Jones-Dilworth, Inc. (JDI)

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JDI is a boutique consultancy that brings emerging technologies to market. We love working with entrepreneurs who are unreasonable for all the right reasons. Our clients are market-defining companies that introduce new categories and destroy old ones. We help identify and exploit market opportunities. Here are a few of our key attributes.

We usually come on board with clients before there is an internal marketing function, though not exclusively. This means that we look a lot like an outsourced marketing department in terms of the services we offer because we can play competently across the marketing spectrum.

We are often told to “stop calling yourselves a PR firm” because of equal expertise in other areas. In truth we don’t call ourselves a PR firm, but we’re comfortable with the moniker as a way of anchoring any conversation. We come from PR and we love PR. PR always exists at or near the top of the marketing stack for any innovative new company, for good reason. And if in the end we leave PR in a better place than we found it, we will have done our part.

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Our services mix includes but is not limited to naming and branding, messaging and positioning, copywriting, original market research & customer development, design + build, content development, media relations, analyst relations, investor relations & fundraising strategy, business development, user acquisition, lead generation, and paid media.

What we do is always evolving. We pride ourselves on forging ahead risk-tolerantly, developing new channels and techniques well before our brethren elsewhere. This is one of the great advantages of working with technologists and entrepreneurs. Best practices are fleeting and that’s a good thing, we think.

A wise woman once said that PR is about credibility and advertising is about visibility. We are in the credibility business, and we are likewise in the visibility business too. Any client engagement is usually configured along those conceptual lines.

Another rubric we often use in identifying scope and setting strategy is the relative weighting of earned media, owned media, and paid media efforts in a marketing program, as well as the hybrid interplay of all three, in the ideal. This is something we can discuss further anytime, but for us, it's a great way to frame an otherwise unwieldy set of tactics.

We are 15+ full-time, headquartered in beautiful Austin, TX. Our clients are scattered throughout the US, Asia, and Europe. The Bay Area of California houses our highest concentration of clients, but cities represented overall in our portfolio include Austin, New York, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Spokane, Houston, Los Angeles, Champaign, Raleigh, Amsterdam, Berlin, Tokyo, Sydney, and more every year. We travel frequently and place a premium on in-person interactions.

We do however love Texas, and sell to the particular contrariness that comes with our neck of the woods. We are independent thinkers, and we sit markedly outside of coastal groupthink.

At any given time we are fairly evenly (and very deliberately) split between B2B and B2C work. We don’t focus on any given vertical or industry, emphasizing horizontal theses instead, in much the way an investor might. This kind of “editorial” thinking about our focus fits better with how our client's key audiences — such as press, angels & VC, corpdev roles + M&A types — think about the world.

When it comes to selecting clients, one thing trumps all else, and that's a strong desire to work with good people with whom we have great chemistry. We want co-conspirators, and like kin. We seek people who are additive, and whose positive attitude towards marketing matches our own. Otherwise, what’s the point?

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We don’t have a growth mandate, or an aspiration to increase headcount. We’re aware that top-notch consulting and scale don’t have many examples in common. Over time, our role stratifies as our clients build internal marketing departments, a process with which we often assist hands-on.

We’re a senior group, but we don’t have titles. We have unusually low turnover. We come from diverse backgrounds — journalism, design, code, government, events, academia, film, finance. Few of us self-selected for agency life originally. That makes us unusual as a firm, and it’s also a big reason why we have such a heterogeneous skill set.

How do we show value?

In addition to quantitative goals selected in collaboration with clients, we seek to effect two key quantitative changes in our clients' businesses.

First, we strive to flip the switch from outbound to inbound. That takes time, elbow grease and more than a little luck. But the advent and escalation of inbound is the best signifier of marketing success that we've come across in our work so far.

Outbound never ceases. of course. But meaningful inbound means that our messages aren't just working — they're also spreading. Inbound can be defined in a variety of ways, but its effect is uniformly exhilarating.

Second, we know that turning marketing from a cost center into a profit center is the surest way to enable the dogged pursuit of greater ambitions.

We parlay first successes into subsequent ones, pushing the pace and always remain…unreasonable. We know that when for every dollar spent with us, our client makes two, we're both going to be very successful.

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We are often the ones pushing for more and more specific KPI’s for marketing. We’re not afraid of being on the hook. But we do like being judged on the same business outcomes as you yourself are.

What does working with us look and feel like?

Kickoff

We require an in-person kickoff meeting as we begin work, whether that's us traveling to you, or you to us. We have found this to non-trivially impact our chances of success by aligning goals, and building chemistry. It's an easy thing to postpone, or put on the back burner. But we need to be able to operate not just as an extension of your team, but as a true part of it.

Kickoff meetings can be a 1/2 or full day, depending on scope. We generally try to have in-person meetings once a quarter ongoing, too. Frequent doses of in-person interaction is healthy ongoing, and encouraged. If you are based in Austin, that is less of a concern, but we want to be sure to take advantage of our proximity and meet together often.

