While most people would never dream of working with their spouse, Randy and Cynthia Smoot have turned their 16-year marriage into a successful partnership, both in the home and at the office. The pair met in their 20s working in print advertising sales for a newspaper, and married a few years later. “Working at the paper was an amazing education in both marketing and the print publishing industry,” says Gangway partner Cynthia Smoot. “The backbone of that paper’s advertising revenue was made up of small mom-and-pop businesses, and generally when you went in to sell them an advertising schedule, you ended up having to educate them on how advertising works, then helping them develop a campaign that would target an area of their business that needed growth, so we were really doing ad agency work all along the way, just to get them to sign a contract.”
(Photo courtesy of Cynthia Smoot)
Seeing a need in the marketplace for advertising agencies that offered a wide range of services to small businesses, Randy left the comforts of the corporate world in 2004 to open Gangway Advertising while Cynthia stayed in her role as a senior advertising executive at the paper. Initially, the firm offered graphic design, company branding, creative copy and media buying services. “It wasn’t that hard to get our first few clients,” says Cynthia. “For a decade we had built personal relationships and trust with our clients at the paper, helping them grow through the development of campaigns, events and promotions. So it wasn’t such a radical concept for them to officially hand over their marketing and creative to Randy.”
It was Cynthia’s personal passion for social media that led her to join Randy at Gangway a few years later. “I used to joke that I was the smart one who stayed in sales because that’s where the money was, and that was true for a long time,” says Cynthia. “In 2008 a couple of things happened. I had become very active on social media and kept asking Randy why he wasn’t offering these new channels of marketing to his clients. He wasn’t even on Facebook at the time and would retort that he had no clue why a restaurant or store would even be on social media. Southwest Airlines, Coca-Cola and McDonalds were among the few big brands that were investing time and money in Facebook and Twitter, but I saw the future and the future was social. It was a good time to join Randy at Gangway.”
Today, the firm has morphed into a full-service marketing firm for lifestyle brands that offers a wide range of services. Randy is the firm’s creative director, handling design and branding, media buying and website creation. Cynthia handles public relations and digital marketing for clients.
“Our goal is to create buzz for your brand, and in 2015, there is no one sure-fire way to achieve success in marketing,” says Cynthia. “We have a different strategy for every client — traditional advertising, social media marketing, public relations and blogger outreach. You have to consider all the angles.”
This article was written by Robin D. Everson for Small Business Pulse