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March 6, 2018

Goodbye, Treefrog: I’m Leaving Our Marketing Agency to Run My Own Small Business


Three years ago, I was having a rough day at work. I left a meeting and went back to my office annoyed, flustered, and knowing that I’d be working all night. I said a quick prayer, turned on my computer, and instead of getting to work, I googled “Christian marketing agency near me.”

And, Treefrog appeared.

Just an hour away from where my husband (Zach) and I lived at the time, Treefrog was a Christian-based, small business marketing agency. I read every page of the website, skimmed through the blog, and thought, “This place can’t actually exist. It’s too perfect.”

So, I went to the “Contact” page of the website, attached my resume, and asked if they were hiring. By the end of the day, I received an email from Megan—the content director at the time—saying they had an opening for a content developer. Megan asked for writing samples, and we chose an interview time for later that week. And, a little over a month later, I was officially a Treefrogger!  

Now, it’s three years later, and I can’t believe I’m saying goodbye. (Well, not really goodbye. Kelly has agreed to let me run my business from the Treefrog office. More on that in a minute!) I’ve been blessed to serve as a content developer at Treefrog and even more blessed to serve as the content director for the last year and a half.

Leaving has been a really tough decision. I mean, working here has been a dream, but after a lot of prayer and number crunching, my husband and I have decided that the best move for our family is for me to pursue photography full time.

I’m leaving my job at our small business marketing agency to run my own small business.

I started at Treefrog in June 2015, and in December of that year, I opened Victoria Rayburn Photography. Before this, I was second shooting for a local photographer on the side.

During my first year at Treefrog, God started working on my heart, and I felt the need not just to second shoot but to open my own photography business.

And, I have to say that this never would’ve been possible without the help of the Treefroggers. Erin created my logo and print materials; Kelly has answered countless business questions for me; Kelly and Jen answered my web design questions (and fixed my website every time I broke something); Megan proofread my site; Mary fit my projects in the schedule; Vanessa (who is also a photographer and our former art director) has been an amazing resource; and several have supported my business by booking sessions. I wouldn’t have a business without these amazing people!

Over the last two and a half years, my photography business has grown and resulted in me having two full-time jobs. Knowing I needed to pick one—as much as I didn’t want to and wish there could just be more hours in a day—I’ve decided that photography is where I need to go.

So, I’m leaving Treefrog to be a full-time family and wedding photographer, as well as to help other photographers learn how to market themselves!

I’m leaving Treefrog with five big takeaways for both my business and my life.

I’ve learned about a million things since starting at Treefrog. But, when I Iook back on the last three years, five lessons come to mind:

1. A small business won’t be successful without a marketing strategy.

Today, there are about a million and one marketing options and tactics. However, not every marketing option will work for your business or give you the ROI you’re hoping for.

To successfully reach and speak to your best customers, you need a marketing strategy designed with your business, goals, and target audience in mind.

Once you have a strategy in place, every marketing choice you make needs to be derived from your strategy. Every blog topic, web page, Instagram post, or whatever else should be created to help your strategy in some way so you can reach your goals and watch your business grow.  

2. You can’t be great at everything, which is why you need a team.

In the midst of the DIY movement, it’s so easy to think you can do everything yourself—especially if you’re a small business owner trying to save a little money. But, in reality, this is a misconception that can harm your business.

For example, I’m a photographer and a copywriter. My expertise does not lie in designing websites, downloads, banners, or anything else for that matter. Sure, I can haphazardly try to design marketing materials, but they won’t be as great as they could be. If a designer creates this instead, I can use my skills on another project that can benefit my business or a Treefrog client.

This is why we have a team of Treefroggers with different specialties. And, this is why you, as a small business owner, should be willing to invest in marketing assistance, an accountant, a lawyer, and any other business aspect you aren’t an expert in.

Be great at what you’re great at, and be willing to let other talented people help you fill in the gaps. No successful small business owner can be an island.  

3. The marketing industry is constantly changing, and your business has to be able to adapt.  

I’m not sure which changes faster: Indiana weather or Google and social media algorithms. I can’t tell you how many times SEO, social media, and website best practices have changed since I’ve been at Treefrog.