Weekly or biweekly meetings

We like to keep :30 minute weekly or :60 minute bi-weekly meetings on the books. We however work hard not to “manage to the meeting” with flurries of activity before and after, with little in-between.

We push you along the same lines — cadence should be chatty, and iterative. We don’t like call-and-response consulting, unless absolutely necessary. Many of our clients underestimate how much of their own time is required to work with us successfully. Even though outsourcing implies automation, the opposite holds true.

You should reserve at minimum half the number of hours we spend each month of your own, for management, collaboration, quality control, and measurement. Many clients match us hour-for-hour.

Team size

We work in teams of 2–5 people, depending on the size of your budget. We will often cycle additional talents through your account when specific expertise is needed.

You will have an account lead who is responsible on our end for time and deadline management, and is your first contact in a day-to-day sense. However, we work hard to be amoeba-like. We have found that traditional agency account structures are sub-optimal. We like over-communication, and don’t bill you unless we’re actually doing something. Pigeon-holing based on ultimately incidental role assignments, and/or perceived talents on your end and ours makes the proverbial 1+1=3 effect impossible. None of us are as smart as all of us.

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Proper ramp

We are unwilling to launch a company without at least 6–8 weeks of lead time. This window, we have found, is a clear determinant of success. Harried launches create any of a variety of otherwise avoidable problems, which all amount to a significantly decreased return on your investment with us. On a compressed timeline, dollars are less efficiently spent, and it is harder to maintain collectively high standards of work.

This rule also protects current clients from unfair siphoning of talent to more squeaky wheels, and after-the-fact exhaustion. Current clients, in this way and many others, always take clear precedence over new or prospective ones, no matter what.

Project work

We do not do project work, with 2 exceptions.

We will take on naming and branding work, as well as design and development work, on a project basis, where appropriate. Project work has to have clear beginnings, middles, and ends, and it has to be strategic to JDI.

All other work is ongoing. We aim to build a great agency in close collaboration with our clients. Project work is unstable, it decreases margins, and it avoids the kind of mutual commitment that we think is necessary for success.

Innocent until proven guilty

It is not lost on us that the barriers to entry in marketing and communications are low, and that it's not uncommon (or irrational) to be suspicious of agencies, and ye olde over-promising, under-delivering letdown. Still, we insist on an “innocent until proven guilty” attitude on both our parts, bringing our best selves to the table with an assumption of success.

Likewise, we'll always treat you the same way — innocent until proven guilty. It's important that we assume the best and go into this thing with enthusiasm, and abandon our skepticism for the sake of pace and expected synergy. We're both taking a leap of faith, and that should be exciting more than it's stressful.

Our Fees

We bill hourly, at a flat rate of $250/hour. That is, each JDI employee bills at the same non-tiered rate.

To some people, $250/hour is a lot, and to others it's a bargain. $250/hour is considerably less than the firms with whom we are most often compared in New York, Boston, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. But, we're not cheap either. We're on par with what you'd expect to see from a boutique like ours in Seattle, Chicago, San Diego or Atlanta. More importantly, we're expensive enough that it hurts to waste time; $250/hour mandates that both parties bring their best selves to the table.

Unlike many of our peers, we don't do retainers. We think retainers are bullshit. They incentivize us to underservice you. They incentivize you to try and get more than you paid for. We’re structurally at odds from the get-go.

Instead, we work against quarterly budgets, with weekly spend updates stood up against monthly projections. Activity is adjusted in real-time based on constraint and need.

At a flat rate, it does not cost you more money to talk to any one person, a somewhat radical idea among our agency peers. We lose a small amount of money as compared to a tiered model, but our clients like the easy math, as do we.

We feel the flat rate best reflects the nature of the organization we are building, and the multi-disciplinary skills sets we cultivate. When you hire us you get an account team, but you get 15+ minds at the ready, and we make a point of cycling subject matter experts through all accounts, no matter your day-to-day contacts.

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We first sign contracts for 3 months only, taking a “date before we marry” approach that protects us both. As the first contract expires, you meet with us to discuss whether we want to continue the relationship, and if so, what to keep, what to start, and what to stop. An overwhelming majority of our engagements continue past 90 days, but we like the discipline and the prompt to choose to work together a second time. Subsequent contracts extend for a year, with 15-day out clauses.

Our Portfolio

At JDI we focus on science-driven technologies that improve how our world operates.

Our work runs the gamut from A.I. and robotics to neuroscience, social science, data science, genomics and synthetic biology, quantum computing, new ways of manufacturing physical goods, valuable chemicals, or even sound…you get the idea. Our portfolio does business in an equally wide array of industries ranging from automotive and transportation to finance to government to healthcare.

You’d choose us over a vertically-focused firm because you want to both own a category and simultaneously step outside it. Our team is known best for our subject matter expertise, and our ability to increase comprehension and credibility in tandem.

Check out our portfolio here.

What else can we answer?

See set up an initial call or consultation, please send us a line at hello@jones-dilworth.com. We’d love to hear from you.