Durecia Moorer of ABCD & Company: “Be thoughtful and intentional”

Be thoughtful and intentional: In the finance world, finding the balance of creative flair and corporate polish needed to market retail and community banking is a delicate dance. There are a lot of stakeholders to please, from customers and shareholders to government regulators and the court of public opinion. I’ve been able to do that […]

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Be thoughtful and intentional: In the finance world, finding the balance of creative flair and corporate polish needed to market retail and community banking is a delicate dance. There are a lot of stakeholders to please, from customers and shareholders to government regulators and the court of public opinion. I’ve been able to do that dance by ensuring each aspect of our work speaks to the goals and priorities of those stakeholders. If the focus is improving communities, it shows up in our imagery. If banks are concerned with regulations, our copy creates a narrative that points to their compliance efforts. Clients are impressed when they feel like they’ve truly been heard and understood.

As part of my series about the five things a business should do to create a Wow! customer experience, I had the pleasure of interviewing Durecia Moorer, Managing Partner & Chief Marketing Officer, ABCD & Company.

Durecia Moorer is an entrepreneur, international speaker, and strategic marketing advisor. Moorer, a Managing Partner, serves as Chief Marketing Officer at ABCD & Company. In her post, Moorer has oversight of business development, marketing strategy, and strategic partnerships. Moorer, is recognized as a thought leader in business, marketing, and entrepreneurship.

Branded as “the people’s magnet,” Moorer’s ability to leverage resources and garner profitable, mutually beneficial relationships has placed her among the echelons of prominent leaders and promoted the quantum growth of ABCD & Company. Moorer specializes in brand strategy, project management, and event planning and has successfully served a wide range of clients, including nonprofits, associations, faith based organizations, financial institutions, and government.

Moorer is a graduate of the Emerging Young Entrepreneurs Program hosted by the National Minority Supplier Development Council, sits on the board of Maryland Black Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of Leadership Montgomery’s Emerging Leaders Program. Moorer is a native of Cleveland, Ohio, and resides in Northern Virginia. She is a proud Howard University alumna, and holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management.

Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?

As a student at Howard University, I thought I wanted to be a pediatrician, but eventually realized medicine wasn’t the right path for me. I loved networking and interacting with people and wanted the freedom to pursue my passions of youth advocacy and working with communities that don’t normally have a voice. My three best friends from Howard — Amber, Brittanye, and Corey — found ourselves continuing to work together post-graduation. What started as a bond during an Alternative Spring Break led to us working together on behalf of nonprofits and faith-based institutions. Our synergy is unmatched! People always marvel at what a well-oiled machine we are. This has been a constant in everything we do — including three years as home-school teachers. After wrapping up that assignment, we decided to start a business together. None of us originally planned to be in the marketing and event planning industry; three of us were pursuing medicine and one studied English and Political Science. We were young (24 years old) but we were creative, hard-working, shared a commitment to solving problems and executing with excellence. Our culture was centered around people, performance, and process. We also were eager to create a socially responsible company. We reflected on all of the aspects that we liked and disliked about our previous workplaces, and used those learning experiences to shape how we govern ABCD & Company. Seven years later we are a team of 12, with a network of over 200 vendors across the country and we are one of the leading Black and millennial-owned marketing and event firms on the East Coast. When we started, I am confident that none of us thought the first four letters of the alphabet would evolve into a national, award-winning company.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

We were vying for our first contract and assumed our chances of winning the contract were slim. We were a brand-new company charting unknown territory, and even though we put in a tremendous amount of hard work, we were an untested entity. Much to our surprise, we were awarded the contract.

After the initial feelings of elation and shock subsided, we realized we actually had a business to run! We never thought we would win the contract, so we weren’t fully prepared to manage all the components of a business including deliverables, accounting, and legal documents. Somehow, we pulled it together and successfully completed the re-brand. The client loved it and we have been working with them ever since.

