In the frosty Washington winter of 2007, Matt Bitzer and Chris Jones set sail on an epic journey in the world of hotel digital marketing. With a vision to bring the hotel industry into the 21st century, Matt and Chris formed Blue Magnet Interactive, built a phenomenal team of talented marketers, and forged amazing relationships with our hospitality partners. Over the years, Blue Magnet has expanded and improved our marketing services, helped hundreds of hoteliers from around the country navigate Google’s sometimes flummoxing algorithm, and raised the bar for what hotel marketing should be. We’ve attended and presented at dozens of conferences, won awards for our successes, and established ourselves as thought leaders in our industry. Heck, we even have an office in Portland now.
We’ve also had a whole bunch of fun! Our team has crisscrossed the city in pursuit of Chicago’s best cocktail (spoiler alert: it might be Cere’s), thrown down the gauntlet on the Whirlyball court, lived like millionaires on our annual yacht cruises, and consumed more quarts of Qdoba queso than we’d like to admit. We take Halloween frighteningly seriously. We boast one of the worst kickball records in league history. And we can’t wait for another ten years of digital marketing mayhem with our fun and talented Blue Magneteers!
A Message from Matt and Chris
There is an immense pride and fulfillment that comes with building a company through a decade of life. There is a tremendous sense of accomplishment, and to some extent, comfort, upon reaching our 10th anniversary. After all, Blue Magnet is no longer able to contribute to that grim statistic that “most new businesses fail within the first ten years”.
With that threat behind us, surely we can breathe a sigh of relief? We have beaten the nay-sayers. We have beaten the doubters. We have beaten the critics and the business prophets. We are no longer destined to become another casualty propping up that menacing trope.
Nevertheless, this familiar statistic of failed businesses — a warning shot meant to separate the risk takers from the risk-averse — still weigh heavy on the mind of every business owner who has placed that initial bet on their own abilities, and Blue Magnet is no exception. Every sale lost to a competitor, every unpaid invoice, every increase in health insurance premiums, every team member who leaves, every new government regulation that threatens to consume more time or money, and every little insignificant task that distracts us from the greater company goals, lends a little more credence to that tired, old maxim haunting entrepreneurs since the inception of their business. Now in year 10, we reflect and clearly see that our success has been built by what we’ve learned along the way.
Our Team Reflects on Ten Years at Blue Magnet
Over the past ten years, our team has experienced a variety of marketing successes, a-ha moments, and fun times with pals. To commemorate this exciting milestone, we’ve asked the team to reflect on their time at Blue Magnet.
Here’s what our team of talented, trusted, taco-loving, Star Wars-watching, brewery-hopping, joke-cracking, coffee-drinking, gong-ringing, digital marketing nerds have to say!
What is your best moment at Blue Magnet?
“My best moment at Blue Magnet is more fun than work, but it was when Matt went all out for Halloween and transformed the office into a haunted house. The best part is when both him and Chris arrived to the office extra early to hide and scare the everyone.”
“My first day! Everyone was incredibly welcoming and helpful, and I felt like a real part of the team almost immediately.”
“During our most recent holiday party we went to a cooking class. Before the class began a few members of the team (myself included) volunteered to make pizzas for a pre-class appetizer. I have an obsession with pizza and love cooking so I was proud to show off my skills and help make what turned out to be a great snack for the team.”
“Two days after I started with Blue Magnet we had a boat cruise, I knew then this was the place for me!”
“Spinning the wheel.”
“My best moment at Blue Magnet has to be the first time I presented at Lunch and Learn showing off a simple Excel tool I built to assist them in keyword research for their clients. The genuine, positive reaction when I was done made me feel amazing!”
“Discovering the hidden powers of STR reports.”
“I very much enjoyed fighting in the trenches with my co-workers. And by trenches, I mean laser tag arena.”
10 Years of Business Lessons
If ten years in business has taught us anything, it is there is no place for complacency. We celebrate the successes and learn from the failures and we know we will always have to fight for that success. Yes, some things have gotten easier with time. We have grown wiser and more selective in our business.
Our internal systems and processes have become more efficient. We know what skills and personality traits to look for and what to avoid in hiring new team members. We are more competitive and hungrier for success than we’ve ever been. We are stronger strategists and can more effectively assess the needs of our hotel partners. We have better leaders within our company and more capable teams that collaborate more productively.
We are absolutely positive that Blue Magnet is a company worth fighting for, and that is why we have always been optimistic about this agency’s path, regardless of tea leaf prophesies of business soothsayers. Everyone in this company is ready to fight the good fight because they stand behind our company’s vision and believe in our ongoing mission.
Like the SEO services we provide to our customers, one can’t just achieve success and expect to maintain it indefinitely without further effort. The fires of that success need to be constantly fueled to sustain positive and productive growth year over year. In business, like in SEO, there is no finish line. It is a never-ending battle. Our Director of SEO, musing about search engine optimization, once said, “You must continue to scrape the barnacles off the ship if you want it to keep it afloat and sailing smoothly through the water.” After all, competitors get stronger and fight for the same market. Adaptability is essential, complacency a death sentence.
What is one of your favorite projects that you’ve worked on?
