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Who's Who 2006: Gary Slack

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Since starting Slack Barshinger in 1988, Chairman-Chief Experience Officer Gary Slack has seen the b-to-b agency grow from a modest shop serving clients in the Chicago area to a rapidly growing agency with clients around the country.

Over the past three years, the agency has grown its annual revenue by at least 20% each year, with 2005 revenue totaling $16.8 million, up 28.7% over 2004. This year, BtoB named Slack Barshinger the top midsize agency in its annual Top Agencies special report. Slack Barshinger was also named 2006 Agency of the Year by the Business Marketing Association.

"This year, we've really worked at rounding out the senior-level leadership of our six different practice groups," Slack said, pointing to its PR, direct marketing, media, research, creative and digital groups.

The agency also worked at expanding its client base outside the Chicago area by opening a West Coast office and going after more national clients. Nearly 40% of its total revenue now comes from clients outside Chicago, including the Department of Homeland Security, Diebold Inc., eBay and LexisNexis.

The agency now has its sights on New York and Washington, D.C., as locations for new offices in the next few years, Slack said.

Another accomplishment is working with clients that are targeting the SMB (small and midsize business) market.

"For the first 10 to 15 years of the agency, we mainly worked for clients that targeted large enterprises," Slack said.

Now, with clients such as eBay, PayPal, CareerBuilder, the Department of Homeland Security and FedEx, Slack Barshinger has broadened its experience to companies that are targeting SMB customers. "It's really an important form of diversification for an agency, to target all sizes of businesses," Slack said.

The agency hopes to expand into global marketing projects. It recently joined the International Network of Business Agencies, a global network of independently owned, midsize b-to-b agencies. "This should help us grow even faster," Slack said.

In the next year or so, the agency plans to add more practice groups for face-to-face marketing, branding and consulting.

"We do a tremendous amount of face-to-face marketing for clients, including trade shows, events, conferences and customer event marketing," Slack said. The agency also wants to set up standalone branding and consulting practices to serve client needs.

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