Positive culture helps Saline marketing firm climb Inc. list of fastest-growing Midwest companies

Metric Marketing has grown from a one-woman company to have a staff of about 40, and it's doubled revenue nearly every year since it launched. Here's how it happened.
When Hannah McNaughton began her career in marketing, she ran the content division for a marketing company for eight years, working remotely from her home in Saline. She did her job so well that, in 2015, her bosses asked her to move to Washington, D.C. to run operations there. 

"That experience showed that I could run their company, so I could run my own. I didn't take the promotion, and instead, I left the company. They weren't expecting that," she says of quitting to start her own agency, Saline-based Metric Marketing.

Metric has grown from a one-woman company to have a staff of about 40, and it's doubled revenue nearly every year since it launched. That phenomenal growth hasn't gone unnoticed. Metric has won Ann Arbor SPARK's Fast Track award for high-growth companies and placed on Inc.'s list of fastest-growing companies in the Midwest multiple times. Most recently, Metric jumped 91 spots to number 77 on Inc.'s list and is the only Washtenaw County business to make this year's list.

"I've been very blessed in the growth trajectory of the company," McNaughton says. 
Doug CoombeMetric Marketing founder and CEO Hannah McNaughton.
She attributes Metric's growth to the values she brings to her business. 

"Life is too short to work with people that suck," she says. "My passion is … to create a  wonderful work environment where failure is okay. It's okay to run experiments and learn through them."

McNaughton says she and her team also value putting clients' interests first and giving clients control over their own content, rather than striving just to "make a buck." For instance, long-term agreements are available but not required, she says. 

Some marketers will put advertising accounts in the marketing company's name or build a website on a proprietary platform, making it difficult or expensive to leave one marketing agency for another, McNaughton says. 
Doug CoombeMetric Marketing's office in downtown Saline.
"They will hold your information hostage," she says. In contrast, Metric's clients set up their own accounts and give Metric staff access to it.

McNaughton says her firm is keeping tabs on new developments in the marketing field, like updates to Google's search algorithm and large language models like ChatGPT. She says Metric can help companies use artificial intelligence tools effectively and teach them ways of "building trust with search engines."

McNaughton works with industries ranging from law to biotech, but says the way she approaches new clients is similar regardless of industry.

First, she says she strives to cultivate a "phenomenal, joyful culture, internally and externally, with clients" and will only work with clients with whom she thinks she'd enjoy sitting down and chatting. Second, she has to feel like Metric's skill set can support the company's product or service so that the company can succeed.
Doug CoombeJenny Silva, Niki Ardis, Hannah McNaughton, Paige Evans, Karen Watts, and Alex Wheeler at Metric Marketing's office in downtown Saline.
And third, she and the potential new client have to have the same expectations of budget and timeline, because "it's not an inexpensive process, and it's not a fast process," she says. Taking the long view should pay off, though, she says.

"Paid advertising is something people don't interact with [much]," she says. "Less than 2% of clicks in Google are on paid ads. SEO is what's important. And it can take quite a while to establish that relationship with search engines."

Despite the "marketing" in the name of her business, McNaughton says her goal lies elsewhere.

"I don't care about marketing," she says. "That's not the thing that drives me. It's the impact I can have in people's lives, the clients we work with, and the lives of everyone internally within our company."

Sarah Rigg is a freelance writer and editor in Ypsilanti Township and the project manager of On the Ground Ypsilanti. She joined Concentrate as a news writer in early 2017 and is an occasional contributor to other Issue Media Group publications. You may reach her at sarahrigg1@gmail.com.

All photos by Doug Coombe.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.