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Jeffrey Ryznar is the Founder and President of 898 Marketing, a strategic integrated marketing consultancy empowering brands through accountable business solutions. In addition to ranking among the top 10 places to work in Ohio, 898 Marketing was recognized by Adweek and Inc. magazines as one of the fastest-growing companies in Ohio and 23rd in America. For over 20 years, Jeffrey has delivered results for brands like the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Before 898 Marketing, Jeffrey was the Vice President at Phizzle, an engagement automation software.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [3:21] Jeffrey Ryznar talks about 898 Marketing and how it executes its services
  • [4:23] How transparency and accountability can set an agency apart
  • [9:03] What inspired the name 898 Marketing?
  • [12:00] How does Jeffrey attract great talent when hiring?
  • [15:50] Jeffrey’s top tip for creating culture: make everybody’s voice heard
  • [21:04] How has 898 Marketing evolved over the years?
  • [24:21] Jeffrey describes his work with the USFL
  • [34:00] Jeffrey’s experience working with Greg Greenwood as a mentor and friend
  • [40:43] How Jeffrey built his agency’s workflow software Bull Dance

In this episode…

Marketing agencies are critical in establishing brand messaging and driving profits. However, the industry is plagued with client and agency trust issues.

According to research, 56% of marketing executives say their agencies are more interested in selling them services than solving their problems. How do you align your work and assets with each client’s voice, brand, and vision to build a culture that embraces a commitment to the customer? Digital guru Jeffrey Ryznar emphasizes transparency as the hallmark of marketing practices. Fostering a culture of trust is critical in achieving creative success on campaigns.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, Dr. Jeremy Weisz sits down with Jeffrey Ryznar, the Founder and President of 898 Marketing, to discuss how the best agencies leverage transparency and accountability to stand out. Jeffrey explains how serving clients with integrity helped the firm accelerate its growth. He also talks about his journey from the NBA to running an agency, 898 Marketing’s origins, and case studies of successful campaigns.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01  

Got you get the game came out on the beach and get a beer and make 100 grand. You are listening to Inspired insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz  0:22  

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of inspired I talked with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. Jeffrey Raznor of 898 And, Jeff, before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes, people should check out of the podcast and we’re going to talk I mean, Jeff has a cool background in the USFL. He worked for the Cleveland Cavaliers and also just an avid sports fan I had, the I guess, is considered the founder of the Orlando Magic Pat Williams on and he talked about how he went door to door trying to pre sell season tickets to get the franchise in Orlando. And he had some amazing stories there. So check that one out. And instance, this is also part of the top agency series. I always like to mention, I did an interview with Todd Taskey, who has also as a podcast, a second bite podcast, but he bet it matches agencies of private equity, and home sell agencies. And he talked about valuation and all that fun stuff, but also how some of the agencies make more in the second bite than they do in the first once they sell the private equity, the private equity sells, they made sometimes more on that second sale. So check that out, and many more many more. Kevin Hourigan also talked about, he has been an agency owner since 1985. So that was interesting to hear the evolution and how that all went down as well. And this episode is brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25. We help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that? We actually help you run your podcast or an easy button for a company to launch or on a podcast. We do accountability, strategy and full execution and production. And Jeff, we call ourselves kind of magic elves that work in the background to make sure everything happens. You know, for me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way to profile the people in companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, go to We’ve been doing it for over a decade. So happy to answer your questions. And without further ado, we have Jeffrey Raznor. He’s founder and CEO of 898 marketing. 898 Marketing is a strategic integrated marketing agency. And they were recently recognized as one of the Inc five magazines, fastest growing companies in America, and one of the Adweek, fastest growing companies. And we’re going to dig deep on culture, because I know Jeff focuses a lot on culture. And they are ranked among the top 10 places to work in the state of Ohio as well. And he’s over 20 years of experience delivering results for brands like the Ford Motor Company, General Motors, the Cleveland Cavaliers, and many, many more. Jeff, thanks for joining me.

Jeffrey Ryznar 3:13  

Thank you for having me. It’s a great, great Wednesday to be here. Jeremy, thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

Jeremy Weisz  3:18  

Tell me Tell us more about 898 Marketing and what you do.

