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Join Hope professors, students, and alumni for this virtual networking event!

More than ever, the community is looking for ways to connect virtually, create relationships, and keep thinking forward. Take this opportunity to connect with fellow Hope folks who are interested in or currently working in the marketing industry! ⚓

Date: April 28, 2020
Time: 5:00 pm – 6:30 pm

No need to register, but make sure to use this link to join the Zoom meeting!
Join the Zoom meeting

Feel free to invite your Hope College friends!

Boosting student enrollment is nothing short of complex for small colleges. We worked with a small, future-focused college that equips students for their futures in the fast-paced film industry. 


Our client found themselves lacking brand awareness in a highly competitive industry, and Symposia saw an opportunity for a strategic and organizational shift. They were in need of a new campaign strategy to attract the right prospective students – one that would illustrate the overall experience of attending and preparing for a future in the film industry. It was also important for the college to transform the way they approached lead generation, website conversions, lead nurturing, and their online presence with key digital marketing platforms.


Symposia realized early on that our client’s niche curriculum offering put them in a highly competitive market. In an effort to enhance brand awareness and increase enrollment our strategy started with updating creative efforts. We focused on strategic messaging shifts and updated the online user experience. We found that segmented messaging focusing on location, cost, and college experience offered the most successful appeal to our target audience

With a long consideration period, we leveraged remarketing tactics for nurturing prospective students. To increase conversions we tested different CTAs (calls to action) at strategic points in the user journey and added visible forms fields to the website header for easy access to prospective students that were already in the conversion phase. Our data-driven strategy has since delivered strong results and, at the same time, provided an enormous return on investment.

Our all-encompassing approach included:

  • Designing new website pages and components to improve user experience
  • Supporting the college’s growth plans through targeted advertising by utilizing Google search ads and remarketing with display ads to positively reflect the college’s position in an increasingly competitive market
  • Achieving recruitment goals by utilizing Facebook campaigns 
  • Boosting the visibility of their brand to build a stronger appeal and engagement with students
  • Improving efficiencies by creating customized internal workflows and automations in their customer relationship management system
  • Utilized Google Optimize to test added form fields to headers on the website to increase conversions

A detailed look into our campaign targeting approach:

We analyzed and profiled the college’s core base of students and used cutting-edge consumer insight tools to build a detailed map of our targeted audience’s online behavior. Implementing this into our work gave us the best strategy for boosting form submissions.

We targeted:

  • Lookalike audiences: students who were likely to convert either due to their past engagement, or having similar attributes as previous students
  • Users who had shown prior interest – either by engaging with previous ads or visiting strategic pages on the website. This included students themselves, or their parents.
  • Users who had inquired over the past year, but hadn’t yet applied

This was a super segmented campaign with messaging and creatives being deployed that were relevant to the user’s online journey.

For example, students who viewed the financial aid page would later receive a remarketing ad specific to affordability. We tested copy and creative for various concern topics and used the ad data to drive subsequent variations that increased conversions.


We delivered highly-refined campaigns with precise audience targeting and geographical mapping across a variety of platforms.

We used data to drive our decisions for copy and creative. After testing a range of variations, we were able to identify the language that the audience best responded to in order to increase conversions. We also discovered specific themes that proved to outperform others. The messaging addressed hands-on expertise, affordability, and empowering storytellers.

Our ongoing partnership thus far has achieved:

  • A 4.08% conversion rate for Google Paid Search – above the average for higher education, being 3.78% (Source)
  • A $132 average cost per conversion – lower than the average on paid search for higher education, being upwards of $200 (Source)
  • A 6.42% conversion rate for Facebook ads
  • 217 total form fills in the first six months
  • Website traffic increased by 22%

That is complexity made simple.

Our creative passion and digital marketing expertise proves to make an impact on a variety of industries and in this case higher education. We provide our clients with comprehensive solutions that are both smart and effective. Let us help you get the results you are looking for.

Let’s talk!

When done well, e-commerce marketing is all about going that extra mile to drive sales by building a connected and cohesive strategy. 

