Behind CMG’s Pricing Strategy

At Columbia Marketing Group, we like to do things a little different. Typically, the agency model has structured their revenue streams to be based on billable hours to the client, which leaves things open-ended and vague. It’s therefore not unusual to get bills with higher than expected costs and surprise fees.

CMG believes their commitment to the client should be made on a pre-agreed fee structure. We use a guide for how much we charge for projects based on desired scope of the project, our internal expenses, anticipated number of hours, the resources we invest in, and the market value of our services.

However, once we reach an agreement with the client on the scope of a project and a timeline, we believe fully that it is up to our team to be efficient with our time and to deliver on our promises. The price will not change regardless of circumstance whether it’s for graphic design, a brand development project, a new website to be developed, social media management, or your ongoing SEO efforts.

Additionally, we are more than happy publishing our pricing. It is our goal to always live up to our two most valued traits of authenticity and accountability. Would you like to know what your project will cost ahead of time with no surprises? Perfect. We do, too. Would you like to be able to compare our prices with other providers during your research and investigation phase as you pick a provider? No problem. Here it is. What else do you need? We want to make sure that you have all the information necessary to make the best choice when choosing your partner for marketing and communications. Your marketing firm is a very important partner. The group you select will be casting the vision of your company and will be a reflection of you as a person to the world. You need a partner that you can know what to expect from always.

If you’d like to discuss our pricing or potential projects that you have, we’re happy to meet with you. Let me know what you’d like to discuss … our pricing, your culture, or my recommended reading lists … and we’ll do that over coffee.

Redesigning Masonic Outreach

Cassidy Shearrer - Graphic Designer - Columbia Marketing GroupI am a loud extrovert who loves bright colors. My favorite movie is Point Break (the old one, obviously), and I’ve never met a pink I didn’t like. If it has aliens, glitter, or a crazy costume, I will be interested. So, the shocker of my career at the Business Times Company thus far has most definitely been that I LOVED redesigning a Masonic magazine.

At first, I was skeptical. Aren’t all Masons stuffy traditionalists? Would they be willing to try anything new with their design? I had no idea what to expect from the client, and I hoped to find some common ground so that I could enjoy the process while reviving their brand.

One of the challenges of being a designer is that I’m not making art for myself. Instead, I solve visual communication problems for other people. I have to take off my, literally, rose-colored glasses and look through the lens of the client. What colors work best for their content? What font is best to reach their target audience?

Happily, I found a great partner in the ladies at the Masonic Home of Missouri. We shared a passion for history and generosity. It was very exciting to work for the charitable branch of the organization, knowing my work would help provide financial assistance and health information to people in need.

And best of all, they wanted to revive their brand and give their magazine a facelift to reach a new, younger demographic. Queue up the hot pink! Just kidding. But I did get to use illustrations and develop a brand that gave some structure to their content and made their articles more accessible. We were able to provide them with some top-notch photography and a cohesive brand that makes both Masons and myself proud to display the magazine on coffee tables. Creating strong brands that our clients are proud to show the world is just as exciting as designing in my personal style.

Check out the before and after:

Masonic Outreach - Spring 2016 Cover - Masonic Home of Missouri
Masonic Outreach - Summer 2017 Cover - Masonic Home of Missouri

10 Guiding Principles for Working Together

I don’t mind saying it. Working for COMO magazine and Columbia Marketing Group is pretty great. The community has tended to agree in the past by awarding us the 2017 Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year and the 2017 Debin Benish Outstanding Businesswoman of the Year.

But it’s not like it just magically shows up every morning like fairy dust delivered by flying llamas with magical carafes of coffee. It takes hard work and consistent commitment by all parties to a unified vision. Here is the approach we use to ensure we protect the most important part of our company … our culture.

The Business Times Company culture involves three core areas:

  • Care for the cause.
  • Care for our community.
  • Care for ourselves.

Individually, and as a group, we commit to:

Care for the Cause.

  1. Manage by objective. Our goal is to deliver a high-quality product, on time, without pissing off our co-workers! We actively respect the product, the process, and the people, and take responsibility for delivering on what we promise.
  2. Do whatever it takes. We are not bound by roles or job descriptions. We know it takes us all, chipping in, to meet our objectives. Some weeks that means going the extra mile.
  3. Prioritize the mission. We understand that our company mission stems from our love for Mid-Missouri, small business, and healthy team dynamics. For the sake of that mission, we collaborate always, yet respect clear decisions by the person responsible.

Care for our Community.

  1. Acknowledge problems early. We open and honestly embrace conflict before it becomes toxic. We share concerns when they are a 10% problem, before they become a 70% problem. We acknowledge the difference between a problem to solve and a tension to manage.
  2. Share feelings appropriately. We agree to give the benefit of the doubt and work to understand where the other person is coming from. We process our emotions before venting, qualify conflict, and respectfully give constructive feedback.
  3. Refrain from gossip. We commit to talk about a problem with someone who can solve it. We understand that gossip is a fireable offense.
  4. Embrace both sides of the coin. We strive to know the whole person (personality, skills, and strengths), and we understand that we can’t eliminate the qualities we dislike without damaging the ones we love.
  5. Communicate with perspective. When problem solving, we let our co-workers know if we’re talking about a $10, $500, $100,000 or $1 million-dollar issue.

