Andy Abramson’s work doesn’t fall into a tidy communications category.
“A lot of what we do is not just communications strategy,” he says. “It goes into business strategy and how you get customers.”
He has two agencies — Brand Communication Design and Comunicano. With Brand Communication Design, Abramson works with a marketing team, and with Comunicano, Abramson largely does the work himself, by focusing on helping longstanding clients with corporate communication. Abramson and his team offer expertise in specific areas, including telecommunications. “We’re really good at tech, and we’re really good at entertainment,” he says.
His work involves helping companies position their strategy to match their goal — whether that goal is growth or being acquired. “We’re in the value-creation business,” he says.
Abramson says 47 clients he’s worked with over the past 17 years through Comunicano have been acquired for an aggregate value of over $5 billion.
Abramson has now brought his marketing expertise to Sarasota, where he’s working remotely for clients in Boston, San Francisco, Tampa and other U.S. cities. He also aims to serve more clients based in Sarasota and the surrounding region by taking advantage of opportunities for brand-building in the growing communities. “I think this area, especially north of us in Tampa-St. Pete, is ripe for agency disruption,” he says. “In the area, I see tons of opportunity.”
Abramson's two companies maintain co-working offices at The Bold on Fruitville Road in downtown Sarasota and through a network of Regus offices worldwide. He works with a mix of full-time employees, freelancers and contractors. After a slight dip in revenue at Comunicano during the transition to Sarasota, revenues are now up at both companies — as much as 200% in 2019 at Brand Communication Design, Abramson says. He declines to disclose specific revenue figures.
In addition to seeing a local gap in marketing services, another reason Abramson has come to the area is because developer Marshall Gobuty, a client and friend, is based here. Gobuty is president and founder of Pearl Homes, a sustainable smart homes company.
Being in Sarasota will allow Abramson to help Gobuty in real time, he says. Plus, Abramson says he believes in Gobuty’s Pearl Homes concept and what he’s trying to achieve in the green building industry with the Mirabella community in Bradenton and Hunters Point development in Cortez, a Manatee County fishing village.
"I've trusted Andy when it comes to communications strategy on just about every new venture I've been involved with since we met on an airplane 20 years ago,” Gobuty wrote in an email. “While he often sits in the background and lets others grab the media attention, I can tell you that there are lots of companies like mine who never would have gotten where they are without him."
Early to rise
One of Abramson’s success drivers is to focus on client's long-term goals.
“A lot of times people think of agencies as an ad agency or PR firm,” he says. “I think the difference between my two agencies and a lot of other agencies is we get involved with the strategy of the business. How can what we’re doing not only lead you to a customer or investor but to your future acquirer? That’s the approach that’s seemed to work.”
He advises early-stage companies to focus on three areas. The first is talking to key customers. “Define your message through story,” Abramson says. “Talk to the customer you need.”
It’s also important for firms to determine the niche they’re in and the gap they will fill. Companies should make it clear they’re solving a problem for someone, he says.
Abramson says firms should also focus on who might buy the company, who might invest in it and who is going to be most afraid of it.
Steve Lazaridis, CEO and co-founder of Tampa-based Phonism, has known Abramson for years. Abramson has been an advisor for the firm, which helps telecommunications companies automate their deployments and support processes, for about six months. “We asked Andy to join on as an advisor given his experience in the communications industry,” Lazaridis says.
Among that experience is being the long-time author of VoIPWatch, a blog that covers topics from the Voice over Internet Protocol method of transmitting sound as data over the internet to mobile technology and marketing. “He’s been helping with communications, he’s been helping with introductions to potential clients, and [he] helps with strategic decisions on go-to-market,” Lazaridis says.
When Lazaridis first met Abramson, he says Abramson understood his company’s vision right away. “Those are the types of people you really want on your side cheerleading for you, helping you solve problems and helping you go to market,” Lazaridis says. “You need to find someone who can answer the questions you have. They need to have either more experience than you or experience that complements your experience.”
In his advisory role, Abramson helps the company lessen distractions and focus on making strategic goals. “You have to get out of the shiny object syndrome,” Lazaridis says. “You have to be focused on the goal. Is your goal to reach top line by a certain time? Then you should eat, sleep and breathe that.”
Stephen Smith, CEO of Massachusetts-based Fonative, a Communications platform as a service company, met Abramson about 15 years ago, back when VoIP was just starting up. “He was one of the more prolific and followed bloggers,” Smith says.
Smith kept at the back of his mind the idea he wanted to work with Abramson when his company grew large enough. Abramson has been working with Fonative since April.
Abramson’s approach started with a discovery phase, Smith says, spending twice-a-week sessions on the phone together. Then, after asking follow-up questions, Abramson came back with thoughts and ideas. “Myself as business owner, I remember thinking, ‘This is taking a lot of time.’ But it’s really paying off," Smith says. "Now what he’s segueing into is growth strategy, a go-to-market plan and exciting ways to generate publicity in a real, meaningful thought-leadership way.”
Smith comes from the technology side of the business with an engineering and finance background. He hasn’t spent his career doing sales or marketing, he says, so working with Abramson has been helpful. “There are certain people that you hire that can really be proactive self-starters,” Smith says. “When you find those people, they’re like gold to someone like me. It’s nice to have someone who gets stuff done and knows what they’re doing.”
Abramson’s career has also involved working with larger companies in transition.
In 2005, for example, a Nokia consultant asked Abramson to help solve a problem — gaining visibility around the company’s mobile phones whenever it introduced a new product. Traditional public relations wasn’t cutting it.
Abramson was tasked with creating an alternative awareness program. The resulting plan involved identifying a group of 50 high-traffic bloggers already enthusiastic about smartphones, mobile devices and phone photography and sending them Nokia devices. But they weren’t mailed in a boring brown padded envelope. They were instead sent in gift boxes with handwritten notes. Inside the box was another box with the device, which created multiple levels to build anticipation.
“Define your message through story. Talk to the customer you need.” — Andy Abramson, Comunicano and Brand Communication Design
Bloggers wrote about the devices, and over the course of five years, the Nokia blogger relations program helped change the company’s position, Abramson says. The tactic also created buzz, drove sales and helped increase the company’s profit by 43%, according to a 2006 Washington Post article.
His work with Nokia shows why it’s important for brands to build loyalty, Abramson says, including connecting with influencers, wholesalers, retailers and end users.
Like how he landed Nokia, most of the work Abramson does — 95% of the business of both agencies — comes from referrals, former clients or accidental introductions, he says. “You work best with people you know, Abramson says. "My goal is to get to know more people in Sarasota, Bradenton and Tampa.”