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Dane County Small Business Awards: Small business, big impact

We honor six local companies that embody the best in Dane County small business.

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The Digital Ring: Day at the Improv

Already armed with a list of ADDYs and other awards longer than your arm, The Digital Ring (founded in 2015) has started fast, but the notion of accepting an award for its creative work is synergistic for an agency that resorts to skill-building theatrics.

The Digital Ring was founded as a digital marketing agency after seeing the need for this kind of expertise in the Madison market. It since has morphed into more of a full-service agency that specializes in the digital space, and Partner Mason Kemp (pictured above, center) attributes some of the agency’s early growth to a keen focus on under promising and over delivering.

“It is incredibly important to our crew to be recognized in this fashion, especially by others in the area who have built such great companies themselves.” — Mason Kemp, partner, The Digital Ring

That might hurt sales to some extent, especially if other agencies take a pie-in-the-sky approach and promise everything during the sales process, but it results in clients becoming your best advocates. The Digital Ring, which has grown its staff to 19 people and reports more than $2 million in annual revenue, also doesn’t accept certain accounts because business relationships are built on trust and transparency, and it does no good to pretend to be something you’re not.

“We do have to sacrifice some sales, but we also don’t take on all of the potential business that comes to us,” Kemp says. “Our philosophy is built on us being a true extension of our clients. We want to improve their marketing, but more importantly we want to improve their business as a whole.”

The Digital Ring provides custom software development, website redesign, strategic marketing initiatives, and content development. Culturally, the agency keeps pace with perks such as casual dress and professional massages, but its improv-themed, team-building events have a cultural and business development purpose. The concept behind the improvisational exercise is that presenting in front of your peers is one of the hardest, most uncomfortable things people are asked to do, and getting accustomed to it will pay dividends elsewhere.

Among other things, the agency had employees act as Shakira, enact an alien invasion of the company, and “birth” a few children. There were a few awkward moments, but they were all part of the professional growth process. “When you are able to be comfortable amongst your peers, then talking in front of clients and dealing with professionals outside of your peer group becomes that much easier,” Kemp explains. “Our entire team was pushed outside of their comfort zone, and we think that’s healthy when building professional skills.”

Community involvement also has an internal, community-building motivation, especially the volunteer time staff devotes to a range of nonprofits and charities. “All three owners have always been very active and involved in nonprofits and business boards, and we wanted to make sure that people who work for The Digital Ring have just as much vested interest in giving back,” Kemp says. “It’s more of an internal value than an external public-relations stunt for us.”

(Continued)

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