Jeffrey Ryznar  3:21  

Yeah, so I, you know, we’re, as you mentioned, we’re a strategic marketing, integrated agency. So everything you need from advertising and marketing services we provide, but we do it a little bit differently. You know, one of the things that I appreciate about our agency is the transparency and the accountability that we focus on, we’re not hesitant to say that, you know, we’re not, we’re not achieving the results we want. Don’t worry about the retainer this month, we didn’t earn it. And I think that’s something big in terms of the accountability side of things, it’s very easy to say into to say what you’re going to do, it’s harder to perform that task and live up to the investment that someone is making in you because that is exactly what it is. They are investing in all of your talents and everything that you promised to deliver. So I usually say that all marketing agencies are the same. We all do the same thing. And I’m not downplaying any agency, because there are some better than others. But the way the thing that makes them stand out, I think is the culture that they have, and their attention to detail of how they’re accountable and ingrained with their partners who trust them. We always say that, you know, I learned a lot of great things from Dan Gilbert and the Cleveland Cavaliers and Blencowe murasky. And Tracy Mayer, who were my mentors and leaders there and caribou bowls, but the the a couple of the sayings that they have stuck with me and one of them is it’s not about who is right. It’s what is right. Always understanding that those tough decisions that you make, ultimately end up with the results that are the right thing to do. And it might mean that It doesn’t, it doesn’t, you don’t get a big enough ROI on it that you might not have a long term relationship. But at the end of the day, you’re there to make the right decision for those individuals. And I think all 30 team members, they donate marketing pride themselves on doing that day in and day out.

Jeremy Weisz  5:15  

We’re going to talk about culture hiring, but I have to ask, what was it like working with the Cavs?

Jeffrey Ryznar  5:21  

It’s fantastic..was a dream come true. You know, I, I tell everybody, you know, I had a dream that I, you know, the difference between a dream and a goal is dreams are fleeting, you know, you wake up from a dream, and then you can go back to a goals, you have a actual process in place to help achieve that dream. And to make it real. I had a dream that I would be in professional sports. My my height prevented me from living out my dream in the NBA. But my goals still allowed me to achieve that as being their director of strategic marketing. And it was absolutely everything that I hoped it would be. And then some not only working there and working with the players and the luxury of saying and the pride that you haven’t seen you work for the Cavs at that time. And even today, but it was the relationships that I made Jeremy you know, those relationships far outlasted any financial or rewards that that we had, or any victories that we experienced with LeBron and, and during that time, so it was those were those are my trophies are the relationships that I was able to carry and still have today.

Jeremy Weisz  6:25  

What was a favorite story from that? Do you remember any stories? I don’t know. That’s what I heard stories. But what’s a favorite,

Jeffrey Ryznar  6:33  

we’ll keep we’ll keep the locker room stories, private, you know, those are my memories, right? Like, everybody has the rings and things like that. But those are my private memories that I have. But one of the things that I love the most about it was it was it was a there was a promotion that we were doing that we are giving away a golden bobblehead. And one of my one of my closest friends, Joe layman, who is now a part of 898 Marketing. Put the whole thing together and seeing a bobble head promotion coming to life. But then to throw that little Willy Wonka esque approach on it gave me a whole different perspective of how a normal approach to things can truly be re-energized and reinvigorated by looking at it just a little differently. And it just thought a bobble head, I thought it was something that we can play towards, and leverage towards anything that we do from a marketing perspective and to watch that promotion really galvanize and take shape. And then to realize that the small things we do the inches are everywhere around us. The small details actually make the biggest difference when you’re doing campaigns like that. So it was fun to watch. But honestly, there’s so many stories about my team members, and the victories and the late nights and the basketball pickup games at 6am. You know that whole time was a great memory and a great story.

Jeremy Weisz  8:02  

I love the creativity of that, Jeff. And how did that work? Like if people came in the stadium, they were given bobbleheads and there was like one golden bobblehead. That’s all we got.

Jeffrey Ryznar  8:14  

So when when they scan their ticket, everybody was entered in automatically. So everybody got a traditional bobblehead. And then what we did was at halftime, we pulled 23 numbers of people who were in the stadium, we also open it up to individuals who are not there. So all of the entries that came in prior to so it was all legal and all on the up and up. And we randomly picked 23 people and they got a a gold painted version of the bobblehead that everybody else received that night. And looking forward to doing that. You know, my my father in law always said the best department in any business is R&D, rip off and duplicate that works, if it works in one place is going to work somewhere else. So you know, we’re looking forward to doing that with the USFL this year with the Pittsburgh Mahler’s and it’s gonna be a it’s gonna be a fun time. Um,

Jeremy Weisz  9:03  

How did you get the name 898?

