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Ad agency owner delivers confidence in a tough time

Peggy Wilson discovers that in a difficult and complicated environment, going deeper, and doing more, for every client is always a winning strategy.

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As president and CEO of Naples advertising agency Wilson Creative Group, Peggy Wilson has navigated the pandemic from two angles.

“Not only am I challenged with running my own business during uncertain times,” she says. “But I’m also being asked by my clients how to make their business and marketing decisions in their own trying times.”

She’s found that presenting clients with choices helps everyone during these moments — when there aren’t always clear answers. “Oftentimes, I have been able to say [in the past], ‘This is what you should do,’ and they listen to me,” says Wilson. “Now I say, ‘You’ve got a few choices here.’”

Because the company has established relationships with clients it considers more like partners, Wilson knows she can be upfront with them. “I’m not fearful of the fact that I don’t seem to be as matter of fact or have as much conviction in selections now,” she says. “I say to clients that they have some choices to make here based on their comfort levels.”

The company helps walk clients through all the gray areas in the current landscape, and that ability to make choices can make clients feel more empowered. “It puts them in the driver’s seat of accountability,” Wilson says.

Many of the agency’s clients are in the luxury sector in industries like real estate. That high-end space they occupy, coupled with the wealth in Southwest Florida and the success of the stock market despite the pandemic, has made a portion of the firm’s existing clients more insulated from economic troubles. “Many of our clients are really ramping up and wanting to get back to more of business as usual,” she says.

Despite all the challenges of 2020, Wilson Creative Group was able to land some five new clients this year. From August to November, a time when the company usually sees an uptick in business due to the approaching winter season, it saw a 25% increase in interest in 2020.

Like in past years, it hasn’t done anything specific to attract new clients. The firm has always relied on things like referrals and a strong portfolio to land new business. It’s also constantly refining its website – where a lot of potential clients first get interested in working with the agency – to ensure it gives the full picture of the company’s capabilities.

Wilson Creative Group generally has a retainer relationship with clients — something it has shifted away from in the pandemic, when necessary. “New clients coming on are less accepting of the idea of a retainer,” says Wilson. “So we work on a project basis with those clients.”

'As a leader I’m expected to demonstrate confidence. So if I can modify a plan and know what I’m going to do, even if I’m dodging left versus right, I can still remain confident.' Peggy Wilson, Wilson Creative Group 

Wilson hopes to shift some of those clients to that traditional retainer system in 2021, as things ideally stabilize more. “I’m very optimistic about 2021,” she says. “It’s just a matter for them of seeing where our value comes in with whatever piece we’re creating or project we’re working on. It is absolutely just done to the nines. Our strategic thinking goes far beyond what a standard design firm might do.”

Though Wilson could use additional staff, she’s holding off on hiring anyone for a bit. “That’s where I think is probably the biggest stress now, knowing we really could use one or two more people but not having that confidence level given the fact that we’ve been doing a great deal of project work,” she says.

For now, the agency’s 14 staff members are humming along — at the actual office — to tackle work coming their way. “My staff was very eager to come back into the office,” says Wilson. “We have so many creative people here; that collaboration helps them thrive.”

Wilson’s two chocolate labs, Maple and Jackson, provide office-wide stress relief and a morale boost when needed. And this past year has reinforced for her the need to have a plan – but one that can shift if needed.

“It’s about knowing how do we efficiently make modifications to a plan and still feel confident about what we’re doing for our clients and as a business owner,” says Wilson. “As a leader I’m expected to demonstrate confidence. So if I can modify a plan and know what I’m going to do, even if I’m dodging left versus right, I can still remain confident.”


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