gulf Coast is one of our most important GodwinGuice clients. We will never forget our roots, and will always make Mississippi companies a priority. We have a vested interest in Mississippi growing through economic development and tourism, and we support that in any way that we can.”
Mitchell said the company’s vision is to be recognized as the premier, integrated marketing firm in the Deep South.
“Our next billing goal is $75 million,” Mitchell said. “We think that’s a rather ambitious goal for a Southern agency. But we have been able to accomplish most of the goals we have set for ourselves. And while we put a lot of emphasis on our Mississippi-based clients, we have also become what could be considered a small national agency in that we have clients with operations in nearly all states, including Hawaii. We really are no longer fettered by a region.”
In addition to GodwinGroup in Jackson and GodwinGuice on the Coast, the firm also operates a separate company in Miami called Godwin Direct Services, a database marketing and e-commerce business.
Contact MBJ staff writer Becky Gillette at firstname.lastname@example.org or (228) 872-3457.