Creating a data-driven approach, measured by results that are as specific as seeing which products people end up buying from your store, and how they arrive at the point of purchase.

At Symposia, we use these key insights to breathe new life into our clients’ marketing strategies; our mindset is focused on digital marketing transformation.


Our client was looking to freshen up their digital marketing strategy. They needed a more focused game-plan and some dedicated assistance to ramp up their online presence. They were looking to gain a foothold in a fiercely competitive space.


The first step to getting this right was to gather as much insight as possible.

We took a deep-dive into their organic traffic and we realized that Facebook advertising was a platform that they should be leveraging in a way that would boost brand engagement, drive traffic and generate sales. 

We paid close attention to the activity taking place on our client’s site, and conducted interviews with sauna customers. Based on these insights, we built the client’s audience personas. This enabled us to further understand the customer’s purchasing behaviors and create more targeted messaging.

With this in hand, we built audiences targeting people who interacted with the website and lookalike audiences similar to the client’s current customers, specifically targeting users who were most likely to convert.  We then launched Facebook catalog ads, augmented with special seasonal campaigns based on the client’s marketing calendar. 


Our campaign successfully resulted in the following:

  • Through the use of creative, real time targeting we helped generate an ROI that was 27 times (2,610%) higher than ad spend.
  • Mentioning lifestyle enhancements and the health benefits of saunas led to more conversions than other topics.
    • This includes both body copy and the headline.
    • Copy relating to craftsmanship and length of time in business earned fewer conversions.
  • Mentioning a type of sale – especially describing the size (e.g. “Huge Sale!”) – proved more successful than not mentioning a sale.
    • Increasing the sale percentage also increases sales traffic and overall sales.
  • Including an emoji (playfully, yet professionally) increased ad engagement. 
    • Adding an American flag for the Presidents Day sale is an example of this.

Mission accomplished. 

After assessing the results of the campaign, we had no doubt that we had surpassed our objectives.

Needless to say, with increased sales and higher engagement rates – we were left with an immensely satisfied client.

Want to find out more about our services for ecommerce clients? 

Schedule a call with us.

Symposia worked with a nonprofit based in Grand Rapids, MI to transform their digital communications, leading to an increase in donations and donor engagement.


The organization was seeing a plateau in their donor base. A challenge often found with many other nonprofits, they weren’t achieving the desired impact from just traditional marketing. They were looking for an alternative approach that could be justified by actual data and a true return on investment. It was time to utilize digital marketing as an efficient strategy to increase overall donations to the organization.


Symposia went beyond traditional marketing by transforming and improving the entire digital experience of our client.

Our process:
  1. Beginning with user research, we determined weak points in their overall user experience.
  2. We found that in a crowded digital medium (the internet), using more direct messaging in our ad components was pivotal to success. 
  3. Lastly, we used tracking and analytics to support optimization decisions that were driven by data.  
Our team successfully strategized and implemented the following for our client:
  • Deployed Google Ads Campaigns to capture high intent consumer traffic for donations
  • Launched Facebook advertising campaigns to gain new donors and retarget existing donors
  • Developed automated emails for specific segments of donors
  • Designed and tested compelling copy and creative to improve brand awareness across all platforms and channels
  • Improved the digital user experience to increase the number of people successfully completing the donation process
  • Developed a customized Google Data Studio dashboard to gather all metrics relevant to the organization and report campaign success


Our campaign successfully achieved the following results for the ministry:
  • ROI (return on investment) increased 4.2x (76%) 
  • Ad spend decreased by 56%
  • Our digital marketing campaigns accounted for 73% of all their online giving
Campaign testing and data also led us to the following conclusions:
  • Including a larger donation amount request in the ad copy proved to get a 43% increase compared to ad copy that asked for a smaller donation amount. When we noticed our average donation was on the lower side, we changed the ad copy to reflect a bigger initial “ask”: 
    • When we asked for a larger amount, the average donation jumped from $60 to $139 per donor
  • Leveraging video ad creative gained a higher number of donations versus static images
  • Testing ad audiences allowed us to narrow down our focus to targets that were more effective in donating. Tests performed included but were not limited to: 
    • Custom lists containing past donors and email subscribers
    • Lookalike audiences designed to reach people who looked similar to likely donors
    • Varying geographic targeting, testing the idea of a wider reach vs. more centrally located prospects 
    • General non-profit interest demographics
  • Automated emails and retargeting ‘Thank you’ Facebook ads were successful in sending targeted messages to donors.

