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Small Business of the Year finalist ...Perkin-Watts narrows focus

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by Karen E. Culp

SBJ Staff

Bill Perkin spent a lot of time working in media before he decided to strike out on his own and form Perkin Marketing Services.

Perkin had been a country music DJ, an on-air television personality and a manager of a radio station before he bought a used desk and set up shop in his home in 1988. He had spent a total of 10 years in radio and five in television, working for local stations KTTS, KY3 and KSPR before launching his own business.

"When I started my business, I had a positive relationship with a number of businesspeople in town. I was able to build clients pretty quickly," Perkin said.

In 1996, Perkin developed his business a little further when he acquired Watts Advertising Agency. Jim Watts, the company's owner, was nearing retirement. Perkin approached him with an offer for the business, and Watts and his three employees joined Perkin in what then became Perkin-Watts Advertising and Marketing Services.

Watts' business brought the company into the business-to-business side of marketing, Perkin said, and that is the side that continues to grow. The retail component of the business is not dominant now; before the Watts' acquisition, it represented 80 percent to 90 percent of Perkin Marketing Services' business, Perkin said.

The business grew and grew, ballooning to 45 clients in 1997, but the focus now is on narrowing the company's scope, Perkin said.

"We've gotten so diversified. We've done everything from pet food to banking to selling cars. We now want to concentrate on the three areas where we see the most growth," Perkin said.

Those three areas are banking, food and manufacturing. The company is now looking to see where it can grow in those areas in the coming years.

What an organization like Perkin-Watts does has changed somewhat over the years, Perkin said. Initially, the company's function was that of an ad agency, buying media and designing advertising and marketing campaigns for clients. Now, the company is taking a stronger role in its clients' companies, Perkin said.

"We've become the marketing department for a lot of our clients. Because of corporate downsizing and rightsizing, a lot of companies are looking to outsource where they can, and we can function in the way their marketing departments once did," Perkin said.

The company is "not just a media buyer anymore," Perkin said. Perkin-Watts often creates trade-show plans, company newsletters and marketing plans for its clients, in addition to buying media, Perkin said.

The company has 11 employees, and Perkin said he is, at 42, the mean age.

"We have a broad range of ages here. The oldest employee is 62 and the youngest is 22," Perkin said.

The people he hires have to be creative and good with a Mac, usually, but they also have to know about the business world.

"We understand business. That's why we're so good at using marketing and advertising to help other people understand a given business," Perkin said.

Right now, Perkin-Watts is working on a few big projects for its largest clients, including building a set of kiosks for Empire Bank's new computer banking effort. Another of the company's large clients is Doane Products Company, a private-label manufacturer of dog and cat food that has its headquarters in Joplin. The company is also working on a new account with Van de Kamp, a food company that is marketing its products, which include Aunt Jemima pancakes and Mrs. Paul's fish sticks, to institutions such as schools and prisons.

"We're looking for growth inside a lot of times. We want to go deeper into their business and provide more services. The more we do for them, the better it is for us, too," Perkin said.

The company's mission statement reiterates its commitment to its clients: "By helping others accomplish their objectives, we, too, will achieve our goals."

Perkin's wife, Susann, has always been involved with the business, as well as with raising the couple's two children. Perkin was honored with the Springfield Ad Association's Ad Professional of the Year award in 1995 and with the Silver Medal Award in 1997.

A native of the area, Perkin said Springfield is the best place for his small business.

"I wouldn't want to open my own business anywhere else," Perkin said.

PHOTO CAPTION:

Bill Perkin started his business 10 years ago after spending time in TV and radio.[[In-content Ad]]

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