What is Integer Group’s Secret Sauce Right Now?

April 27, 2020

Nicole Souza, of Integer Group, speaks on the surprising changes she has seen as clients are shifting their investment in traditional media marketing to the commerce environment. During this time her team is taking the steps needed to create business through unexpected avenues like flower delivery and beauty.

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Here is a look at how Integer Group is using its secret sauce to create opportunities.

Currie: All right. Welcome to another Insider Quick Chat. With me today I’ve got Nicole Souza, EVP of growth and marketing at The Integer Group. Good morning and welcome, Nicole.

Souza: Good morning. Nice to be here. Good to see you.

Currie: Good to see you as well. Tell us a little bit about Integer Group and your role for those of the audience who don’t already know.

Souza: Sure. Integer Group is a global commerce agency. We focus on shopper marketing, retail, e-com, social commerce, anything that really lives in the commerce world driving transaction and sales, on behalf of our clients. We’re an agency that uses data and culture and really looks into the insights around shopper behavior to drive our programs on behalf of our clients. And we have a lot of killer partners, like Starbucks and P&G, FedEx, Frito, AT&T. We’re really lucky to work with some great ones.

Talk about your most recent wins (00:55)

Currie: And you’re certainly positioned in an opportunistic way right now, all things considered. So any recent wins or work of note to

Souza: Yes.

Currie: Talk about it.

Souza: We have seen an influx during this really unusual time during COVID-19 and the current business climate. We’ve had some recent wins, some very quick wins. Some clients are looking to shift their investment in traditional media and/or brick-and-mortar marketing into the e-com environment. And so we’ve had some great wins. I’m not going to disclose who, but in the beauty category, we’ve had some, actually in the flower delivery category, which is kind of interesting. We’ve just signed something in the alcohol beverage industry, which we know is rising rapidly during this time for many brands. So it’s been a pretty good time so far for us.

Currie: Well, outside of the current macroclimate, you’ve been incredibly successful, you and your team, over the years with forming new relationships that turn into pitches and projects.

Souza: Yeah.

What is your secret sauce? (02:05)

Currie: I guess what’s on everyone’s mind is, so what’s in the secret sauce?

Souza: Yeah, the secret sauce. So I always say this. I feel like you and I have even talked about this before. It’s really not that complicated. What we tend to do is focus on relationships first. Who do we know? We listen to what those individuals need or what looks like help to them, and we have a very honest dialogue about whether or not we can help, and if we can, what does that offering look like to them? I mean, we really do rely hard on our people and who they are and their ability to go in and build relationships with others. It’s normally how it works.

How, in recent times, have your processes for developing relationships changed? (02:50)

Currie: You make it sound so easy, and maybe it’s natural to you, but it’s very foreign to a lot of people. I think that one of the things that you’ve noted in the past has been yes, it’s about relationships, but it’s also about a process and following a very strict process and procedures of how you go about developing those new relationships. So, how has that changed in recent times, if at all, or is it just business as usual in terms of following that same process?

Souza: It’s a little bit of both. I mean, certainly, we take the rigor that we always apply in terms of just being really meticulous about how we evolve a conversation or an opportunity. We’ve been in a few pitches recently, all virtual. We’ve noticed that clients are… Well, I think everyone’s a bit more forgiving in this environment. Glitches are happening, somebody’s child walks into the room during the presentation, there are dogs barking in the background.

I mean, we’re all at home, so there’s a level of ease that goes along, like a little bit less polished but a little bit more intent and flexibility, I think, is kind of the trade-off there, so we’ve eased up a little bit on the showmanship. It’s more difficult and, quite honestly, I don’t think it’s valued as much in this current market. It’s really about an authentic connection, conversation, and presence, I would say.

Currie: It’s a different way of what has always been termed in the pitch side of things like chemistry. How do you do a chemistry meeting virtually?

Souza: Totally. I think it’s hard.