We learned two important lessons. First, don’t take for granted being the new kid on the block. There are so many organizations looking for a fresh and new perspective. Second, never underestimate yourself. You can do anything with confidence and a great team.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

I have been cheered on, supported, and helped by countless mentors, advisors, and family members. I can’t possibly pick just one. I have an immense amount of gratitude towards all of our ABCD Champions. These are the people who have been committed to our success from the very beginning, and those who have engaged in our journey along the way. We are grateful to have mentors, sponsors, and advisors — all of whom are not just vested in our professional success, but personal success as well. They’re not impressed with how prestigious our clients are or how much money we are making. Their goal is to holistically make us better and challenge us out to get out of our comfort zone to pursue excellence. Our parents, although they did not always understand, now see us as their very own business tycoons. We all are standing on the shoulders of entrepreneurs in our own families. Janitorial services, transportation services, child care, and skilled labor are a part of our entrepreneurial story.

Thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main focus of our interview. This might be intuitive, but I think it’s helpful to specifically articulate it. In your words, can you share a few reasons why great customer service and a great customer experience is essential for success in business?

Brand loyalty is a very real thing, and that’s why everything we do is focused on customer service! Our industry is heavily saturated with amazing firms all over the world, so you have to deliver a unique customer experience if you want to stand out. At ABCD, we aren’t a “one size fits all” company. We don’t say no. We keep adjusting and revising. Our goal is to get as close as possible to the client’s vision, no matter how messy or how complicated. The truth is that we like making crazy visions happen and we have the talent, resources, and relationships to deliver.

As entrepreneurs, it is important to know that although you work for yourself, you also work at the pleasure of your clients. If you want referrals, a fanbase, and brand recognition, you have to provide a great customer experience.

We have all had times either in a store, or online, when we’ve had a very poor experience as a customer or user. If the importance of a good customer experience is so intuitive, and apparent, where is the disconnect? How is it that so many companies do not make this a priority?

Companies must value customers. The disconnect happens when companies focus so much on their ability to provide a solution to a need that they neglect the customer’s experience.

Company leadership needs to place a value on excellent customer service. As consumers, my partners and I all have high expectations for customer service, which drives how we run our business. This means not only training employees on customer service, but setting an example for employees on how to treat clients and each other. At ABCD & Company, our values guide our work. We start by respecting and caring for our employees and create a work environment where they are supported to perform at the highest levels, take pride in their work, and deliver a top-notch experience for clients.

Do you think that more competition helps force companies to improve the customer experience they offer? Are there other external pressures that can force a company to improve the customer experience?

Competition can force a company to improve customer experience, but if that’s the only factor driving your customer service, you will most likely fail. Customer service must be a core component of a company’s business ethos and be embodied with authenticity. Management must create an environment where everyone feels like they have responsibility for the success of a client’s experience. We study the greatest companies for customer service and apply those principles in our daily work flow and execution.

Today’s consumers are very socially conscious and external factors like conscious consumerism impact businesses. My partners and I constantly touch back to our core values and our commitment to give back. We are actively involved in a variety of efforts to improve our communities and encourage and enable our employees to do the same.

Can you share with us a story from your experience about a customer who was “Wowed” by the experience you provided?

We were in the midst of coordinating a client’s first big national conference when news of Covid-19 forced the cancellation of the 1,000 person meeting. Our client had worked for months to prepare for this event, so despite the uncertainty we knew we had to find an alternative so all their efforts were not wasted.

Within a few short weeks we coordinated all the logistics necessary to cancel the in-person event and launched a multi-week virtual event with 45,000 viewers and extensive media exposure. We produced videos, created engaging activities for guests, and amplified the event and messaging on social media.

Despite the uncertainty and fear caused by the pandemic, the virtual event was a huge success resulting in a much larger audience than we ever would have had for the in-person meeting. The client’s work and message received national attention and endorsements by high-profile personalities.

Did that Wow! experience have any long term ripple effects? Can you share the story?

For the client, the experience increased their exposure to policy makers, advocates and funders. They were approached by major companies for partnership opportunities and were able to expand their services and impact thousands more people.

For ABCD, that experience changed the way we produce events and set the bar for the type of experiences that we provide to all of our clients. We also gained new partnerships and clients, and received national recognition.

For me personally, it challenged me as an event professional and helped me embrace the value and benefits of virtual events, rather than mourning the loss of in-person meetings.