Jeffrey Ryznar  9:06  

Well, I I know you might not believe that because my hairline makes me look decades older. But I’m 43. And so the name 898 Marketing started 40 years prior to that. When I was three years old, my grandfather, who was one of my heroes, you know, I didn’t I didn’t look at Michael Jordan or athletes or movie stars as the people who I wanted to be when I grew up, I had four heroes, my two grandfathers, my father and my uncle. Those were the men I wanted to model my life after. And my grandfather on my mother’s side, my maternal grandfather, and I became very close. When I was three, he told me to point to three numbers. So I pointed to 898. And he played that in a lotto every single day, every single day. Now, he was a hard working man in the steel mills of Youngstown, Ohio, but he knew how to invest his money and he really enjoyed the financial side of his lifestyle about that, that that hobby that he had So every time he hit, you would invest it. So fast forward, when I turned 13, I started cutting his lawn to work to earn my own money, we would sit on his front porch and just talk afterwards. And he had told me the story of what he did. And he said, when you turn 16, I’m going to buy you a truck, I’m gonna buy your own lawn care equipment, and you’re going to start your own company. And I’m 13 Jeremy, all I heard is I was getting a truck. And I’m like, wow!

Jeremy Weisz  10:22  

But here’s the other part, you just

Jeffrey Ryznar  10:25  

Yeah, I heard truck, I heard truck, Jeremy was gonna be in high school with a truck. That’s all I heard. But he told me, I’m doing this for you. For three reasons. He goes, one, God gave all of us gifts that are unique and special to us. The second reason is that those gifts are meant to be shared with the world to help others. And the third is that if you do it well enough, someone is going to find value in it, and they’ll invest in you. And you’ll never work a day in your life, because you’ll be doing what you love. Four days before I turned 16, he passed away on that very porch that he told me that story. And unfortunately, I never got my truck, I never got the lawn care equipment. But I knew I was going to start my own business, my dream turned into a goal that day. And I knew that I was going to have 898, laundromat 898 burgers, whatever is going to be. And it just so happened that it led to 898 Marketing and me sitting here with you today and building a culture centered around the idea that we are called to serve in our capacity of capabilities and gifts that we have. And that’s just not to our partners, that’s the communities we surround ourselves with, as our family, our friends, that by doing so with those gifts we have this world’s a whole lot better off.

Jeremy Weisz  11:38  

Thanks for sharing that man. Sorry, to your breasts for asking your grandfather I appreciate but he’s with you every day man is memory lives on is dedicated. Obviously Maryline talk about people you’re saying what makes company so special? Obviously, even the agency world is people. And we can talk about culture. But how do you run the hiring process to attract great people.

Jeffrey Ryznar  12:04  

So we have a team internally that does all the hiring, I leave it to them to, you know, job descriptions and things like that, and run the initial interviews and narrow it down. Once we start bringing individuals in, we not only evaluate them based on their skills and talents, but I like putting them into conversations with their contemporaries and people who are in those positions or fields. And give them kind of an unfiltered Q&A, you know, ask anything you want, I truly believe you got to peel back the layer of the onion in order to see exactly what you’re getting. And I don’t want them to be surprised. That’s one of the rules we have in any meeting or any effort that we have, as my one rule is no surprises. So by the time they get to me, Jeremy, they’re already vetted, and already already accomplished. The difficult part of it, when I speak with them, and I speak with everybody that we hire, and bring on board from an intern all the way up to a C suite executive. You know, I want to see who they are as a person. I tell everybody that we can teach design, we can teach videography, we can teach SEM and SEO and web development. I can’t teach you to have empathy. I can’t teach you to be a good person, I can’t teach you to raise your level of awareness to see that something needs done. And even though it’s not in your job description, you helping out is going to help others. And that’s what we’re here to do and to be a quote unquote team player. And I don’t want to use buzzwords, but I don’t think that is when I truly think that you’re a part of a team. And I and so when we get there, one of the questions that I love asking the new team members is if I were to tell you not to come into work today, and you had one day to do anything you wanted to an 898 Marketing would front the bill. How would you spend your day? There are there is no budget to it. Just how would you spend your day? And I love that question because I get to find out what is truly important in the lives of those individuals. Some of them want to go some of them say they would take a trip, some of them would go shopping. But the majority of them, it’s interesting, they would want to spend time with people that they love. They’d want to hang out and go do something that reminded them of people who maybe have passed or no longer in their lives. But it also gives me an idea of how to reward them with small and improvements because everybody’s different. Not everybody is driven by money. Not everybody’s driven by time off. Some people just want to go get a manicure or pedicure. Some people want to go sit on the floor seats and watch the Cavaliers and the playoffs against the Knicks, right? So understanding what motivates people but also how they’re programmed with that question achieves not only the the idea of seeing what type of person they are, but also provides some insight into how to reward them as we move forward. because they’re going to be a team member, and they deserve a trophy if they’ve earned it. So what’s their trophy look like? You know, I’ve switched from calling them family members to team members, families, families, you don’t get to choose your family, right? You get them and you’re with them for good, better or worse, right? Team members. If you’re not performing, you get traded, if you’re not performing, you get wave. So that idea that there’s still a performance based issue around it, but you have to, you have to gel with those other individuals is important. And I think the nomenclature behind that is important as well. We mentioned culture,