Do you have a playbook for these new conversations? (04:32)

Currie: So the playbook itself. How do you specifically go from no contact with the company at all to a new relationship and forming that new relationship, ultimately to get to a point of trust and then exploring an opportunity to solve a problem for them? Coffee meetings over Zoom? What’s the playbook here?

Souza: Kind of. Yeah, I mean, what is the playbook? That’s a great question. I think that, yes, coffee meetings over Zoom can work. I think that the door opener for us currently is content relevant to shopping retail, any sort of social or e-commerce, as the door opener via email, or maybe it’s a quick phone call with something via email, but-

Currie: Wait a minute. Do you actually make phone calls? That’s a revelation actually too many watching who will be watching this. You’re telling me the phone still works?

Souza: The phone works but only if you know someone and you know their direct line. Nobody’s calling the mainline for Coca-Cola or Pepsi or, you know. But, I mean, if somebody comes to me with someone they know and an organization and something they heard from them that they need, I’ll absolutely pick up the phone and just say hello.

And it really is that there are this real need and hunger for information right now, like, “What should we do now? How agile do we need to be? What’s important currently? What’s not? What are the projections? What can we learn from global markets that are ahead of us in terms of recovery?” and things like that. So we’re using all of that to engage in a conversation, and it’s been pretty successful so far.

Currie: One of the challenges I think that a lot, myself included, I’m getting bombarded with insights, is distilling those insights down into actions.

Souza: Yep.

How do you maintain and create a strategy for relevant content and insights? (06:33)

Currie: So has the content that you’ve been producing, taking from multiple different sources, whether it’s a research study by Integer Group itself or by a third party, and bringing it together into, “Here’s a perspective and our POV on it,” about not only the insight itself but what you do next?

Souza: Yeah. So two things that I’ll share with you on that. The first is we have our own insight and strategy team that is really focused on the current business climate and what it means to retail and to shopping, right, and commerce. So I’m lucky in that sense. They do all the distilling, they tell me what I can talk to a retailer about versus a direct-to-consumer client versus a manufacturer. So I utilize my team in that way to really focus me, and then I just try to sift through what they’re sharing and pick one or two things that I think are highly relevant.

The other thing we’re doing is we’re producing content currently that we hope actually makes a difference in the situation with COVID. So we produced a downloadable retailer kit that we posted on our blog that retailers can go in, download for free. It’s floor decals and signage in-store and parking space signage and digital signage that puts the message, “Two carts apart.” So we’ve done all the design, all the build of the actual mechanicals, and they can just download it for free.

Currie: Wow. That’s a great example of the whole agency leaning into business deployment versus just, “Hey Nicole, can you go off and figure this out yourself, please?”

Souza: Exactly, exactly. And this is an idea that came from one of our creative directors in New York, and he just threw it out to the team and I think our team turned it around in two or three days.

Currie: Run with it.

Souza: Awesome. We also have just launched an app where you can download the Snapchat photo filters and then download the app. And if you and I are talking, we all touch our faces so much. It’s one of the key spreaders of COVID.

Currie: Right.

Souza: So as I was maybe touching my face, up would pop an icon that would say, “Don’t touch your face,” or it’d be like a flame or it’d be like a circle with an X in it. So we’re trying to put content out there for people to not just know who Integer Group is but also to contribute to flattening the curve.

Currie: That’s awesome.

Souza: Yeah, it’s fun.

Do you have any advice for the development director at a small to medium agency or any agency? (09:05)

Currie: You’ve given us some really great insights here into how you’re approaching new businesses, so no wonder you guys are continuing to be successful. So, any advice to maybe a business development director at a small to medium agency or any agency in that regard?

Souza: Keep an eye open for businesses or business sectors on the verge of reopening. Listening is critical. Selling is not super well-received now, so you might have five conversations and only get half of a lead out of it. But it’s worth it because, for the long game, you’ll be better positioned. In this time, be really aware of what’s going on around us and continue to build relationships.

Currie: Great insight. And I really loved what you talked about in terms of the whole agency leaning into building more relationships, too. That’s key, why not make yourself your most important client? Thank you, Nicole.

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