Grapevine firm on the marketing ascent

A. Lee Graham

Ascend Marketing LLC is the marketing department that many companies lack, according to the Grapevine firm, which is celebrating 10 years in business. From its 3,500-square-foot main office, an ambitious marketing team helps clients tap new business not by contacting prospects directly, but rather by customizing tools and approaches for each client. “What sets us apart is our business model. It’s very different,” said Rich Herbst, who co-founded the firm with Topper Pardoe, another former corporate marketer eager to strike out on his own.

From modest digs along West Vickery Boulevard in Fort Worth, the duo conceived a marketing firm to bridge digital technology and data in what Herbst calls engagement marketing. And it appears to be working. From Sabre Airline Solutions and Verizon to Alcatel-Lucent and Marriott Corp., Ascend counts several heavyweight firms as clients. Many of those companies want new clientele but are unsure, or uncomfortable, with drumming up new business, as not every company is marketing-savvy. Rather than simply seeking new businesses for those customers, Ascend learns and rebuilds client companies’ marketing muscle. Using digital tools, it builds websites, delivers communication streams through email and social media, and integrates online content and email and social media marketing.

On the data side, it deals in analytics and marketing databases to deliver target-marketing. “Think of the main sweet spot as digital and data-oriented marketing. Those often intersect,” Herbst said. Acting as an extension of a company’s marketing department, Ascend updates content on that company’s website and updates blogs and other functions normally done by an internal marketing team. Ascend acts as that marketing muscle while enabling clients to avoid the overhead and costs of operating their own internal marketing department. Many companies outsource to Ascend and other firms, but Ascend insists its approach stands out among the competition.

- FWBP Digital Partners -

With that approach Ascend not only is marking 10 years in business but also is poised for expansion. Such growth was on Herbst’s mind when Pardoe acquired Fort Worth-based Rainbow Advertising and Promotions in 2004, creating a launch pad for Ascend. The businesses never formally combined yet worked together while operating in the same Vickery Boulevard space. Ascend maintains that Fort Worth office, but focuses more on its Grapevine office as clients multiply in Northeast Tarrant County. It opened an Austin location last summer when it acquired Yellowfin Design + Strategy, a firm whose digital design acumen seemed tailor-made for Ascend. “We were talking with companies in so many cities, but the conversation with Yellowfin just clicked immediately,” said Herbst, who had sought a presence in Austin.

“We envisioned expanding in new cities, and Austin seemed like a first natural step. Its pool of digital marketing, technology and creative talent made the capital city a natural for establishing a presence”, Herbst said. Beefing up that Austin space and exploring new service delivery methods has Ascend in expansion mode as it enters a new year. “We’ll definitely be hiring,” said Herbst, whose firm currently employs 35 salaried employees and four contractors. “We’re not moving into new types of marketing next year, but we will build out a greater level of sophistication in the way we deliver services,” Herbst said.