When Core Values Are More Than Just Words
Marketing professional Jennifer Flanagan was pushing the envelope at Adtaxi before she even started working there.
Flanagan was in the interview process for the head of operations in 2013 when the hiring team unearthed her marketing background. She moved into consulting for the company, proving herself over the course of a few months before joining full time, when leadership asked if she’d be willing to put together a business plan and build it out. That plan included native advertising.
The hiccup? At the time, the digital advertising company wasn’t interested in pursuing native advertising. But, Flanagan drew upon her professional expertise in content marketing and native advertising to make a case for this new revenue stream.
“I was able to change his tune. We were able to get it launched,” she said.
Today Flanagan is the vice president of marketing at Adtaxi. Though the company has now moved its native advertising operations elsewhere, her innovative attitude still embodies the core values that keep Adtaxi perpetually moving forward.
Adtaxi’s Six Core Values
- Innovate, never imitate.
- Stay human.
- Cultivate partnerships.
- Take calculated risks.
- Be passionate.
- Never stop learning.
Those values are the product of deep philosophical reflection. In 2019, Flanagan worked with 10 to 12 key stakeholders to examine the defining traits of the culture.
“We got a group together to talk about who we are as a company, our mission and vision and culture. We shared them with the team to get feedback and iterated on them before launching to the full company,” said Flanagan.
Unfortunately, those efforts were thwarted by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the debut of the values got lost in the chaos of the time. “Everything went out the window,” said Flanagan.
Today, the company is resurrecting the initial ideas and giving them new life to help guide Adtaxi into the future. “We’re relaunching our core values, and we would like everyone in the organization to truly understand what they mean,” said Flanagan. “The company as a whole is more successful when we are moving in the same direction.”
In Its Own Words
Built In sat down with Flanagan, Search Operations Manager Caleb Alcorn, and Senior Director of Strategic Accounts Yael Zlatin for stories that illustrate what it looks like when team members roll up their sleeves and bring these values to life.
When Jennifer Flanagan joined Adtaxi, she noticed a troubling issue with lead generation. “We had very low close rates on marketing leads, with less than 5 percent of overall revenue coming from marketing at the time. The process just wasn’t working well. I noticed the gap between marketing and sales and wondered what other companies do,” she said. Her response wasn’t to back down, but to raise her hand and embody the spirit of the core values that make the company so unique.
Flanagan dove right in. She was intrigued by the idea of building a sales development team to help warm up the leads in the transition between marketing and sales. In Flanagan’s mind, building this sales development role would help facilitate easier closes in sales. With the support of the SVP of revenue, she came up with a watertight plan to pitch to leadership for approval.
“When we presented it to the board for approval we could see how it would come to life so that everyone felt comfortable signing off on it,” she said.
The plan was approved in 2018 and started with two SDRs. Today, the department has grown to a team of six with a manager. The kicker? The close rate has improved substantially, resulting in 25 to 30 percent of revenue coming through marketing and sales development. It’s a perfect example of the passion, and very calculated risks, that make up the core values of the company.
Here’s what else Flanagan had to say:
On what drew her to Adtaxi: “I’ve had several roles within the organization. What keeps me here is that I’ve been able to make it my own and learn about and create all sorts of new things that hadn’t been done here in the past. Historically, the company didn’t believe much in marketing, now we have a team of seven people and a strong lead gen program. It’s been a fun adventure.”
On what sets Adtaxi apart as an employer: The ability to get out of your comfort zone, challenge yourself and question the status quo. You have the opportunity to come in and truly build something. There are no egos here, so you can challenge something and find a solution. So many organizations are top-down and hierarchical, but that’s not the case here. Anyone and everyone has the opportunity to make a significant, lasting impact on the way the business functions.
There are no egos here, so you can challenge something and find a solution.”
Caleb Alcorn is a paragon of ‘staying human’ at Adtaxi. He started as an SEM specialist in 2015 and has held five positions at the company in just under seven years. Now, after building and leading a team, he’s still extremely empathetic to the experiences of his direct reports.
