Behind the List with Beth Smith of The Simon Group

Helping businesses differentiate themselves

Beth Smith, vice president of content management at The Simon Group, says that while most of its clients are based in the tri-state area, it also has international clients. - (Photo / Beth Smith)

Technology heavily influences the way we do business.

Whether communicating via email or marketing a brand through online resources and beyond, almost every business relies on technology to disseminate its message.

Advertising and marketing firms exist help develop and grow businesses through online, print and beyond. Whether it’s building a website or creating print marketing materials, these firms exist to help your business shine.

Here to answer this week’s “Behind the List” questions is Beth Smith, vice president of content management at The Simon Group in Sellersville.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has The Simon Group been operating in the region and what are its primary services?

Beth Smith: We were established in 1986, and moved from Spring House to the Lehigh Valley in 1991, so this region has served as our permanent home for almost three decades. The Simon Group offers integrated marketing communications – marcom – and we tend to specialize in business-to-business companies primarily in the high-tech and industrial fields.

Our services are categorized into three main areas: strategy and branding, content marketing and creative services. For some clients, we do everything, from defining the brand strategy and setting the messaging to program development and actual implementation.

Other clients use specific areas of our services as part of their marcom program, such as website design, SEO [search engine optimization], online advertising and multimedia content as well as copywriting, brochure design, tradeshow graphics and marketing automation.

For most clients, we begin with an overall analysis of their business and marketing strategy to determine the best messaging that will help differentiate them in their markets as well as to set a brand strategy that will meet their goals: revenue growth, break into new markets, launch a new product or service or a combination of these. Regardless, we become an extension of their marketing team.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that The Simon Group has encountered throughout its years in business?

Smith: Let’s talk about two big challenges and one great opportunity in the marketing world today:

DIY marketing: This is the false confidence companies have in the do-it-yourself tools such as a free website builder or automated social media posting platforms, versus working strategically to put it all in a larger context and make sure the sum of your marketing parts is greater than the whole.

Because these tools function as stand-alone pieces, some companies lose sight of how to make your marketing tactics work together. That’s very worrisome because if your efforts are too fragmented, you won’t get the results you’re looking for and then claim marketing doesn’t work.

Tools are great in marketing, you just need to remember to apply a strategic layer.

The numbers game: The allure of big data to generate exact audience profiles, so companies can better interact with customers, has grown tremendously. However, the one thing that has been overlooked, yet current research is now focusing on, is putting that information into context.

True business intelligence comes from the knowledge you have about your customer base and applying the data to that inherent knowledge. At the end of the day, you still need to know who your customers are and use data as evidence to support your profiles.

Collaboration: On the opportunity side, we’ve seen a growth in businesses working together to find more collaborative ways of marketing. In instances where a client may be using multiple marketing partners, we’re exposed to different viewpoints, different ideas and new ways of thinking.

It’s very refreshing – thinking outside the norm is very important for our business, so this has been a welcome evolution in modern marketing communications.

LVB: The internet has had a strong impact on the way business is conducted in today’s world. How does The Simon Group position itself to work with it clients to grow their business through social media and other internet-driven resources?

Smith: Defining our clients’ position and campaign goals is critical in determining which marketing tactics are used. If your message doesn’t resonate with your audience, it doesn’t matter what tactic you’re using.

In terms of positioning our clients for growth, a company’s website is its face to the world and a gateway to information. Content has to be interesting and relevant as well as easy to find at all levels, especially with today’s shorter attention spans.

So, our first step with new clients is to assess the site. There are cost-effective, yet creative, ways to freshen up or mobile-optimize older sites, which we find particularly useful for companies that aren’t in a position to undertake a full-site redesign.

Social proof is one of the most influential factors considered by millennials, who are said to influence upward of $1 trillion in total consumer spending (Nielsen). As this population ages and matures, having the proper online presence will make or break certain companies, in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business.

LVB: What have been some of the most notable projects that The Simon Group has completed on a local level? Does it also expand into other markets outside of the Greater Lehigh Valley region?

Smith: Although we have a heavy focus on B2B companies, one of our most notable, local projects involves working with a company that’s a bit outside our typical scope.

We’ve found that working with Lehigh Valley Martial Arts is a philosophical match that has been beneficial for both sides. The organization was looking to increase its online presence throughout the region, which matched up very well with our digital marketing knowledge and abilities.

But more importantly, we share a lot in common. Not only a passion for what we do, but how we do it: treating people with respect while having fun. …

Several of the companies we work with are located throughout the tri-state area, and we have many international clients, as well. The actual tactics and implementation for regionally focused businesses will be different than for a global corporation, but the goal is the same: build trust with your customers and deliver on what you promise.

LVB: How does The Simon Group directly stimulate the local economy? How does it get involved with the local community?

Smith: All of our employees, and the freelance talent we work with, live local. We also seek out local companies to provide any added services we may need, such as printing, web coding, motion graphic rendering, etc.

There’s a boatload of talent in this area, so we rarely need to look beyond the Lehigh Valley to find the partners we need.

And, we are becoming more active in local, industry-related organizations that will attract a diverse set of businesses to the Lehigh Valley.

LVB: What does the future look like for The Simon Group? Does it have plans for growth?

Smith: We love being a locally owned business, so that won’t change any time soon.

We’re currently researching how audio content, thanks to the growing use of smart speakers, will need to be integrated into our clients’ long-term marketing strategies. Just like video experienced a significant uptick in recent years, the spoken word via Google Home and Amazon Echo will be making huge strides in both the B2C and B2B worlds.

As a company, if the past few years have been a good indicator, we’ll see the strategy and branding side of our business growing as companies look for new and unique ways to differentiate themselves in highly competitive environments.

Christopher Holland
Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and blogs on arts and entertainment in the region.

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