There’s an old chestnut that proclaims that the only way a Mainer can realize success is to move away to find it, then bring it home to plant it in the Pine Tree State again. But one man’s roundtrip journey proves that sometimes you can have a foot in both worlds while keeping your heart centered squarely in Maine.
Jeff Mitchell is a Cape Elizabeth native who co-founded a growing marketing firm based in Watertown, Mass. The company’s boilerplate copy brands Digital Impulse as “a full service digital marketing agency.” But when asked for more detail about the shop he opened with partner Andrew Kolidas five years ago, Mitchell quickly reveals the disciplined focus required to make an agency like DI succeed in Greater Boston’s competitive tech market. “The heart of our work is in building and marketing web assets that produce revenue and leads,” Mitchell shares. “For both B2B and B2C clients, that’s the vision that drives everything we do.”
But while that mandate may be tightly defined, its application is quite broad. “We’ve got a wide range of clients,” says Mitchell, “with very different outcomes positioned as the goals for the work we do. An insurance agency might be looking for the online traffic that will lead to quote requests. But a restaurant client wants the more direct conversion that will put butts into seats. Every customer presents a new challenge for finding the incentive that will prompt a click. Our technical and marketing expertise makes us efficient at discovering how to do just that. But the unknown aspects of each client’s particular business is what inspires our excitement—and the growth that strengthens our team.”
That growth led ID to take a long, hard look at its local industry neighbors. “There’s a lot of top talent in Boston,” says Mitchell, “but there’s top competition for it too. We’ve got high standards for the kind of pros who are building Digital Impulse’s reputation, but when we’re competing with firms like Arnold, Mullen, and Hill Holiday, it can be a challenge to match the salaries being offered by agencies of their size.
That challenge got Mitchell thinking about the city that lies across the river from his hometown. Portland Maine’s regular appearance in national top-ten lists of best places to live has drawn a host of creative pros to the trendy town on Casco Bay. Mitchell knew firsthand about the mix of in-town amenities and outdoor adventure that’s attracting the kind of original thinkers who are the lifeblood of any vibrant marketing agency.
“We took a risk opening up a Portland office,” shares Mitchell, “but to not take it may have presented an even bigger one by leaving us short-staffed. It required developing a new style of creative collaboration to partner with our remote team members. But we thought the benefits of having a foothold in a hotbed of creative talent was worth exploring. We’ve got four of our team in Portland now, and we’re supporting our virtual relationships with them with regular in-person visits.”
DI’s move is the kind of small, iterative change any modern business needs to implement in order to survive in today’s dynamic market. It’s already pointed to another benefit that Mitchell and Kolidas both hoped to realize when they first opened their Portland office a year ago. Digital Impulse is now exploring business opportunities with other Maine companies, and has its eye trained on leveraging its Portland location to continue that trend. That intent reflects the company’s insight into the promotional power of local networking. A viral fire sparked by Di’s Maine presence could catch quickly to give the agency a regional advantage two hours north of its big-city competitors.
Mitchell cites another value of the company’s Portland office. It’s one that may yield less immediate benefits, but that could have the kind of enduring strength that will build the DI brand. “The slide in our pitch deck that gets the most dramatic reaction is the one that announces our Portland location. The ‘cool’ factor or Portland is undeniable,” he states. “Our location there immediately promotes the perception that we’re the kind of hip and free-thinking company that can generate new revenue from fresh ideas.”
In conclusion, however, Mitchell will be the first to admit that the inspiration for binging business back home extends far beyond the bottom line. “The pace of life in Boston can get pretty intense,” he says. “There’s a different vibe in Maine. It’s definitely slower, but that tempo also seems to make people a little less aggressive and more friendly. It’s something you can feel both in the office and out.”
Mitchell says he looks forward to that shift in gears every time he drives over the bridge between Portsmouth and Kittery that leads back to his home town. Like so many on the northern side of that river, he’s deeply grateful to be able to spend at least part of his time living and working in Maine.