Marketing firm revamps message

A local marketing firm is shifting gears.

Less than five years after being hired, Josh Stauffer now is the owner and CEO of Grand Rapids-based Blue Flame Thinking and is modernizing the 53-year-old agency. 

Stauffer, who was initially hired in 2013 as director of digital strategy and was tasked with spearheading the firm’s transition from traditional to digital marketing, is continuing that same path.

“I don’t think there is anything broken here, but this is a chance to re-craft our message a little bit and hone in and double down on our sector expertise,” Stauffer said. 

Blue Flame Thinking, 801 Broadway Ave. NW, strictly is a business-to-business marketing firm with a second location in Chicago.

Stauffer said the company is being rebranded externally and internally. The external efforts to rebrand are focused on how it presents itself to its audience. So, Stauffer said the agency is adapting more colors, videos, animations, digital campaign ads, content writing, social management and illustrations for its clients’ content marketing space.

Internally, Stauffer wants to refocus the company’s specialization services and narrow its client prospects. According to Stauffer, in the past few years, the company started offering services to an array of businesses, but now he wants to specialize in a couple.

“We (want) to just focus on doing work in the manufacturing and financial sector,” Stauffer said. “We kind of picked up clients here and there. We’ve done (marketing) in energy, oil, gas, food and beverages, things like that, but that is not what clients come to us for. Clients are hiring us (for more than) just doing something in-house, it’s usually because of our expertise in the sector that they are in.”

Stauffer said the company has hired people with a wealth of experience in the manufacturing and financial markets. The firm has financial experts who formerly worked as advisers, in banks and at insurance firms. 

In manufacturing, Blue Flame Thinking prides itself on its consultants understanding the technicalities of chemistry and physics because its manufacturing market is geared toward engineering companies.

Although Blue Flame Thinking is located in Grand Rapids and has worked with local businesses such as Founders Brewing Co., Amway and Bissell, Stauffer said the agency isn’t well-known in the area because many of its clients are out of state, so he wants his agency to be more involved in the community.

“Most of our clients are national and global instead of local, and that is something we are trying to change through more community activities, and we want to join the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce,” Stauffer said. “We would like to be better sons and daughters of the city.”

Stauffer purchased Blue Flame Thinking in August 2017 from Steve Schmieder, who owned the company for nine years. Schmieder said he sold the company because he wanted to spend more time with his family.

“I am going to have four grandkids by June, so it was the right time,” Schmieder said.”I know in my personal life, I wanted to devote more time to the grandkids — just the grandfather role because owning a business, you are just absorbed constantly and you don't have that luxury to be there.

“The other reason was that the marketplace was evolving, and Josh was better-suited for where we wanted to go with the agency and it was a good time to pass the baton. The agency was financially healthy, financially sound and financially strong.”  

Schmieder said Blue Flame Thinking is the result of combining his two companies, Chicago-based s2 Financial Marketing and Grand Rapids-based Alexander Marketing, in 2014.

He purchased s2 Financial Marketing in 2003 and Alexander Marketing in 2008. Alexander Marketing has been in Grand Rapids since 1965.

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