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May 25, 2017

The Journey of a Boxer: A Retrospective

May 25, 2017

As I prepare for a new career adventure, I’ve spent the week reflecting on my journey as a SmallBoxer, which has included an amazing number of roles, responsibilities and client projects over a 7+ year span. It’s been an honor to work with such a talented team, and in many ways I owe the majority of what I have learned in my career from them and our clients. Upon reflection, it dawned on me that there were 4 major "movements" in our client work during this time:

“Mastering” Digital Marketing

I don’t know if anyone can truly “master” digital marketing since it changes so quickly, but boy did I try. I began at SmallBox with a focus on spinning up a digital marketing team and offerings in 2010. At the time, the industry was very tactically-minded... Google adwords + SEO + decent website + email + social media + analytics = results.

I was able to experiment with almost every platform and tactic under the sun while working with the ecommerce and Indianapolis flooring experts Floors To Your Home. They invited me into their family (it truly is a family business) and together we cooked up and quickly implemented all kinds of fun marketing ideas. Because they have a large focus on ecommerce and online shopping, we were able to quickly see the results of our ideas and iterate. 


In 2014 SmallBox was selected to perform a communications audit for the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), which is an international organization with 50,000+ constituents in the exercise science field. This project gave us the “clearance” to research deeply and widely across their organization, including audience focus group facilitation at their Annual Meeting in Orlando, surveys, digital communications data analysis, you name it!

We found that in such a large and multidisciplinary organization, communications can be impacted by bigger-picture challenges in operations, culture, and organizational strategy. Providing strategic recommendations to assist ACSM with systemic opportunities allowed me to see the big picture in a way I’d never experienced. In many ways it helped me find my confidence as a strategic consultant.

Brand > Offerings

Fast forward to 2015, when we began to work with a non profit educational product called Borrower Connect. Their main goal started with interest in capitalizing on a maturing market that helps students with counseling when they default on their school loans. After a thorough empathy research phase we quickly saw a market opportunity that couldn’t be ignored: preventative education.

President Craig Anderson embraced this information and from there the brand and organizational strategy evolved in unison...a new company, Student Connections, was born! Not only did we help them bring this new brand to life, but we’ve also played a leadership role in helping educate their team on marketing, brand and user experience best practices, which has allowed them to go from crawling to sprinting in 12 months. This process helped me firmly grasp how powerful brand strategy can be when it is allowed to inform business strategy (not just marketing).

Coach Dan

Over the past year, we have been working closely with the IU Alumni Association on a mission critical initiative: designing a brand new member experience from the ground up. This is a major challenge, especially because the IU Alumni audience is comprised of 650,000+ people spanning every generation, across the world. This is not a 1-size-fits all solution.

We designed our engagement to play two unique roles: educator and coach, with a goal of empowering a cross-functional task force with the design thinking toolkit to use in their work. Teaching (not doing) was new for me and helped me realize how powerful coaching and therapy can be to pull off such a large feat.

Working at SmallBox has been an amazing journey, for which I'm eternally grateful. If you're reading this, chances are you have played a role in some form or fashion...so thank you!

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