Mad Scientists, Birthday Parties, and Unicorns
Partnerships are not for everyone. We have been in the industry long enough to watch a few end in complete disaster. Ascend launched because of serendipitous timing and a sincere appreciation for our individual creative expertise. In a traditional agency setting, we would be in different departments with little opportunity to collaborate, which we recognized as a weakness and frankly not very fun. We have been successful thus far by combining our skill sets to deliver a one-two-punch of creative strategy and technical wizardry, along with a unique understanding of what customers really want from an “agency” partnership. It has been two years since we opened our doors, and we want to take readers on a deep-dive into Ascend via a Q&A performed by the two mad scientists that started this journey — Steven Monetti and Chad Coleman.
SM| Chad, why did you decide to make Colorado your home? Was it the 58 14ers in Colorado?
CC| Well, being able to escape to the mountains is most definitely an added bonus, but I would have to say that I was genuinely excited about what’s happening in Colorado, especially in Denver. The startup scene is unreal. People are flocking to Denver to be a part of the business synergy, and I was game to pack up and follow the migration. The community has been incredibly supportive and welcoming; I cannot think of better place to launch Ascend.
CC| Steven, you are not a Colorado native so tell me what brought you to Colorado?
SM| I was ready for a change of scenery and Denver seemed like a place that would best fit my lifestyle. I lived in Florida for six years, but the climate and style of living didn’t match what I was used to, growing up in Italy. I always loved the mountains, skiing, rock climbing, mountain biking and really anything outdoors. After considering a few other cities my wife and I fell in love with the Boulder area.
SM| You have a background in film. How does that play a part in what we do at Ascend?
CC| I consider getting my start in the film industry to be one of the most fortunate events of my career because it taught me the art of storytelling. Marketing has evolved with our culture. Gone are the days of businesses being able to just shout their USP in 30-second ads and get sales. Today’s world is far too cluttered, and who really wants to watch commercials? People hate being sold to. But, everyone loves a great story, it’s hard-wired into our brains - it’s part of being human. Marketing has become about telling great stories. I think every business possesses something genuinely unique about it and getting to work with business leaders to uncover what that is to craft a magnetic brand story that attracts their ideal customers is truly an honor.
SM| How do you think our unique way to work with clients helps them realize their story?
CC| Our team has coined our process the MAVEN Method®, and it is a profoundly collaborative, all-day workshop with all the company’s decision-makers in one room hashing out what is most relevant to their brand and their customers. We help business leaders gain greater clarity and focus about their brand, their customers and the marketplace they operate within. Getting that kind of clarity can be difficult when you’re a business leader that’s hyper-focused on the day to day challenges. The exercises we do are designed to help them see the forest for the trees, and of course, it’s a huge opportunity for us to truly get to know their brand. We take what’s uncovered and test it with their target demographics. Having both internal and external perspectives on the brand gives us the strategic foundation to create a compelling brand story.
CC| What are the limitations with pre-built website templates and why should it matter for a company?
SM| I might be a little biased here, but there isn’t really a comparison between custom and template sites. A website is an extension of your business, and in some instances can be the most vital tool to drive sales. When we build a custom site for a client, we dig into their business, competitors and examine how they will be using and updating the website. Custom sites are designed to position clients as industry leaders, increase searchability, and ultimately generate sales or leads. While a custom website is a larger investment, when you consider about 90% of the time your website is the first experience a potential customer has with your brand, the potential ROI is off the charts.
CC| You know, if I see a terrible website, I am actually annoyed, and I seek out a competitor with a better website. In my opinion, a solid website is crucial for a company’s success. Attention is the new currency, and if you can’t pull in your audience immediately, you’re losing customers fast. A website is a customer’s first impression of a company, and it needs to be stellar. It’s common knowledge that a potential customer who’s curious about your business is going to check out your website. I think marketers within organizations “get” that, but sometimes they struggle to get C-suite buy-in. We live in the customer experience era and people aren’t going to jump through hoops to buy from you. The businesses with the best customer experience are going to win every time. It’s why Uber and Lyft are putting taxi companies out of business. We’ve all had a great Uber ride, but I don’t think anyone has ever had a great taxi experience, haha!
CC| Steven, you’ve created an amazing system to take the pain out of maintaining a website. Can you share what we’ve built?
SM| I have crafted a proprietary layer over Drupal which offers our clients the most user-friendly website on the market. It is essential that we’re turning over a product to our customers that we know will be incredibly easy for them to use and maintain for years to come. This system allows us to have the creative freedom to build something beautiful and unique, while still being able to be maintained easily.
SM| We have both witnessed and felt the effects of working in an agency setting that over-promised and under-delivered. How is our approach unique?
CC| Clients want an unparalleled level of focus. They do not care whether you have 20 other accounts that you’re juggling, they want a personalized journey. That is why we currently only take on three project clients at a time. We don’t experience project fatigue. We’re able to reach new heights creatively, and we work twice as fast as other agencies. We even offer our clients iPads so they can communicate with us at any time. If they get a great idea at 2:00 am, they can hop on the iPad and let us know. I’ve worked at agencies where only the “squeaky wheel” gets the grease and that’s no fun for anyone. Again, it’s all about creating a great experience, and our clients tell us we’ve achieved that. It’s a big source of pride for our team.
CC| What is one of your favorite client success stories?
SM| I would have to say that the birthday party Colorado Lending Source had for their new site was a first for me. We had worked side-by-side with their executive and marketing teams for six-months. When the site went live, they threw a birthday party for their new site, and it was remarkable to watch their excitement and enthusiasm around something we built together.
CC| The unique thing about Colorado Lending Source is that our research showed they were 100% aligned with what their clients had to say. They're driven by a purpose beyond just a transaction, and that is why we call them our unicorn client. Does that make us the unicorn of the branding and digital marketing world?
SM| I have not really thought of us as unicorns, but perhaps we are.
Chad Coleman, | Co-Founder and CEO Ascend
Chad Coleman, co-founder, and CEO of Ascend has partnered with hundreds of companies to develop successful growth strategies. His philosophy is rooted in the belief that every brand has a story to tell, and great storytelling is the key to connecting brands with potential customers.
Before co-founding Ascend, Chad played vital roles with two additional digital marketing agencies working as Director of Marketing Strategy and Vice President of Sales and Marketing. Over the years he’s had the opportunity to collaborate with brands like the NBC Universal, The Boys & Girls Club, and Dippin Dots.
When Chad is not working, you'll find him outdoors enjoying the natural wonders Colorado has to offer. Whether it's hiking, rock climbing, or kayaking, Chad is always ready for an adventure.
Steven Monetti | Co-Founder and CTO Ascend
Steven Monetti, co-founder, and CTO of Ascend grew up in Florence, Italy, and has spent more than half of his life developing web-based applications. From just 15-years-old Steven knew he wanted to construct high quality, leading edge websites, which could enable people and businesses to express themselves and be recognized. After further cultivating his professional development skills in Florida, he found his way to Colorado in 2011, becoming a Development Manager with United HealthGroup. While working with top engineers, product owners, and product managers, his expertise and dedication to developing in an Agile manner became even more clear. Collaborating with individuals who have a passion for creating excellence, only further validates his love of learning new skills and passion for perfection.
Now Steven lives in beautiful Louisville, Colorado, and loves to rock climb, ski fresh delicious powder, and explore the outdoors with his wife.