Throughout this process of digital transformation, campaign results proved that Symposia helped improve our client’s brand awareness and maximize incoming donations. We proved that even established organizations can experience an incredible impact with digital marketing – a transformation that allows them to step forward in their mission.

There’s no doubt that these are tough times. Many businesses are struggling to stay afloat during an economic downturn. For some, keeping their workforce or paying rent are challenges. Fortunately, there is some hopeful news in the darkness.

Facebook and Google are both developing programs for which small businesses can apply. Globally, Facebook is offering $100 million in cash grants and ad credits, while Google is launching $340 million in ad credits.

NOTE: As of the publication of this blog post, some details are still being worked out and applications are not yet being accepted. However, we wanted to share this news with our small business friends and colleagues and point you to ways you can stay up to date as these opportunities develop.

Facebook’s Small Business Grants Program

  • SMBs (small and medium-sized businesses) can apply for this grant
  • Helps businesses keep their workforce
  • Helps cover rent and operational costs
  • As of April 2, 2020, Facebook plans to begin accepting applications in the coming weeks

Click here to sign up for updates on the launch of these grants and to find more information on Facebook’s Small Business Grants Program

Google’s Ad Credits Program for Small and Medium-sized Businesses

  • Google is offering SMBs worldwide $340 million in ad credits, which can be used at any point until the end of 2020 across Google Ads platforms
  • Ad credits will be available to SMBs who advertise with active Google Ads accounts since the beginning of 2019
  • These accounts will be notified in the coming months through notifications within their Google Ads account (check with your digital marketing agency or staff)
  • These ad credits will be applicable across the Google Ads platform including Search, Display, and YouTube
  • Advertisers receiving ad credits will be notified in the coming months

Click here for information on Google’s Ad Credits Program Small and Medium-sized Businesses
Click here for additional resources from Google on how to navigate your business through the COVID-10 pandemic

As a digital marketing agency, our mission has always been to work closely with our clients as part of the same team. We understand the uncertainty many businesses are experiencing and the difficult or painful choices they are needing to make. The COVID-19 pandemic and economic fallout will continue to create challenges but we believe that for our businesses to survive, we must continue to look for the ways up wherever we can: helping our communities and our neighbors, supporting organizations that matter most to us, and keeping each other informed of the help that is out there.

Stay safe and stay healthy, friends.

Okay, we’re all Zooming now. So how can you make your webinar or virtual meeting a successful one? (The basics might just save you.) Here are our essentials.

Get Connected

Like the old days, set yourself up next to your router and hardwire your computer into an internet connection if possible. Hardwiring can be a pain but what’s worse is losing your WiFi connection during a meeting. Don’t tempt fate!

Designate a Co-Host

Even the best multitaskers can get overwhelmed trying to present, engage, listen, and manage the meeting all at once. Ask a colleague to be your co-pilot on the journey.

Text First

If you’ve collected cell numbers, text reminders right before the event from your personal phone. There may be a lot going on at home while people are trying to work; a reminder could be very appreciated (and it discourages flaking out).

Nice To Meet You

Making personal introductions before the webinar warms up the conversation and can put people at ease. Take the time to shoot an email not only introducing yourself to the group but also introducing participants to each other. (Example: “Jane Doe and John Smith, you’re both registered for tomorrow’s webinar. I wanted to connect the two of you ahead of time as I think you would both benefit from knowing each other for [specific reason]. If you have the chance to do a quick call with one another before or after our webinar, I think it would be an excellent idea!”)

