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HR Hates Me: Companies Dating Clients

Dec. 2015

By Colton Mulligan


Laurie Gunnells is my PCBFF (Post College Best Female Friend). We've known each other for six years and until four months ago, if you asked her what FoxFuel does, she would say "They do something with Google, and Colton pays for a lot of lunches and happy hours."

While this is technically accurate, I quickly realized that as part of a creative agency, I should be able to describe what we do in a fashion that is simple enough that a friend could understand it and explain it to someone else.

As I've worked to figure out how to articulate who we are and what we do, I've found that marketing is actually a lot like dating—there are a few key things you have to get right:

Persona: Who are you and what do you have to offer?

When you go on a first date, you aren't offering a meal and transport between 2-3 destinations; you're offering an experience.

Clients who offer a product instead of or without an experience are set to fail. Consumers aren't satisfied with a book or a tricycle or a drone—they want to expand their knowledge of the world, create memories with their daughter, or find a new perspective that was previously unreachable.

A pretty face isn't enough for a lasting relationship; your partner needs to understand who you are and what kind of value they receive in committing to you. If you can't demonstrate that value, you'll find your customer, or that potential partner you're pursuing, running off to someone else.

Presentation: What do you wear on a first date?

Once you know who you are and what you stand for, how do you communicate that? Do you sport the suit and tie to immediately communicate that you're professional, confident and impressive? Maybe you wear jeans and a v-neck to say that you're cool, easy-going and practical. Or do you wear a tank top and a fedora to let them know that you're finishing up magic school and you've written letters to MTV to get Jersey Shore back on the air?

For a brand, their suit is their business card, their jeans are their website, their fedora their mug, you get the idea. Your presentation matters and you never know when you'll encounter your next client or lover, so you'd better get dressed and look the part.

Presence: How do you find the one?

When you're dating, you have to know where to find your type. Should you spend time at a Broadway Honky Tonk looking for a single bachelorette from out of town?  Or maybe a bar on Demonbreun to meet a Vandy freshman with a fake ID? How bout a classy throwback speakeasy for a professional with a refined palette or a laid-back hipster?

In marketing, it's just as important to know where to be present. Maybe you're a B2B company targeting Fortune 500 companies on LinkedIn. Athletic clothing retailer? Jumbo Tron space at Bridgestone and Titan's Stadium might be more up your alley. Or maybe you're offering knee replacements to 70-year-old men scrolling through Facebook to see if their old high school buddies can still climb the stairs.

No matter what your type, you need to know where to find them.

At FoxFuel, we help companies date their customers.

We're like a cross between Will Smith in Hitch ("Like I always tell my clients - begin each day as if it were on purpose.") and The Wolf in Pulp Fiction (I wrote a paper in college where I said that in 10 Years I wanted to be "The Wolf" of a creative agency. I'm 2 years away, and I hope I'm getting close.)

How does the matchmaking process work? It all comes back to those 3 little P words:

Persona: We develop your logo, tagline, unique value proposition, and voice for presentation.

Presentation: We'll concept, design and develop everything from your app and website to video work and powerpoint presentations so you look the part and have a cohesive message.

Presence: We segment your audience, research the market and your competition to give you a plan, and make your voice heard through channels like Google AdWords, Facebook ads, tv spots, drip email campaigns, YouTube pre-roll, radio, billboards, newspapers, trade rags, gorilla marketing, sponsorships, trade shows and more.

Experience and commitment are the two key factors here that will determine your success, which is why I'm so good at marketing, yet so terrible at dating. 


Colton is the CEO and chief strategist of FoxFuel creative. He has understated how good he is at marketing, as well as how bad he is at dating. To compensate, he drives a 1967 GTO and a 1980 Honda Motorcycle. #HaveFun

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