Nelson Schmidt's all-encompassing approach to marketing creates opportunities for exponential growth and customer loyalty

By creating shorter paths to purchase on the consumer buying journey, Nelson Schmidt Inc. helps clients achieve sustainable growth

da India Fizer , AdForum

Nelson Schmidt Inc.
Advertising/Full Service/Integrata
Milwaukee, Stati Uniti
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In our continuing series of interviews focused on new business and growth, we chatted with John Boler, Chief Marketing Officer at Nelson Schmidt Inc., on their holistic approach to brand building and what the right marketing budget can do for exponential growth.


When searching for growth opportunities, how do you determine what is the right fit for the agency?

As an independent, full-service agency, Nelson Schmidt has a very specific set of criteria we use when determining whether a client is the right fit for our expertise, services, and business model, including:

  1. Is the client’s product and/or service a considered purchase?
  2. Does the company require full-service capabilities?
  3. What is the company’s annual revenue?
  4. What is their annual marketing spend?

We specialize in working with clients who sell products and/or services that are considered purchases, helping companies that have complex buyer journeys in high risk/reward categories. We are not a project shop, so it’s important for us to determine if the client has both the budget and desire to enter a mutually beneficial business relationship with us. We specifically look for clients that allocate between $2M and $10M to marketing. This level of investment provides the opportunity to address their brand and business holistically with a highly experienced agency team across all disciplines and make strategic investments to build long term brand equity while addressing near-term sales and revenue goals.


What does exponential growth look like for your agency? For example, project work vs AOR pitches, geographic, interdisciplinary, etc.

We look at growth through a variety of lenses at Nelson Schmidt. Fiscal, competency/expertise, cultural, and individual are all agency priority growth categories and all equally important in creating and sustaining a dynamic world-class organization. In 2022, we launched an internal growth and performance initiative called WaveMKRS which addresses each of the priorities and empowers employees to achieve their personal and professional growth goals. As team members expand their expertise, grow relationships and contribute to culture and company priorities, they directly and indirectly strengthen themselves and the organization’s performance, creating a perpetual ripple effect on overall growth, hence the initiative’s name.

From a fiscal growth perspective, our intent is to expand current relationships and selectively add new AOR accounts to drive revenue. Our strategy is not about the quantity of clients we serve. It’s about developing and exercising deep, meaningful relationships with clients as the strategic approach to sustainable growth and the optimal way to help our clients also achieve exponential growth.


What are the key challenges and / or opportunities for brands in today’s marketing economy?

Recent research has shown that less than 5% of buyers of considered purchase products/services are actively seeking to buy at any given time marketing is speaking to them. Yet, a vast majority of brands have been nearly solely focused on using conversion-based marketing to reach their customers. The digital technologies and ad platforms of today are an amazing way to efficiently reach a target audience but using them only as a lower-funnel-focused vehicle is proving to be highly ineffective.

The opportunity moving forward is a resurgence in marketing that’s focused on brand building. We believe combining lower-funnel conversion-based marketing with upper-funnel brand building in a holistic Considered Purchase Marketing approach is how companies can win against their competition. Depending on the industry/category, Nelson Schmidt may recommend that a client allocate up to 40% of their annual marketing budget on brand building, then using the remaining budget in the conversion-focused approaches they’ve been mostly focused on. This approach helps a brand stay top-of-mind even when 95% of a company’s customers or prospective buyers aren’t in purchasing mode. 

To ensure the brand is relevant when a buyer is ready to make a purchase, we do considerable research into why they are entering an active-buying mode. These Category Entry Points are the situations that make a buyer turn from passive to active. By looking deeply into a brand’s category entry points, we can help clients determine which ones hold the best competitive advantage and target their marketing investment on those areas. This creates shorter paths to purchase because we’ve helped the buyer connect the brand to specific situations when they need to make a purchase. 

In this more all-encompassing approach, it’s also crucial to consider the post-sale experience. You want every buyer to be an advocate for your brand, so allocating a portion of your marketing investment to customer loyalty will pay dividends in future sales.


Given the uncertainty of the past couple of years, are there any trend predictions you have about where the ad and media industries are headed?

AI technology continues to infiltrate and evolve marketing. ChatGPT is the latest entrant attempting to make it easier and more efficient for companies to take advantage of artificial intelligence. But it’s early, so like the metaverse, Nelson Schmidt is taking a proactive approach with this trend, actively using the technology and researching its potential for our clients.

One of the biggest marketing trends, however, is not solely technology based. There’s a resurgence in investing marketing dollars toward building brands, rather than spending nearly exclusively on lower-funnel, sales-driven tactics. Recent research from LinkedIn/The B2B Institute is proving that most buyers of considered purchase products and services are not in the purchasing funnel all that often. Which makes it critical to build brands outside of the purchase-only mindset, so when customers are prepared to buy, your brand is already relevant and ready for them. As the world’s leading considered purchase marketing agency, Nelson Schmidt has been at the forefront of this movement, and we’ve built tools and methodologies to help our clients better meet the needs of their customers both when they’re in the purchasing journey and outside of it.