Say Their Name

Address a person by name before directing your question. This helps to keep the meeting’s momentum going, avoids confusion, and keeps people engaged. Know something about each participant before the meeting begins so you can call out to them individually with specific questions or comments of appreciation. (Bonus: Connect with participants on LinkedIn before the meeting begins to learn about them and ensure you can remain in touch.)

Survey Time

Send out an online survey after the webinar and find out what you could do to improve next time. Ask what topics participants would want to learn more about or what resources they are hoping to see that you haven’t yet shared.

The Power of Snail Mail

Don’t let things end forever with the close of a meeting. Mailing a physical asset either before or after your webinar can be a huge value to your participants. For example, a thank-you note or a printed blog post or white paper. Utilize this great opportunity to mention your next webinar or another call to action.

This case study explains how Symposia helped Baker Book House increase its online conversions, transactions, and overall revenue. This was done through an overall digital marketing strategy that included specific Facebook ad campaigns, targeted audiences, copy, creative, & photography, and complete ad creation that synced with Baker’s products.


Baker Book House is a Grand Rapids, Michigan-based brick-and-mortar bookstore with national online sales. With ongoing challenges of tough competitors such as Amazon, and emerging trends in digital, leadership knew it needed to focus on e-commerce sales of their books, gifts, and other products.


Having never previously launched PPC campaigns, BBH had everything ahead of them. Through extensive research and interviews with various customers, Symposia defined BBH’s user personas and built comprehensive Facebook audiences. These audiences responded to the various PPC campaigns including brand awareness, product promotion, and remarketing.


Symposia launched PPC (pay per click) advertising campaigns from the ground up on Facebook and Instagram which resulted in a 112% increase in revenue compared with the previous period. There was also an 84% increase in overall conversion rate and a 189% increase in transactions.

The Challenge

Marketing Strategy

Every successful campaign is built upon a well-informed and data-driven marketing strategy. Initial working sessions between Symposia and Baker Book House determined and documented BBH’s goals for product marketing, as well as their desires for a company-wide digital transformation initiative. The overall PPC (pay per click) strategy was formed with the combination of BBH’s customer knowledge, Symposia’s data investigations, and persona interviews to determine which channels (for example Facebook, Instagram, Google) would ensure a responsive, interested, and engaged audience. Finding the right user audience includes learning who they are as people so that all marketing assets align with their interests, desires, and demographics.

Audience Building

To make a PPC campaign successful, the right messages need to be delivered to the right people. After the PPC strategy was formed, the campaign needed custom-developed audiences for each of the appropriate marketing channels. By utilizing existing user demographics and website data, the best possible audiences were created for each unique channel. Collaborating with BBH’s existing customer knowledge and its various user personas, advertisements could begin moving from concept to production.

The Journey

Ad Creation & Design
These examples are from the “12 Days of Christmas” campaign. Each product ad was displayed in a variety of Facebook Ad Placements. 5 of the 22 placements are shown here.

With the right audiences and channels determined and a product list ready, Symposia’s creative team got to work on product photography and design for ad concepts. A carefully-styled photo session with all the physical products in the campaign took place with our photographer and designer. The images were used with custom, branded ad designs which would become the backbone of the ad campaign’s visual style.

User and product research, as well as the BBH brand’s voice and tone, guided the creation of ad copy. Each ad included specific copy written to reflect the individual product and visual, and utilized the audience demographics to create compelling, user-specific messaging based on each campaign’s unique needs.


12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS: A stylized, professional photoshoot was conducted to produce compelling, product-specific creative during the “12 Days of Christmas” campaign.

EASTER AND LENT: Similar to the “12 Days of Christmas” campaign, a photoshoot was conducted of the top products for both the Easter and Lent campaigns. The visuals needed to reflect the appropriate tone of the specific holidays while representing the brand and engaging the audience.
CHRISTMAS: The creative for this general Christmas campaign reinforced the “Home For the Holidays” theme with a focus not only on sales but on overall branding.

TOP PRODUCTS: For this campaign, a templated design was required for displaying dozens of individual products in a consistent, branded style.

BLACK FRIDAY: Featured products promoted for Black Friday and during the holidays were selected to be shown in their own unique and engaging way through custom designs consistent with the overall Christmas campaign’s style.

