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CIMA Insight: Interview With CEO, Ellen Schlafer

Company Overview: CIMA Insight is a privately owned mystery shopping company (MSC) headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The business specializes in providing customer experience evaluations for the banking industry.

For more information, see our previous review of this company.

New shoppers can register at here.

MSM talks with Ellen Schlafer, Chief Executive Officer:

MSM: In 2004, after spending the majority of your career in executive positions in the banking industry, you set out on your own and started Electrum Marketing, a branding and marketing company, focusing on small to mid-size businesses. What inspired and motivated you to launch a brand-new business?

Ellen: During my career, I had always brought an entrepreneurial spirit to any job I had – changing it, expanding it and making it more than it was when I began. After working in retail, corporate, credit, and mortgage divisions in banks, I had an opportunity to manage marketing and it was a natural fit. All that pent-up creativity lurking in the background could finally be utilized.

After multiple mergers and acquisitions in the industry, I decided to take my financial services and marketing knowledge and create Electrum Marketing. I recruited an account services and a creative team from the industry, my current bank became my first client, and I never looked back. The timing was perfect. In the mid-2000’s, de novo banks were being formed all over Florida and we created a “De novo bank marketing package” that provided all the marketing and PR a bank would need to launch. It put us in business!

MSM: In 2010, you formed CIMA Insight, a marketing and mystery shopping company. Why did you opt to start a whole new company instead of simply expanding the service offerings of Electrum Marketing?

Ellen: CIMA Insight was formed as a result of client requests. When Electrum Marketing ran ad campaigns for clients, in preparation, we would call the company, posing as a potential customer, to be sure employees knew about, and would respond appropriately to an ad.

My first request came from an Electrum client asking us if we could “shop” in person, in addition to phone shopping, and I told them we weren’t set up for that. The second request came just weeks later and, again, I told them we didn’t have the resources to do that. When the third request came, I realized there was a business there and began researching the industry.

My partner in CIMA Insight owned a software development company and we thought the combination of his building the back end and our marketing expertise was a match made in heaven. Since then, we have contracted with a company to provide the back end and have focused our efforts on providing data and information to improve brand strategies.

MSM: As a former business owner, we know the process of naming a new company is very similar to parents selecting a name for their newborn child. Why did you choose CIMA Insight?

Ellen: It happened over a sushi lunch. It is difficult to find a URL and trademark that isn’t taken and we had spent weeks brainstorming. After several weeks, at a strategy lunch, we used the word “pinnacle” to describe our positioning and cima (the Spanish translation is “peak” or “summit”) was born. Using the letters, we connected the name to what we provide: Clarity, Insight, Measurement, Analysis.

MSM: In 2012, you merged both Electrum Marketing and CIMA Insight with Current360, a marketing, advertising and digital agency. How did this come about and what were the benefits to both companies?

Ellen: Electrum Marketing was looking for opportunities to expand our services and had had a connection with CurrentMarketing for years. We leased an agency management system from one of their spin-off companies, Developware. I picked up the phone and called them so see if there was an interest, and we found our services complemented each other. Current360 had a strong B2C focus and ours was B2B. Our cultures were similar and they had an interest in our research capabilities and internal branding expertise, while we loved their creative talent, digital and film production studio. A year later we merged Electrum Marketing and CurrentMarketing, and Current360 was born.

MSM: Okay, we have to ask. After viewing Current360’s website [http://current360.com/play/crew/], which is colorful, artsy and cutting-edge and CIMA Insight’s website, which is subdued, informational and professional, we have to wonder how this marriage between opposites is possibly working.

Great question! Since CIMA Insight is an analytical research company, we chose to market it differently than our creative services. As a result, we have been able to land serious research projects with clients who are not Current360 clients.

MSM: After scouring the Mystery Shopper Forum for posts about CIMA Insights, we can only conclude that 100% of the shoppers admire and enjoy your company. What do you purposely do to create this consistently positive experience for shoppers?

Ellen: We value our shoppers. Since we truly are a boutique agency and select our clients carefully, we are able to provide more direction and pay our independent contractors more. As a result, we are able to select shoppers that provide the most detailed and accurate information, which gives our clients the most thorough data and information.   Without great shoppers, we can’t build a great company. They are our lifeblood.

MSM: What do you see as the future of CIMA Insight?

Our goal has never been to be a multi-national company. We formed CIMA Insight to support our marketing clients, but word-of-mouth has helped our growth with companies who are not Current360 clients. We aspire to be a great company for which to work and an excellent resource for clients since we correlate the data to improved behavioral performance and provide strategies and training for improvement.

The future? Watch for a merger announcement at the end of May. Exciting things are happening for CIMA Insight!

MSM: Whoa, you must know how we love surprise endings! And this one is a cliffhanger! Thank you Ellen, we can’t wait to hear the Big News!

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