“With the help of some pals, I built a really goofy, quirky, and fun Renaissance Faire landing page for the Embassy Suites Arcadia. Not knowing how the client was going to react to the odd-ball content, I went all-in on the Ren-Faire theme. The client totally loved it – especially when they saw the page’s astounding conversion rates.”
“The Flavors of Hilton food and beverage team intranet website redesign — this massive project was Blue Magnet’s first real chance to prove itself as a digital agency. The successful launch of that site lead to a lot of other exciting business opportunities for Blue Magnet.”
“Working on the Food Truck Campaign and the Sky Room Campaign.”
“The Blue Magnet Blog! I love having the opportunity to work with every team member in every department, assist in coming up with topics and ideas, and read all of the amazing tips, tricks, and trends they have to share. Everyone on the Blue Magnet team is innovative, insightful, and creative and it’s fun to have a part in helping them showcase their knowledge.”
“Designing and building valetchicago.net was a great project to work on. It was a great experience to have a hand on everything from project conception to site launch.”
“Working on a team to help design Blue Magnet’s mastheads for our redesigned site.”
“I’ve really loved working with the SEO team and the Design & Development team in implementing A/B testing to develop better on-site content for our client’s websites.”
“I love the challenge of managing different hotel voices across various social media platforms.”
What is something you have learned while working at Blue Magnet?
“Mistakes are excellent learning experiences. Don’t focus on your mishaps, focus on how you can set the bar higher for yourself every time you are faced with a challenge.”
“I’ve learned a lot of new skills and tools in social media. It’s been truly invaluable.”
“One of my most valued skills I’ve gained from working at Blue magnet has been learning all of the different aspects of online marketing needed to reach client goals. There’s nothing better than making your client’s goals a reality and seeing all of your hard work pay off.”
“There’s always something new to learn.”
“The team here is fun, collaborative, and always willing to help.”
“Before I started at BMI I barely understood Google Analytics. As I grew into the SEO aspect of my first position here I became more and more skilled at discovering data and tracking user activity across our diverse portfolio of websites. I have learned that the secret of being a skilled marketer is being able to track what your audience engages with, what they like and dislike, and how to use that information to present the most valuable content to your audience.”
“Be a #GirlBoss. Work hard, stay humble, and be kind. You will be amazed at what you can accomplish.”
Taking Stock in Blue Magnet’s Accomplishments
We are ten years in and our fight has just begun. What started in 2006 as a casual discussion about the future of digital marketing between two Hilton colleagues, today we are a thriving agency. Based in Chicago, we employ more than twenty talented and passionate digital marketers and have provided services to hundreds of satisfied customers across the globe — from our own backyard here in Chicago to exotic destinations like New Zealand and Croatia. We brought this company to life, but it is our dedicated team who has given it strength and momentum. Blue Magnet survived by growing beyond the abilities of just Chris and Matt. It had to. Blue Magnet Interactive survived 10 extraordinary years in the cutthroat world of digital marketing. Not just survived, but thrived. We may have the vision for this company’s success, but Blue Magnet will make it to year twenty and beyond because of the heart and soul our team puts into every minute of their day — and for that, we are eternally grateful.
Each passing year of business brings greater confidence, but past years of success are never a guarantee of similar future performance. Every year Blue Magnet must be mindful of the threats, stay vigilant for new opportunities, and remain focused on company growth.
What is your favorite aspect of BMI culture?
“The Blue Magneteers’ unwavering commitment to tacos, jokes, cakeballs, and Rand Fishkin’s alarmingly high hair.”
“Lunchtime Netflix has always been a great break from the day to relax and socialize before getting back to the grind.”
“My favorite aspect is our happy hours. It’s a great opportunity for all of us to catch up with everyone that we may not normally talk to on a daily basis. That, and most of us can’t say no to charcuterie.”
“I just love the overall culture at BMI. Everyone is respectful, helpful, and kind to one another and it makes the work space so much more enjoyable and even fun.”
“Kickball games in the summer, even when they are rained out and we hang out at a delightfully lame bar instead. (Which happens half the time, doesn’t it?)”
“My favorite aspect of BMI culture is our “work hard, play hard” mentality. Our team is extremely hardworking and always aiming to do better for our clients. I love that we are rewarded for our hard work through company outings, happy hours, catered lunches… the list goes on.”
Another 10 Years
Blue Magnet knows the risks of this uncharted path. The digital landscape is ever-changing, our competitors are strengthening their arsenals, and clients expect better results in shorter time frames. We are going to have to work even harder to forge ahead in the next ten years, but we chose this path. We took this risk because it is the most exciting, most challenging, and most rewarding adventure that we have ever embarked upon and we are ready to take on the next 10 years.
A Toast to the Future
Over the last ten years, this journey has taken us to some truly exciting, memorable, and unique places. We’ve committed ourselves to excellence, surrounded ourselves with passionate, talented people, and achieved more than we could have ever imagined when broke onto the scene in 2007. As the birthday celebration winds down and we march into our eleventh year of strategic hotel marketing, our team wants to leave you with a few words about what makes Blue Magnet such an amazing place to call home.
But first, let’s raise a glass (of Malort) to ten more years of innovation, success, and setting the standard for digital hotel marketing! Cheers!