A career learning lessons on the marketing front lines

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Several months ago, Richard Chiaino moved his business, Enrich Marketing, into a bigger, remodeled location, in Clarence.

It was the latest – and, Chiaino hopes, the last – in a series of moves for a business whose growth has far exceeded his modest plans.

“At the beginning, (I thought) it would be just me, and I would golf half the day,” he said.

Far from it. Enrich has taken off, with local clients including William Mattar, Gary Pools and Leisure, and Lake Effect Furniture and Mattress using his firm’s services to drive customer traffic.

Chiaino, 54, has built Enrich into a business with 26 employees since it debuted as a one-person operation in 2017. And the growth continues: He is planning to hire four more people. The firm recorded revenues of $10.7 million last year, up from $6.7 million in 2022.

Chiaino built a career in the TV and radio industry. He grew up on Long Island, but for the past 30 years has lived and worked in the Buffalo area, where he met his wife.

Working with business owners over three decades, Chiaino has picked up lessons about hiring, relationships and strategy that he has applied to running Enrich. Here is some of what he has learned:

Acquisitions. Chiaino came up through “traditional media” in his career. As he ventured out on his own, he recognized digital marketing was a growing, vital segment. But Chiaino didn’t have a background in digital marketing. How could he tell a great job candidate from a mediocre one in that segment?

Chiaino found a solution. Over two years ago, he acquired Scale, a digital firm whose work he respected.

“It was easier for me to grow that way, and then once I had that, I knew we had a good team and then they could go hire the additional people,” he said.

Employees matter. With any acquisition, Chiaino focuses on the employees over the client roster.

“The formula for it is really to buy the people, but the hedge-your-bet is, it comes with revenue and clients,” he said. “You immediately grow your people, but all of a sudden, you have 30 more clients.”

Diversify. Chiaino has seen some marketing agencies rise and fall by being overly dependent on one, large client. He is determined to avoid that trap. No single client of Enrich’s represents more than 5% of the firm’s total revenues.

Referral power. Enrich works on media strategy for clients in 40 markets around the country. Many of its clients have no direct connection to Buffalo.

“Two thirds of our clients now only know where Buffalo is because we’re here,” Chiaino said.

Referrals are the key. A company like Lake Effect will refer a furniture business in another market to Enrich, and that company will make its own referral, and so on. Chiaino enjoys the challenge of diving into a regional market that is new to him and figuring out how to compete in it.

Know your clients. To Chiaino, it is important to determine a client’s “definable difference,” something that distinguishes them from competitors in a particular market.

The current ads for Mattar allow his personality to come through with touches of humor. Enrich worked in collaboration with Lerner Advertising and others on the ads.

“What you see on screen with Bill, that’s Bill,” Chiaino said, who also counts Mattar as a friend and mentor.

Know the assignment. It’s important to remember what clients need, no matter the industry they are in, Chiaino said.

“The No. 1 job for our clients is, we are problem solvers,” he said. “They want more traffic, leads, business, and it’s our job to figure out how to do that.”

Play to your strengths. Enrich will take on newly created companies as clients. But Chiaino estimates 90% of Enrich’s clients are well-established firms determined to achieve more.

“What we’re really good at is taking clients that have been doing it for years – five, 10, 30 years – that got themselves to this ledge on the mountain, and getting them to that next ledge,” he said.

Create an appealing workplace. With Enrich’s extensive office renovations – including addition of an in-house gym – Chiaino wanted to create a place where employees would want to work from. He asks employees to come in four days a week, with Fridays as a remote work day.

“The one thing you don’t get in our business working from home all the time is just the collaboration,” he said. “We’re in a very creative, problem-solving industry.”

Delegate. After launching his own business, Chiaino found himself working extremely long hours, the opposite of what he had in mind. Even so, he was reluctant to hire his first employee, fretting over that as his first “real expense.”

Chiaino had more time to meet with potential clients and build relationships with them.

Advice he received from Mattar stuck with him: “I promise you, every time you hire somebody, you’ll make more money.”

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The Buffalo Next team gives you the big picture on the region’s economic revitalization. Email tips to buffalonext@buffnews.com or reach Buffalo Next Editor David Robinson at 716-849-4435.

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