Growing Business from the Inside Out

with Patrick Hopkins, President and CEO, Imaginasium

Guest host Craig Dickman speaks with our own Patrick Hopkins about Imaginasium’s unique approach to marketing and communications, the importance of culture in building a great brand, and Imaginasium’s philosophy on helping clients become the best versions of themselves. Imaginasium helps manufacturing leaders drive profitable growth and change through strategic marketing and communications, from the inside out.


Craig: Hello, Pat Hopkins, welcome to Coffee and CEOs.
Pat: We have to have courage to tell the hard truths. That’s the only way that we bring value. You know, you might have a client walk away from you. I’d much rather have them walk away from us and have respect for us than to do the wrong thing for them.
Craig: Well the great thing about today is we’ve been willing to switch tables and take a little different look at Coffee and CEOs, because while you’ve been hosting this program for some time, and I am sure you’ve learned a great deal, there’s a lot about the Pat Hopkins and Imaginasium story that I think would be interesting to tell.
Pat: Yeah.
Craig: So perhaps you can start off and just tell me a little bit about Imaginasium and some of the things that you think are really unique about the business that you started.
Pat: Sure. So Imaginasium, we’ve been around since about 1992. We’ve gone through a whole progression of—started as a design firm—but really where we are now is, we work with manufacturing leaders to help them drive profitable growth and change within their organizations. So we do a lot of the things that a typical marketing firm does on the outside, but we also work with them on some of the inside culture communications, and really helping their people to understand what their role is in delivering the brand, so that they can deliver a great customer experience on the outside. And there’s a lot of data that backs up, if your people are engaged—highly engaged—you see an increase in profitability, you see an increase in productivity, you see an increase in customer engagement, and a decrease in turnover. And that’s what we really try to help them with in a wide variety of areas.
Craig: Interesting. Now, you said, you mentioned kind of marketing from the inside, and I know that one of the things you talk about as an organization is Inside-Out Marketing. Can you share a little bit more about what that is and what’s unique about it in the market?
Pat: Sure. So, when we first started talking about brand alignment a number of years back, there wasn’t a lot of focus among firms like ours on the internal side. Those were very niched firms. And what we had kept seeing was, if we worked with a company on their outside marketing, a lot of times it was—the people on the inside were relegating that to “it’s, oh it’s just a marketing thing, it’s a marketing message, I really don’t know much about that.” They really didn’t understand the role that they had in delivering on that. And what we started finding was, if we could help their people really be ambassadors and really understand their own individual roles within the brand, they don’t have to spend as much on marketing on the outside, because they’re delivering a great experience that keeps their customers coming back. So it goes beyond, for us, internal communication. So when we say Inside-Out Marketing, we’ll work with an organization to really develop their story, develop their brand, what they’re going to tell the outside world, but it’s really based on their culture of who they are and trying to be able to bring that culture to the outside world.
Craig: You mentioned culture a couple of times in there, so how important do you see the connection between culture and marketing?
Pat: It’s huge. And this isn’t a manufacturer, per se, but look at Zappos. They’re probably the best example of that. That they built their whole thing on culture, and really getting their people engaged in it so they’re delivering a great experience. Sure, they went out and did marketing, but it was very authentic marketing. They were making promises that they could deliver on. And we just firmly believe that if those people aren’t bought in at a very visceral level—and I am not talking about just getting the right communications out to them, I’m talking about what are the actions that they have to have around their brand—if they’re bought in that far, then all the stuff you do on the outside is going to be great, because that’s the experience they’re going to deliver. And we have to get them excited about delivering that experience.
Craig: With a business model that’s so focused on culture, how do you think that’s impacted the culture that you’ve built at Imaginasium?
Pat: It makes us pay more attention to it more, and it’s, frankly, a little tougher on us who are trying to lead the organization, because people pay attention to it more. I think we are—I think what we’re really trying to build there is a place that’s collaborative, a place that people can come and do some of their best work every day. Really our job as leaders for ourselves is to help our people be the best version of themselves that they can be. And I think our staff feels that way about our clients, is it’s their job to help them be the best version of themselves that they can be and communicate that. I’d say that’s what our culture is built around, and I think that’s what our people have a real passion for.

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Imaginasium helps manufacturing leaders drive profitable growth and change through inside-out marketing—building communication programs that drive culture, draw customers, and deliver a superior customer experience.