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Using Networks to Pump Up New Business

Using Networks to Pump Up New Business

I2k’s defense line of inflatables includes tactical training walls, vehicle decoys (pictured) and more to support military personnel training. Photo courtesy of i2k.

Entrepreneur and Vistage member Steve Gray has always been the life of the party. His family- owned business — i2k Inflatables — provides fun inflatables for parties and events, from jumpers to obstacle courses to customer-branded promotional inflatables.

When the pandemic put a halt to events and gatherings, it devastated Gray’s Azusa, California-based business. But instead of cutting back on his marketing and branding investments, he decided to go all-in.

“I’m a strong advocate of companies that bump up their advertising and branding in down economies,” says Gray. “They are typically the ones that come out on top.”

Equipped with a growth mindset, Gray kept his eyes on the Vistage Marketing and Media Network. As he scrolled through a thread started by a Vistage Chair looking for a top-notch marketing firm, Gray saw a response that intrigued him:

Steve Gray

“We work with businesses who have a big outcome they need to achieve and need a strategic approach to get there — we’re business growers that just happen to carry a marketing toolbox,” posted Chip Rosales, Vistage member and managing partner of Texas-based Rogue Marketing.

Bingo. The fellow Vistage members quickly launched a partnership to do exactly that — devise a new strategic approach for i2k and achieve a big outcome. The first order of business was to pivot i2k away from the amusement industry and accelerate growth in three key B2B markets: gymnasiums, military defense and fall protection.

The new partners uncovered the opportunity for i2k to re-outfit gyms and trampoline parks with i2k’s AirPads — gym owners saw Gray’s products as a sanitary and safe alternative to foam pits. When Rogue focused marketing efforts on this niche market, Gray noticed that new gym customers began to call and email i2k daily.

Chip Rosales

The military and fall protection products also took off with new product placement on the website and Rogue’s SEO strategy. “To get four government agencies interested in this new military product is definitely a win,” says Gray.

To accelerate growth in the B2B markets, Rogue Marketing put into motion several cherry-picked strategies. For lead generation, the Rogue team focused on driving down cost per lead and boosting lead conversion through sales enablement tools. The Rogue team worked with i2k’s salespeople to analyze and provide feedback on i2k’s sales calls — a high-value process for refining over-the-phone sales language. The Rogue team is also facilitating an e-commerce platform so that customers can purchase non-customized products directly.

In just less than a year of working with the Rogue Marketing team, i2k’s first quarter exceeded its 2019 benchmark. “We are profitable,” says Gray.

Gray’s decision to reply to Rosales’ Vistage Networks post became the catalyst for a revitalized business that has been part of Gray’s entrepreneurial vision for more than 20 years.

“We can all go online and do a search for a marketing or branding company, but you never really know who they are or if they are the real deal,” says Gray. “Having the Vistage access is an advantage. It’s hard to put a price tag on it.”

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