“Working in the roles that I’m now managing has allowed me to connect at the ground level with my team. I can understand their pain and the challenges, and highlight their successes,” he said.
Because Alcorn has such intimate knowledge of the tasks his team is accountable for, he’s focused his effort on building processes that make them more efficient.
“They can spend more time doing the things they enjoy and creating value for our clients. It’s a good dynamic, and it helps me be more successful in this role,” he said.
Here’s what else Alcorn had to say:
On learning and innovating: One of our core verticals is automotive dealers, and Google gave us access to a beta version of a new vehicle listing ad product. We had to do a lot of work on the back end to make sure that our client was educated and that we were going to try something successful for them. Everything launched within six weeks, which was the fastest partner that Google had in the launch. Google has now rolled this out for global use.
On what drew him to Adtaxi: Before Adtaxi, I had a very specific and cookie-cutter role. It was cut and dry without much flexibility. What drew me to Adtaxi was the ability to work across different industries within the portfolio. We work with every business you can imagine, small or large, across different verticals. I wanted to get outside of my narrow industry, and the ability to grow tremendously has kept me here.
On what sets Adtaxi apart: I’ve been here so long because we have full ownership of our role in our daily work. You should always be trying to do what is best and new in the space, or doing what you did yesterday. In a lot of other agencies or in-house teams, you just do what you’re supposed to. We’re always pushing to adapt, learn and grow so we can be on top of our game. Everyone is passionate about what we are doing.
On what job candidates should know: You need to be up to speed and want to evolve in the digital marketing realm. You should be self-managed because we don’t micromanage at Adtaxi. You need to be accountable.
The ability to grow tremendously has kept me here.”
In 2021, Yael Zlatin saw a huge opportunity to make a big impact. A nonprofit organization that historically had difficulties creating donation momentum digitally approached her team. Together, they created a go-to-market plan with a humble budget.
After obtaining leadership buy-in and executing the e-commerce strategy across paid ad channels, according to Zlatin, the organization was able to achieve the best digital donation season it had in its 100-year history and was recognized as a finalist in digital advertising awards.
Adtech For Good
“It was eye-opening, we have had a few more nonprofit organization partners since then, with great success,” said Zlatin.
Today, the company is taking that knowledge to grow the vertical, contributing to the company’s success, and that of charitable organizations across the country.
Here’s what else Zlatin had to say:
On cultivating partnerships: In some cases, we are able to lift revenue for businesses that move on to create an internal in-house marketing team. We help them develop their team and use them as a referral as we onboard new clients. That partnership is the outcome of being human. It’s not always the technology that keeps us growing; it’s caring about our clients.
On continuous learning: Our company has many different clusters under one umbrella, but they are all unique. My team is special in that we float around the company, across different regions and verticals; enabling sales development, strategy and consultation. Our department hears the same question in different variations from all these clusters so we launched monthly workshops with people from client services, account management and sales to create a safe space for people to ask recurring questions.
On what drew her to Adtaxi: Everyone I talked to was super intelligent, and they had tough questions for me from day one. I love that. I also asked them tough questions they didn’t have the answers to, and it was great to see that vulnerability. Early on, I picked up on a few things I wanted to change, such as how we do audits or onboard clients, and now those things have been implemented across the company. What keeps me here is the ability to work outside of very strict swim lanes. It’s very much encouraged to bring your ideas, no matter what your rank is. Every day and week is different, and I get to do a bunch of things across different areas of expertise. It’s never boring.
On what job candidates should know: We are looking for smart, energetic, outside-of-the-box candidates who have great ideas. They see problems, and solutions, everywhere they go. They are interested in growing horizontally and vertically. It is very common in our company to come on for a specific role and then move pretty quickly to something else. There are so many opportunities. We have campaign managers moving to client services, or team members moving from ops to product. There is so much going on, and it’s all welcomed and encouraged.