Growing a Digital Marketing Agency
Growing a Digital Marketing Agency Through Careful Planning: Response Labs

What do you really want to do? What is your niche? They seem like basic questions, but when you are starting and building a new business, it’s easy to lose sight of what is most important to you. As Response Labs has discovered, growth is exciting but also presents a challenge: how to ensure you are doing the work you love and attracting clients and employees who are a good fit. The digital CRM and loyalty marketing agency with offices in downtown Baltimore and Seattle has experienced much growth since its founding in 2014, but that growth has not come without periodic reevaluation.

Growth and Evolution

After Response Labs had been operating for about two years, the founders (Dan Dawes, Jeffrey Rudolf, and Brian Langston) conducted a branding exercise with an outside consultant. They determined that their passion was data-driven CRM and loyalty marketing strategy and execution. They repositioned the agency and adopted the tagline, “Make Every Message Matter” as their brand essence, representing what they work toward with their clients.

At the end of 2019, Response Labs began using OKRs – objectives and key results – to guide the company on its growth trajectory. Leadership set objectives at the company level, shared them with the team, and then individual employees created their own objectives that aligned with the company objectives. With the goal of being known for their expertise and intelligent staff, the OKRs served as a way to get everyone aligned for ongoing professional development.

After finishing 2020 with no losses and even some new clients, Response Labs set ambitious goals for 2021. By the end of the year, they hope to double both their number of clients and the size of their team. But in keeping with their introspective approach, they intend to be deliberate, always considering the implications for their business. Leaning heavily on their partnership and expertise with Salesforce Marketing Cloud and investing in programmatic media planning with the Trade Desk and AdRoll are key to this growth as well. 

Finding a Fit

Knowing that helping clients improve their customer relationships through intelligent use of data is their value proposition, Response Labs looks for clients who view them as a partner. Doing so allows for more open, two-way communication in helping their campaign or program succeed. In their initial calls with potential clients, they not only want to determine the client’s immediate CRM or loyalty needs, but also how those needs fit into the larger business objectives. This allows Response Labs to provide more holistic digital marketing solutions. When meeting with a new client the first time, they also like to make clear that Response Labs is supportive working openly and collaboratively with other agency partners or internal teams to get the job done. 

When hiring new team members, skills and experience in the agency’s areas of focus are important, but Response Labs also looks for the intangibles. Hiring employees who are passionate about marketing, curious about digital innovation, and eager to problem-solve, along with the ability to be a leader among colleagues and clients. There is no “B” team at Response Labs. While recruitment and hiring have been a challenge during the pandemic, Response Labs has used the shift to remote work as an opportunity to hire talent outside the Baltimore area. Devoting the “About Us” page on their website to highlighting current employees and their interests and activities has received positive feedback from candidates.

Response Labs leadership advises growing companies to be honest with themselves from the beginning, be clear about what they want to do and revisit those plans each year. Hiring is also key. Build a company that invests in the team and whole-heartedly supports employees’ outside lives and provides them with flexibility. Just like CRM and loyalty, building a successful company is all about creating and nurturing mutually beneficial relationships.


Response Labs is a digital CRM marketing agency in Baltimore and Seattle. Response Labs is a proud AMA Baltimore sponsor.