Jenny Thompson is the founder and CEO of Forte Media Partners. A native of Oklahoma, Jenny moved to Fort Smith in 2002 with her husband, Kevin, and began work at Williams/Crawford and Associates as a media buyer. Although she felt challenged by her job and supported by her co-workers, Jenny desired the freedom of a home-based work environment where she could integrate work into her family life instead of the other way around. In 2013 Jenny started Forte Media Partners with an emphasis on developing partnerships with clients to help them reach their target audience with the right message. She also serves as an advisory board member for The Salvation Army.
As a community entrepenuer and small business owner in Fort Smith, we asked Jenny her thoughts on making the most of a business marketing strategy, her views on the Fort Smith economy, and advice she's received along the way:
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT FORT SMITH?
The people. We’re close to both Kevin’s family and my family in Oklahoma, but beyond our family, the people in this area are generous and community-minded. It’s also large enough to have convenient shopping, air travel, etc, but small enough that traffic isn’t an issue and you’re often running into people you know. It’s really the perfect-sized city for my personality.
WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT VIEW ON THE FORT SMITH ECONOMY?
I feel Fort Smith has had some positive momentum in the past 3-4 years for local entrepreneurs and small business owners. Businesses who are staying up with technology trends or ahead of the curve by investing in education and utilizing new mediums seem to be growing the fastest. Businesses who are refusing to invest in needed resources and new mediums for this online economy are those I see struggling the most. It’s a tough retail world right now for local businesses that are competing with online giants, but I’m working with several who are doing it well and am encouraged by their success.
WHAT IS ONE WAY YOU SEE PEOPLE IN THE FORT SMITH/RIVER VALLEY AREA BEING ABLE TO HELP BOTH INDIVIDUALLY AND CORPORATELY GROW OUR ECONOMY?
I think we’re going to have to continue seeing both individuals and corporations in the River Valley have courage to make the wise, risky decisions necessary to start new businesses and add jobs to help grow the economy. We can’t rely upon outside corporations or government to bring new growth to our area. In addition, area residents need to support those local businesses that are taking the risks to hire additional people, offer new products and services, etc. I’m a huge proponent of the shop local movement and love watching locally-owned businesses thrive.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO BUSINESS OWNERS ABOUT MAKING THE MOST OF THEIR MARKETING STRATEGIES?
Before spending advertising dollars, make sure your ducks are in a row first. Is your business running correctly internally (Does it look clean, organized? Are employees trained well and are they executing well?) Make sure your basics are up-to-date and reflect your business well. This includes your website, search listings, social pages, etc. You can have the best advertising campaign in the world to drive customers to your website or business, but you won’t sell much unless your basics are in order and updated. Plus, in today’s world, when people don’t get what they expect, you’ll hear about it in their reviews all over the internet.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OR UNDERUTILIZED OPPORTUNITY YOU SEE BUSINESS OWNERS MAKING REGARDING MARKETING THEIR BUSINESSES?
The biggest mistake is thinking you can continue to do things the way they’ve always been done. The way customers consume media today is significantly different than just 2-3 years ago. While the digital media marketplace is overwhelming at first with all its options, it’s exciting for small business owners, in particular, to be able to narrow down their target audience with less waste than the traditional expensive, shotgun approaches from the past. If business owners don’t have time to research and work on their own digital media campaigns, they need to find someone asap to help them if they want to grow their business.
FINALLY, WHAT'S THE BEST ADVICE YOU'VE EVER RECEIVED?
I don’t remember words as much as I remember actions, and my dad’s actions spoke loudest to me. There are three things he showed me and I followed:
He spent some summers after high school leading pack trips in the Rocky Mountains. I followed his lead by spending two summers in Glacier National Park in college, a life-changing experience for me in my early 20s.
When I was 16, I watched my dad make the tough decision of switching jobs from the long, hard hours as a diesel mechanic where he often had to miss our sporting events to a significantly lesser-paying job, but one where he could have more time for his family. At 36, I realized I had over-committed myself to my job as well and needed to make a change for my family—one of the hardest decisions I ever made was starting my own business but it has paid off in the time I’ve invested in my family.
My dad, along with my mom, showed me what serving others looked like as they helped extended family, their church and their community in hundreds of ways. They were the ones that instilled that serving-mentality in me and my siblings. While I do serve, I’m light years away from what I’ve watched them do.
If you are interested in the freedom owning your own business can give you or you are ready to sell your current business to move on to the next chapter of your life, contact the CBI Team Fort Smith River Valley (below) to schedule a free, confidential exploratory meeting.