The marketing industry can literally change overnight, and it can be hard to adjust. But, to compete with big businesses, small businesses have to be able to adapt.

If you’re a small business owner, you either need to have a marketing professional on your staff who can help you adjust to these changes or invest in a marketing agency (or at least a freelancer) who can help you with these changes.

82% of people conduct online research before investing in a product or service. When you adapt to the latest marketing trends and algorithms, you can help your customers easily find you online. This will give your small business even more of a chance to succeed!

4. It’s an amazing thing when your coworkers are your tribe.

Oh, boy. Now I’m going to get emotional. As much as I love my job and what I do at Treefrog, I love the people even more.

I commuted from Rensselaer, Indiana for a year before we made the move to be closer to Treefrog. We’re just an hour from home now, but that’s still far enough to be “away.” I was never worried about this though, because by the time we moved to Lafayette, we already had a tribe of people who loved and cared for us in our new city.

I’m thankful to call my coworkers some of my best friends, and I honestly mean that. Zach and I visited Mary in Tampa for a week earlier this year; Megan and I regularly meet for coffee or have “wine and muffin dates” on my couch; I’m photographing Vanessa’s birth any day now; Kelly has become a mentor to me in more ways than she knows; Jen (who now lives in California and was our art director after Vanessa) and I text probably every other week to discuss This Is Us; Angel knows more about my life than almost anyone because we share an office and I talk a lot (Sorry, Angel.); Erin is Hattie’s (my mini goldendoodle’s) God momma and has a key to our house so she can pick Hattie up whenever she wants; and I’m photographing Alaina’s wedding this summer.

People usually try to separate their professional and personal lives. But, at Treefrog, we don’t have to. We value one another, and Treefrog has given us a connection that goes beyond our employment.

5. When you let God lead, things work out.

By nature, I like to have a plan. I want to know what comes next, how we’re going to get there, and what steps need to be completed. Working at Treefrog has taught me that it’s okay not to have a plan. (We 100% have plans and strategies for our clients. Don’t worry!)

Over the last three years, God has given us the right employees the second we need them, clients who are perfect fits that we’ve never tried to sell to, and resources at the perfect times.

For example, Kelly was literally on her way to sign a lease for a building that would’ve been fine for us, but we weren’t excited about it. (It wasn’t downtown.) Before she signed, we got a call from Rob at SFP letting us know there was a space opening up in the Fountain Trust building. This is now our current location and a location we’d been hoping would become available since I started at Treefrog.

I love when clients ask Kelly what her vision for Treefrog is because every time she says, “I have no idea. I pray about it, but every time I do, God tells me, ‘Just keep doing what you’re doing.’

God has provided for Treefrog in miraculous ways that only He can, and as a result, Treefrog has seen immense growth since 2013. I’ve loved being part of Treefrog’s growth and can’t wait to see what comes next for this small business marketing agency.  

I’m excited for this next phase of life, thankful for the time I’ve been part of this small business marketing agency, and forever grateful to be a Treefrogger.

– Victoria Rayburn

Our proven marketing protocol helps companies make more money, free up time, and plan an effective strategy.

Treefrog Marketing is an agency in Lafayette, Indiana focused on small business. We specialize in strategic marketing and advertising, graphic design, web design, social media, SEO, and more. For more information, please visit our website. You can also connect with us on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram.

Leverage Kelly’s marketing experience, insights, and leadership to grow your business.

As the founder and chief marketing strategist at Treefrog Marketing, a co-host of the Priority Pursuit Podcast, a StoryBrand Certified Guide, and fractional chief marketing officer, Kelly Rice has spent more than two decades helping small businesses take their companies to the next level by providing trustworthy leadership and building effective marketing strategies and systems.

She has dedicated her career to helping small businesses succeed because she knows, firsthand, how hard they work to make their communities a better place. 

Still, many people undervalue the strength and ingenuity of small businesses, but not Kelly. She believes they deserve to have a marketing partner and strategy that works as hard as they do.

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