Once the creative (visuals/design) and copy (text) were approved and finalized, we launched the PPC campaigns on their respective channels.

The success of any PPC campaign requires more than simple monitoring. Dynamic creatives were used to quickly identify and optimize the most successful ads. We focused on various determined audience types to best understand how each audience reacts to the ads and the brand overall.

Using real-time analytics, Symposia’s paid media specialist oversaw and maintained each ad variation in the campaigns, measuring and fine-tuning as necessary (including adjusting ad placement, ad spend distribution, creative elements, and more) to achieve total optimization.


Even with an active e-commerce, brick-and-mortar businesses – particularly bookstores – have a natural disadvantage in the world of modern shopping. The increase of BBH’s sales had come through a tough battle, up against the most difficult competition: Amazon’s pricing and free shipping. But with exhaustive research, pin-point targeting, compelling creative and copy, and the right ad spend budget, Baker Book House saw a rise in sales like never before.

Baker Book House continues to command digital success while maintaining their treasured brand and longstanding values. Now, with a 189% increase in transactions.

Emily has an extensive background in digital and joins Symposia Labs as the Pay Per Click Specialist. Get to know Emily!

What makes you excited about the work you do?
Digital advertising isn’t always a silver bullet solution, but seeing the look of relief – or excitement – on a client’s face when we figure out a strategy to solve an issue or better connect with an audience they’ve struggled to reach is extremely fulfilling.

Tell us a little about your background. 
I started my career wanting to go into print journalism, but found marketing strategy was more my passion. In my senior year at GVSU, I took a Google AdWords class before it was as commonplace in advertising as it is now. I fell in love with digital advertising at that time, and have been lucky to work in digitally driven marketing roles ever since.

What challenges have you had to overcome in your field?
Honing in on the best way to track return on investment for any advertising is always a challenge, especially with varying sales cycles across different industries.

What is important to you about the culture at Symposia Labs?
One of Symposia’s key foundations is education. I love the opportunity to learn new things about my field. It prevents getting stagnant and leads to personal development.

When you’re not killing it at digital, what do you like to do?
My friends and family are the center of my world, so any time I get to spend with them is my top priority. My husband and I love traveling and wine tastings. I’m an avid reader, movie buff, and bar trivia nerd.

Our Alma Mater

Sometimes I wish I was back at school, strolling through the Pine Grove on my way to class. I learned a lot in college and made even more memories. While I don’t miss the homework and essays, I love that learning and connecting with people doesn’t stop after four years are up. 

When I graduated from Hope College in 2008, I had a BA in Sociology and I thought that I’d be a teacher or an accountant. Three years later, I realized that my true calling in life was marketing – a space that allowed for me to combine my fascination with technology, my heart for education, and my obsession with the way groups of people think.

But how to get a job in this world? I used LinkedIn to find Hope alumni and I cold-emailed them begging for coffee and advice. My calendar filled up, and my freelancing career was born. Eight years later, I have an entire business (Symposia) built around this career path.

Education is one of our core values. We’ve led marketing workshops, hosted networking events, and even taught a couple of digital marketing bootcamps for current Hope students. We’re dedicated to sharing knowledge and resources, and we want to continue this into the greater Hope marketing network.

With that in mind, we are officially kicking off the Hope Marketing Professional Network group! 

We have three goals for this group:

1. Connect alumni and students in the marketing space to unite organizations with potential interns, help students find opportunities, and simply make new connections.

2. Share marketing stories of alumni and students, their experiences, how they’ve grown, and how they’re making a positive impact in the world.

3. Strengthen the Hope College professional marketing community by sharing tools, tips, and resources from experience in the industry to grow as individuals and increase our impact.

Will you join us? 

To start, connect with either our Facebook group or LinkedIn group (or both)! 

We’ve already had our first (successful!) event and we’ll also be sharing information on how potential interns and organizations can connect for the very first time. 

I’m excited to watch this group grow as we grow and thrive as marketing professionals.

Go Hope!