Ok, here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a founder or CEO should know in order to create a Wow! Customer Experience. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Be thoughtful and intentional: In the finance world, finding the balance of creative flair and corporate polish needed to market retail and community banking is a delicate dance. There are a lot of stakeholders to please, from customers and shareholders to government regulators and the court of public opinion. I’ve been able to do that dance by ensuring each aspect of our work speaks to the goals and priorities of those stakeholders. If the focus is improving communities, it shows up in our imagery. If banks are concerned with regulations, our copy creates a narrative that points to their compliance efforts. Clients are impressed when they feel like they’ve truly been heard and understood.
  2. Innovate and challenge limitations: Necessity is the mother of invention, and one of the best catalysts for a Wow! Customer experience. The new normal of virtual events has proved this point over and over again. In one example, the client realized their membership needed a simpler platform — 10 days before a virtual gala. ABCD quickly sourced and customized a new platform, only for the platform to make major software updates just before the event. Rather than omit the interactive production elements, we found a way to incorporate new features and functionality into the run-of-show. Ultimately, it was our refusal to be deterred by difficult and unforeseen circumstances that really impressed the customer.
  3. Build trust and credibility: Big and bold attracts customers; consistency keeps them. Our very first client is still with us today because we built trust by proving that we perform. Building trust doesn’t mean always achieving perfection (come on, is that even a real thing?); it means repeatedly achieving excellence, and owning any imperfections (because there is a difference). It also means being amenable to the ebbs and flows that happen as a client grows and evolves. The bottom line is that our clients trust us to deliver a great product, and be totally transparent and realistic about the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  4. Give the client what they need, not what they want: Nobody wants to tell the customer that they’re not always right, but I’ve learned that having the guts to do that makes for a great client experience in the end. That’s exactly what happened when a retail client asked for a design that completely clashed with their brand. While we could have just fulfilled the request, I knew they’d be getting a product of subpar quality. I was honest and upfront about it — respectfully, of course — and in the end, we were able to deliver a product that made the client and ABCD proud.
  5. Under promise and over deliver: While it’s important to challenge limitations, you also have to realize when a plan or an outcome is no longer feasible. When the news of the Covid-19 pandemic initially broke, we were less than three weeks away from a major conference for a nonprofit focused on empowering small businesses. As critical travel vendors began to shut down and PPE became scarce, I felt obligated to make sure the client understood that the event might be drastically scaled down because of the high probability that vendors would cancel. By managing expectations, I avoided setting the client up to be disappointed and set ABCD up to overperform on the contract.

Are there a few things that can be done so that when a customer or client has a Wow! experience, they inspire others to reach out to you as well?

We manage our company with a strong set of guiding principles, including a sense of community. We work with clients who share our values. We always let them know that once they are an ABCD client they will always be part of ABCD, and we thank them for the opportunity to provide them with a Wow! experience.

We create a sense of community because we value being part of something bigger and we believe and support our clients’ work and the communities they reach. It’s common for us to plan an event for a client, and end up becoming a sponsor. We believe in having reciprocity in our relationships, which means we go beyond having a client-vendor relationship to become true partners. The ABCD experience is end-to-end and empowers our clients to also become champions of our brand.

It’s always a wonderful complement when clients refer new business to us and I am proud to say the majority of our business comes from client referrals.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I am most passionate about bringing opportunities to disadvantaged communities and supporting small businesses.

I would lobby the Department of Education to mandate curricula that included entrepreneurship to ensure that every child knows how to start a business or how to innovate within their workplace. There are so many children who slip through the cracks because they don’t have access to opportunities; entrepreneurial education can show them how to create their own opportunities.

Having entrepreneurial skills or an entrepreneurial mindset will provide children with the knowledge needed to survive and support themselves without turning to activities that can potentially ruin their lives. As they grow and start their own businesses, they will be able to support the local economies of the neighborhoods and communities as producers, consumers, employers, and taxpayers.

This concept isn’t just about every child owning their own business, but more about the impact of what the experience has to offer that particular child. When I mentor and coach students who start businesses, and engage friends and family in partnership, I see children come alive with resilience, innovation, passion, boldness, and grit. It also illuminates that every child may not be an entrepreneur, but they can be entrepreneurial. By learning the foundations of starting and running a business, children can learn to become better problem solvers, critical thinkers, and innovators.

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