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Business Observer Friday, Jun. 1, 2018 5 months ago

When it comes to growth, marketing firm Spectrio won't hold the line

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There’s no such thing as downtime for a rapidly expanding company that specializes in crafting subtle, background marketing messages. This new leader, an ex-Google exec, has big plans.
by: Brian Hartz Tampa Bay Editor

So, you’ve been placed on hold while calling to make a hotel reservation. You hear some pleasant music on the other end of the line, followed by a few marketing messages.

Chances are the music and messages were produced by Spectrio, an Oldsmar-based company.

Spectrio was founded in 1986 by Mitch Keller and Aaron Kleinhandler, “two guys who saw a material need in the on-hold messaging and marketing space,” says CEO Dax Brady-Sheehan, who joined the company in late March after a stint as site leader for Google’s New York City marketing services team (Kleinhandler, who preceded Brady-Sheehan as CEO, will stay on as COO; Keller has retired).

“We think of customers in a way that we are an extension of their marketing and tech teams.” Dax Brady-Sheehan, CEO of Spectrio

A string of acquisitions — more than two dozen — followed as Spectrio consolidated its hold and moved into related spaces, such as digital signage, video walls and menu boards, in-store overhead music and messaging and its latest innovation, Wi-Fi marketing, which generates location-based marketing messages sent to users’ cellphones. The company also specializes in text and email campaigns.

Brady-Sheehan, 36, is an intriguing choice to lead the company into its next phase, which revolves around doing more of those marketing-related tasks for current and, hopefully, new clients. Brady-Sheehan studied film at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, but says his educational background really was “a springboard to get into marketing and conveying messages.” About 40% of Spectrio’s nearly 200 employees are involved in content and production, he adds. “We do a ton of content — it’s a big piece of the business.”

That piece has grown even bigger with Spectrio’s recent acquisition of 10 Foot Wave, a Charlotte, N.C.-based digital signage company. The merger expands Spectrio’s technological capabilities, as well its client base. According to a press release announcing the deal, Spectrio-produced content will now be seen on digital video screens at 16,000 locations across North America.

When Spectrio’s other lines of business are factored into the equation, the company’s content is featured at some 67,000 customer locations in 25 countries. Its clientele runs the gamut, from small, locally owned businesses to Fortune 500 companies and major national and international brands including Michelin, Bridgestone Firestone, U.S. Cellular, Pei Wei Asian Kitchen and Starwood-Marriott.

“We think of customers in a way that we are an extension of their marketing and tech teams … they leverage our content and technology suite to build the in-store experience for their business,” says Brady-Sheehan. “We want their customers to come away thinking, ‘Wow, what a great experience; I can’t wait to get back into that store.’ For example, at a restaurant, we want to let diners know what specials are coming up, what the chef is going to be cooking. And we want to make sure that we set the right mood with the music that’s playing in the restaurant.”

Mark Wemple. Dax Brady-Sheehan shows off some of Spectrio's technology at its headquarters in Oldsmar.

In that scenario, says Brady-Sheehan, Spectrio could create digital signage and menus featuring a live video feed from the restaurant kitchen that shows the chef and his staff at work. He adds that many of the company’s engagements with restaurant and hospitality clients, in particular, tend to be of the long-term nature because their content needs change with the seasons, holidays, etc.

“They stay with us for a meaningful amount of time,” he says, and that leads to ongoing “cool, creative challenges for our content production team.” Spectrio also provides market research services that gauge how well campaigns and messages are performing and resonating with their clients’ patrons.

Company executives declined to disclose specific revenue figures, only to say the business grew 20% in 2017 over 2016. That pace has jumped to 40% growth, so far, in 2018, officials add. In addition to its headquarters in Oldsmar, Spectrio also has offices in Charlotte, N.C., Tulsa, Okla., Sacramento, Calif., and Shreveport, La.

"I foresee us growing over the next three to four years at a similar clip," Brady-Sheehan says. He further expects Spectrio’s payroll to grow as well, predicting it will equal or even surpass 200 this year as Spectrio integrates the 10 Foot Wave team. Some workers will be relocated from Charlotte, and there will be new hires in Tampa, he says. A few members of 10 Foot Wave’s C-suite will stay on with Spectrio, he adds, while others are going off to start a new company.

“We’re going through those traditional, post-merger conversations,” he says, “talking about, ‘Oh, that’s what you were doing. Let’s do it together, better.’”

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