Care for Ourselves.

  1. Work and play hard. We give 110% to the job during office hours, but also prioritize rest, down time, self-care, and self-awareness. We take advantage of the time given by the company to divert daily, withdraw weekly, and abandon annually.
  2. Understand emotions. We work to stay emotionally healthy and keep our emotional cups from overflowing. We strive to bring our full and best selves to our jobs (and lives) daily.

A Holiday Gift Guide for the Creatives in Your Life

Are you a Sadie, Cassidy, or Jordan? Which one of our designers’ suggestions could you gift to the creatives in YOUR company?

Sadie’s Picks!

  1. Ampersand Ring: I’m obsessed with ampersands and love minimalist jewelry. (If you are a fan too, follow theampersandstorm on Instagram.)

  2. Pantone Mug: I just think Pantone swatches are so cool. (Yes, this is a “tea” cup, but it holds more than your standard coffee mug, sooo….)
  3. NEVER Tote Bag by Wasted Rita: Because I’m obsessed with typefaces. And I love bags.
  4. A magazine subscription to The Magnolia Journal: Designers can always use more magazine subscriptions (of their choosing, not just any ole mag). I love watching “Fixer Upper” and Chip and Joanna. I think their publication is just so beautiful, and I always feel comforted and relaxed while looking through it.
  5. Letterpress Cookie Cutters: Did I mention I love typefaces?

Cassidy’s Picks!

  1. A subscription to “Tapas”: “Tapas” covers are amazing. I’m dying to know what is inside. Bonus points for supporting print media.
  2. Gradient Puzzle: This is how I hygge.
  3. Locally made cookies: Check out the Berlin Bazaar Winter Market and get allll of Shelly La Fata’s Amaretti cookies. I love supporting local creators.
  4. Stocking stuffer affirmations: This guy was a riot at our design conference last year.
  5. Bougie oyster accessories: I’m obsessed with “Garden & Gun” magazine’s field shop. And oysters.

Jordan’s Picks!

  1. BOOKS! So many books, so little time! It can be hard to know where to start, but these are my personal picks for topics I want to cover in the new year: creative team management, practical day-to-day business stuff, and some classic inspiration from industry legends. (Bonus points if you pick them up from a local bookstore or directly from the author’s website.)
  1. La Croix planter: Handmade ceramics + La Croix = a perfect desk accessory. #teamcoconut (p.s. These come complete with an air plant, perfect for a lazy – uh, I mean, busy – designer.)
  2. Enamel pins: Pins are an easy way to jazz up my daily uniform of black skinny jeans and striped t-shirts.
  1. Pocket Art Director: It’s funny because it’s true.
  2. Anything and everything from Parks Project: Some of the best memories of my life have taken place in National Parks. I got married in Joshua Tree, vacationed in Yosemite, and moved my life across the country, stopping in many along the way. Rather than donating a percentage of the profit, Parks Project partners with conservancies to fund their most immediate and needed projects. So, the parks get some much needed TLC, and you get a beautifully designed good in return. That’s what I like to call a win-win situation.

On the Road Again

Ever feel stuck in a rut? Lacking in creativity and innovation?

It’s so easy to come to work, stare at our computers, and execute the same tasks day after day while losing sight of the bigger picture. Our work can become boring and lifeless – for us and our clients.

That’s why I’m a big advocate for getting out of the office to learn and brainstorm with my teammates. My most recent opportunity was a road trip to Minneapolis with our editorial team to attend the City and Regional Magazine Association’s annual conference.

More than 350 magazine professionals from around the country gathered in the Renaissance Hotel on Third Street to learn from and encourage each other in our craft.

The highlights included hearing from Bob Love, editor in chief of AARP magazine, David Stillman, author and expert on bridging the gap between generations, and David Granger and David Curcurito, former partners in crime at Esquire magazine. 

Did you know AARP has more than 38.6 million readers? They are a lesson in intentionality. According to Bob, mission is their superpower. They are the industry leader in audience segregation, publishing three unique magazines, each targeted toward a different decade of reader. They also stay faithful to reader engagement, ensuring content is focused on their three main priorities – health, wealth, and self.  

Did you know that Generation Z will comprise 40% of all consumers by 2020? According to David Stillman, this generation is a misunderstood group and very different than their millennial counterparts. Born between 1995 and 2012, Gen Z grew up during the recession, has a “Hunger Games” mindset, is competitive with their peers, and is incredibly price-conscious. They are digital natives, our future employees, and unlike their millennial friends, only 8% prefer an open-concept workspace.

What’s the craziest, most creative thing you’ve tried recently? Two former members of Esquire’s editorial team shared example after example of crazy stuff they tried looking for new ways to tell a story. From hand lettering a cover to sending an amateur photographer across the country, they were never afraid to think outside the box. Their talk was a lesson in what can come from letting your wordsmiths and visual artists play.

As for the rest of my takeaways, well they’re staying with me. I can’t give away all my secrets!