Since its founding in 2016, Forefront Communications has evolved from an idea born from in-house marketing frustrations to an interdisciplinary, award-winning marcomms powerhouse. How, exactly, did we get here? Summer intern Sasha Soucek provides a peek behind the curtain.
Seven years ago, Mark Dowd and Eric Soderberg put their heads together and embarked on a journey to revolutionize the marketing and communications landscape for the capital markets and B2B fintech space. As industry veterans with decades of experience working in-house for brokers and institutional fintechs, Mark and Eric realized they were facing many of the same recurring issues when it came to working with outsourced marcomms agencies, with a lack of industry and market knowledge consistently leading to lackluster results. They realized there was an urgent need in the market for a full-service firm capable of addressing the challenges that had historically created tension between client and agency.
Fueled by this vision, Mark and Eric laid the foundation for what would eventually become Forefront Communications. The pair set out to create a new type of agency, one with in-depth knowledge of the industry, hands-on experience dealing with the ins and outs of in-house marketing and a full menu of services.
A Different Type of Agency
To perhaps state the obvious, starting a business from scratch is no easy task – it requires collaborative effort and a plan for any challenge that may arise along the way. When Mark and Eric first embarked on their entrepreneurial journey, they faced numerous hurdles. With no outside investment capital, they had to become profitable quickly. In addition, neither Mark nor Eric had run their own business before, so learning the ropes of HR, taxes, leases and the like was daunting.
Thankfully, a robust support system, consisting of industry friends-turned-clients and encouraging spouses and family members, emerged as a strong source of encouragement and guidance. This fast-growing network of unwavering support and belief in Mark and Eric’s vision gave Forefront the initial boost it needed to kickstart its success. The early-stage clients such as DASH, LiquidityBook and Luminex who placed their trust in the co-founders were crucial to establishing the agency’s credibility. Thanks to their early adoption and ongoing collaboration, Forefront was on the way to making a name for itself in.
One key part of this process was starting small, identifying a niche target audience within the larger capital markets and fintech landscape. Mark and Eric chose to stick with the area that had formed most of their career experience to date: institutional trading. From there, Forefront quickly branched out to service clients in other sectors, from data providers and developer platforms all the way to insurance technology vendors.
Another distinctive aspect of this journey was the departure from a traditional agency service model. The co-founders chose to embrace a more innovative approach, forging a new path as they went along. This manifested in the establishment of three distinct practice areas: Media Relations, Digital Marketing and Content. By emphasizing resourcefulness, knowledge and innovation, Mark and Eric built a highly effective team across all three areas, enabling Forefront to serve its clients both comprehensively and in highly targeted ways.
Finally, Forefront made a conscious decision to prioritize its clients’ news, rather than focus on self-promotion. By allowing these firms to benefit from Forefront-owned distribution channels, such as social media, a daily newsletter and its very own podcast series, the agency continues to make good on its mission to help its clients get noticed, as opposed to tooting its own horn. While the firm has grown immensely, this core tenet continues to this day.
Quality Work Meets Industry Recognition
Much of what Forefront has accomplished to date goes back to its founding principle: do quality work for clients and everything else will fall into place. By adhering to this core philosophy, Forefront has evolved into a successful, dynamic agency with over a dozen full-time employees and a robust roster of clients spanning the capital markets and institutional fintech. The agency has bolstered its credibility by working with companies ranging from startups to established firms and bringing new brands from launch to leadership. Forefront has won numerous awards over the past seven years, solidifying its place in the B2B marcomms agency world.
One of Mark and Eric’s top priorities was to establish their team as capital markets experts through thought leadership content and a strong social media presence. A critical element of this mission was the creation of a daily newsletter – the Forefront Fintech Digest – recapping the top headlines in the capital markets industry. With a growing subscriber base of 3000+ industry professionals, the Digest keeps clients informed of the latest news and is a strong example how Forefront keeps its finger on the pulse of the markets.
No agency can reach its full potential without a strong company culture at its core. One of the many things that makes Forefront unique is its people. Per Mark, his proudest professional accomplishment has been hiring a group who’s “collectively created a supportive, collaborative culture that prizes hard work and smarts and kindness and people seem to genuinely be a part of.” This culture is rounded out by a robust set of compensation, health and work-life balance benefits.
Forefront also empowers employees to grow and flourish in their desired focus areas. According to Mark, much of the agency’s best work, as well as the build-out of its three-practice-area-structure, has been because of the efforts of early-career professionals who’ve taken their opportunity and run with it. The result has been a very low attrition rate.
A lot has changed in the seven years since Forefront’s founding, but its core values of communication, collaboration, respect and integrity – as well its commitment to constant improvement – have remained the same. From building new brand identities and websites to helping navigate communications crises, Forefront continues to drive meaningful business results that make its clients stand out from the pack.
As the fintech landscape continues to evolve, one thing is certain: Forefront will employ its highly specialized, deeply experienced staff to remain at the helm of innovation and rise to any challenge, come what may.