Building a business without trying

In 1986, when Brenda Stier, president of Marketing Works Inc., found herself without a job after her then employer, Turner Communications, went out of business, she had no plans to start a business of her own.

“I was in the middle of some projects with several clients, and I just decided to continue those projects until I could find another job,” Stier says. “I didn’t really think I would do this permanently; it just came out of a need for a job. Then referrals kept coming in, and that’s how it happened.”

So many referrals came in, in fact, that Stier eventually gave up her job search to form Greencrest Marketing. She built that business with partner Kelly Borth until 1995 when the partnership dissolved, leaving Stier once again working on her own.

“When I began Marketing Works in 1995, I was by myself, working out of my home and consulting with my clients, some of whom I have had for 10 or 12 years,” says Stier. “But over the last five or six years, we’ve had pretty consistent growth. In fact, we doubled our business in the second year and again in the third year.”

Marketing Works now has five full-time employees and one intern. According to Stier, the company provides “relationship marketing services” for its clients.

“We like to say that public relations is managing an organization’s relationship with all of its ‘publics,'” she says. “And if you look at PR in those terms, a lot of things fall under PR — internal relations, media relations and customer relations. We try to get clients to work through a plan.

“We help them do a strategic marketing plan and then we help them implement that plan.”

Stier is proud of the fact that almost all of her company’s business has come from referrals.

Our clients have always been very loyal to us, so for the most part our growth has come about because our clients have passed our name along and helped us grow,” she explains.

But Stier stresses it is important to have growth in the right places and with the right people.

“We have always been very picky about our clients because we get so intimately involved with them. We act as their outsourced marketing department, which means we work for them, so it’s just like taking on a job. You have to be picky about it from both sides,” she emphasizes. “When we take on new clients, it’s important that they’re a good part of the mix and that our other clients can also benefit from them.”

In that regard, Marketing Works offers its clients a program called PRtnership, which is designed to encourage its clients to do business with each other.

“We have three formal events throughout the year that are networking events for our clients,” Stier says. “For example, we have a golf outing, but it’s not only to thank our clients. We specifically put them into foursomes with companies that we think make a nice fit for them.”

The company also provides clients with a list of the services that its other clients offer and sends quarterly mailings to update clients on new PRtnerships that have taken place.

“We like to promote the fact that our clients are doing business with each other,” says Stier.

Marketing Works clients include Gioffre Cos., Progressive Medical, Bell-Haun Systems, National Realty Services, Andrews Architects, Vaisala, Interactive Ink and Archer Meek Weiler.

Internal growth has been a challenge for Stier, as the company last year moved into a new, larger facility and has made other significant operational changes, which have allowed her to step back and let employees take ownership of some client projects from start to finish.

“I had to struggle with the decision to stay independent and small or take the next leap and really put company policies and programs into place,” Stier says.

That leap resulted in increased employee benefits and more structured compensation and incentive programs, as well as a greater sharing of client responsibilities.

“That’s a tough thing to let go of when you’ve always done it on your own, but I learned a good lesson about letting people take on more responsibilities,” Stier says. “I can only do so much by myself, so growth is going to come if everybody participates, and we’ve made a conscious effort to do that.”

How to reach: Brenda Stier, Marketing Works Inc., 540-5520 or

Editor’s Note: This page is presented as a cooperative effort of National City Bank and SBN Magazine; however all material prepared for this page was independently reported and edited by SBN and was not subject to prior review or approval by National City Bank representatives.