Company: LeapFrog Interactive
Prior to co-founding LeapFrog Interactive with his business partner, Alan Gilleo, Daniel Knapp served as a CPA and senior auditor, SBA business consultant, and as a senior financial analyst for GE Consumer Products. With a background steeped in finance, Daniel took the unusual step of opening a digital agency and embarking upon a second career at the ripe old age of 25. In the ensuing twelve years, he’s consulted with hundreds of business leaders, owners, and entrepreneurs on how best to harness the power of digital marketing and advertising for their enterprise.
Tell us about LeapFrog Interactive
LeapFrog Interactive is a digital agency with a passion for big ideas executed with granular precision. We embrace an integrated philosophy, not just within the campaigns we deploy but also within the lifestyle of the audience we engage; understanding that brands must engage customers when and how the customer chooses.
Our comprehensive process, tested, and honed over years of learning, speaks to a heritage of both innovation and applied best practices. L.E.A.P. (Listen, Engage, Act, Perform) is a four-stage, multi-component methodology that integrates your brand strategy, creative, technology, and analytics…empowering your brand and your customer.
Combining research, analytics, and data management with multi-award winning creative talent and big-idea campaign strategy, we combine one-part Logic and one-part Magic to deliver unmatched results.
What makes your firm different from other digital agencies?
First, we don’t chase the dollar, we chase success. There are few agencies that lack the ability to spend their way to success for their clients. We can all buy a sale or purchase a customer. What makes us different is that we help our clients earn that next sale, and we feel that makes for a more powerful and long-lasting relationship with their end customers.
Second, we mix big ideas and granular execution. That’s not an easy juxtaposition. Big idea people are generally not the obsessive compulsive detailed organizers of the world. So, from our leadership group to our senior team members to the newest person to join the company; we look for people who can bridge that gap.
Third, we aren’t afraid. We know how hard it is to win accounts, and we know how hard every agency out there works (or should work) to keep them. But that genuine desire to retain an account relationship can never degrade to fear of loss. When it does, agencies stop pitching the truly great creative; they stop considering the breakout campaigns; and they stop experimenting, testing, and trying out new methods. And in digital space, that paralysis is deadly.
What are the keys to success?
I’m not smart enough to speak for the industry, and certainly can’t speak for other leaders or firms. For LeapFrog Interactive, it’s a very simple, yet powerful recipe – Great people. Great clients. Great products.
It has never failed in our twelve years, that when we keep our focus on this recipe, our agency thrives. And when we’ve stumbled, it is always because we neglected one of these three ingredients.
And while finding the time is not always easy, I try to hold myself to the goal of nurturing each of these areas every day, even if only in a small way.
Ultimately, I don’t think it is hard to be successful in business. I think it is hard to stay focused on what made you successful in business.
What are the myths about selecting a digital agency?
Almost every time we meet with a prospective client for the first time, there’s this moment in the conversation where the topic of budget is introduced. Invariably, this becomes a dance. The cautious, demure client on one side and the inquisitive, amorous agency on the other.
Why? Because there is the fear that disclosing budget will result in higher costs.
It is both a myth and a mistake. It is a myth because a year into the relationship, your measurement metric is not how much you’ve paid your agency. It’s about results, and whether your agency has outperformed or disappointed. It is a mistake because the method of hiding budget does not actually test your agency, it gives them a free pass. Budgets make us refine our ideas, they force greater creativity, they require unique methods and novel approaches.
So, what is the best way to evaluate your digital agency choices? Very simple – provide two budgets. Ask for their best idea, best campaign, and best approach to each. In doing so you get to see your agency in a real world situation, dealing with a real world constraint....and that’s the field where the great agencies distinguish themselves from the rest.
With the digital space so accessible and democratic, can’t your services be insourced by your clients?
We have participated in such evaluations with our clients, and even helped organize, assemble, and eventually manage in-sourced operations; and for a couple others, we have disassembled and reintegrated an in-sourced operation into an agency relationship.
In-source decisions come with both pros and cons, and perhaps a couple misconceptions. But it’s neither a universally good or bad decision, it is highly dependent upon each client’s unique circumstances.
The following are a few areas I would advise clients to carefully evaluate:
Flexibility. Client’s who have very fluid, organic needs often find in-sourcing to be challenging simply because there are limitations on the size of their employee base, and the capability set they encompass.
Cost Savings. Digital agencies, at least good ones, make a profit. So there’s no arguing that a client has the potential to realize cost savings by insourcing. But achieving it takes real discipline and hard work. The cost structure is the same – salaries, desks, computers, software, benefits, managerial time, recruiting, retention, office space, etc. So the reward (i.e. potential savings) lies in the agency’s profit margin. The risk is the upfront investment and the time and focus away from the client’s core business. Since not a sellable product, the entire weight of the ROI falls on the client’s ability to maintain the same profit margin as their agency over the long-term. If accomplished, the client can see a net return from their initial investment in four to five years.
Experience. An in-house team is not exposed to other clients, new methods, or different perspectives at the same rate as an agency team. As such, an agency team’s growth and experience is exponentially greater. Investment in training, workshops, seminars, and industry groups can help off-set this to a degree.
Passion. I believe we’re all the very best at doing what we love the most. If a client doesn’t have a passion for digital marketing, it’s never going to be fun. And life’s too short not to be absolutely in love with what we do every day.
Is the industry’s growth going to slow over the next five years? Will LeapFrog’s?
If we are continuing to work with great clients who make us part of the family; if we’re spending each day surrounded by amazing, talented, fun people; and we’re producing outrageously creative, successful, effective work....the growth will take care of itself.
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