By GREGORY ZELLER //
Sprinting out of the Walk Before You Can Run File comes Dean DeCarlo, who’s landed a first-ever national account for his upstart digital-marketing firm Mission Disrupt Ltd.
While the big-time score – developing a national digital strategy for ACCSES NJ, a not-for-profit advocating for persons with disabilities in New Jersey – comes several weeks before the Westbury startup’s second anniversary, DeCarlo and his team took the slow-and-steady route to winning the national account.
The journey began in February, when DeCarlo was invited to speak at a conference hosted by New York State Industries for the Disabled, a 42-year-old Albany-based nonprofit where DeCarlo had interned as a SUNY Albany marketing student.
Dedicated to employing New Yorkers with disabilities, NYSID is essentially the Empire State’s version of ACCSES NJ, which had representatives in the audience for DeCarlo’s presentation on disruptive marketing – and liked it.
Mission Disrupt was eventually hired for an ambitious website-development project, custom-designing an e-commerce site that would serve many masters for the New Jersey nonprofit.
“After evaluating us and a few other firms, they decided we would bring a fresh perspective,” DeCarlo told Innovate LI. “A lot of times, firms are either really good at development or really good at design, but we accommodated both.”
While DeCarlo’s Mission Disrupt team – now three full-timers and several freelance contributors, including programmers, user-interface specialists and other digital designers – was ready for the undertaking, the website proved a daunting challenge.
Required to deliver e-commerce savvy unto a nonprofit accustomed to dealing primarily with government customers, the from-scratch site needed to speak to several distinct audiences – and to offer each group unique functionality that might normally be found on Website X or Website Y, but now had to mesh on a one-for-all hub.
“ACCSES has a lot of different companies in its audience group,” DeCarlo noted. “Generally, a company speaks to one audience, but ACCSES speaks to four audiences that are very different from each other.”
The first to be served were ACCSES NJ’s bread and butter – government purchasing agents, whom research showed to be mostly older than 40, according to DeCarlo, meaning “the user experience had to be really easy.”
Next up was ACCSES NJ’s 40-odd member agencies, the primary employers (besides ACCSES itself) of the nonprofit’s clients. For these users only: a specialized “member’s dashboard,” DeCarlo said, loaded with insider perks and benefits.
“We had to create a site that not only sold the services and products, but actually added value to being a member,” he added.
From there, Mission Disrupt focused on ACCSES NJ’s attempts to develop its commercial audience. As an ancillary revenue source, the nonprofit hosts an online store stocked with third-party healthcare products – and for customers experiencing it for the first time, DeCarlo envisioned a “quick-loading and familiar” interface and “a very traditional e-commerce experience.”
Finally, there were pages for what DeCarlo called “potential members,” those who “don’t know what ACCSES NJ is but run a social enterprise that can benefit from having ACCSES sell their products and list their events and job opportunities.”
The customized website had “a lot of moving pieces,” DeCarlo acknowledged, but the final product was “really easy to navigate,” with a confusion-free landing page prompting the four different visitor types precisely where they need to go.
ACCSES NJ was impressed enough to ask Mission Disrupt to work up some logos and slogans – and when that went well, to put DeCarlo’s startup in the running to become the nonprofit’s Agency of Record for 2018.
The LaunchPad Westbury resident won the bid, and as the Agency of Record will lead ACCSES NJ’s efforts to spread its message and its mission beyond the Garden State – a national digital strategy that affords DeCarlo & Co. a much larger digital canvas.
“Most of their customer base is government clientele,” DeCarlo noted. “Our goal is to help them expand their customer base to the corporate sector, not just in New Jersey but nationally.”
That will include a multimedia blitz – incorporating social media advertising, search-engine optimization techniques and email strategies – and some old-fashioned “grassroots campaign” efforts, according to DeCarlo.
“You want everyone in New Jersey and the rest of the United States to know what they’re doing,” the innovator said of the 15,000-employee ACCSES NJ operation. “That means keeping up with them in their communities.
“And that will really influence our social media strategy.”
It all figures to keep Mission Disrupt busy, basically from the moment the digital-marketing firm marks its second anniversary on Jan. 1. But hard work has not been a problem for the 2016 startup, which has quickly come up to speed in an industry where so many digital pretenders rise and fall.
“As an entrepreneur, I firmly believe in taking chances and then putting the execution behind them,” DeCarlo said. “How this company has differentiated itself is we’re truly focused on the talent we’re hiring in-house and truly focused on the work.
“We have a passion for marketing,” he added. “It’s not just a job for us. And it’s starting to show.”