Raise Your Glass: VisionPoint Celebrates 20 Years of Higher Ed Marketing Excellence

Posted: April 4, 2021

Diane Kuehn Founder & CEO

4 min. read

On April 4, 2001, VisionPoint Marketing was incorporated. To say we’ve come a long way would be an understatement. 

Our headquarters was once a makeshift office in the corner of my guest room. As one of many scrappy startups with lofty ambitions at the turn of the new millennium, there was one advantage that set VisionPoint apart: our people.

It wasn’t just about raw talent and expertise. It was about character. We were a small but steadfast clan, of the same mind and in pursuit of the same vision. 

The Importance of Culture

Back then, what we had on our hands was the blueprint for a growth-minded culture – not just growth in terms of financial metrics, but growth of human potential. It was the mission of higher education itself.

It wasn’t just about raw talent and expertise. It was about character.

One VisionPoint tradition that speaks to our focus on culture is the Summits. During these bi-annual retreats, we shut down our entire company for two days straight and invest solely in our professional development and organizational health and well-being (not to mention some legendary karaoke performances). 

The Rise of the Vision Points

I vividly remember our first Summit in Greensboro, NC, when we first began intentionally shaping our culture as the foundation of the company moving forward. There, we brainstormed our cultural pillars (known as our Vision Points) into existence. These values – empathy, selflessness, growth and excellence, and other principles that define our agency’s identity – have been critical to the success we celebrate on our 20th jubilee. 

The Power of Storytelling

From there, we were able to pursue and realize all those pie-in-the-sky visions that we pinned to the drawing board. It empowered me with the confidence, as the CEO through our first two decades, to begin documenting each chapter of our agency’s growth and maturation in annual forecasts known as Vision Stories

These aspirational vignettes each described where we saw ourselves as an organization seven years down the road, and what steps we’d taken to get there. I read them to the entire company at every Summit. It was a way to direct our focus and give us a shared vision to rally behind. 

A Sustained Winning Streak   

Each year since, we have achieved or surpassed the goals outlined in our vision stories with almost prophetic accuracy. 

Between 2019-2020 alone, we more than doubled in size to 52 VisionPointers strong. We’ve expanded our presence to all four time zones and fortified our teams with accomplished experts from across the higher ed space – all during a time when many companies were downsizing or shuttering due to the pandemic. 

Here, marketing professionals from all over the country could grow and realize their potential, all while doing purpose-filled work in one of society’s most transformative sectors: higher education.

We grew our client roster, adding new names like University of California, Davis and Loyola University Chicago, while strengthening our bonds with long term client partners including the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Northern Virginia Community College

We engineered new proprietary technologies, like our predictive analytics platform, DecisionEngine, and our AI-driven web personalization engine, to keep our clients ahead of the competition. 

And we became a career destination. Here, marketing professionals from all over the country could grow and realize their potential, all while doing purpose-filled work in one of society’s most transformative sectors: higher education. 

A Rich & Storied History

It begins with the people that bring our winning culture to life. 

Sure, we won marquee projects along the way. We earned meaningful results alongside key client-partners, like North Carolina State University, University of Pennsylvania, University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado Community College System, and many others who challenged (and trusted) us to try new things and push the boundaries of what enrollment marketing can achieve. We won awards for our creativity, recognition for our methods, and praise from our employees as a perennial top-25 employer in our state (including the top-10 in 2020). 

However, these outcomes were all guided by the beliefs and principles that have brought and kept us together. 

People Come First

According to a recent Glassdoor study, 56% of respondents ranked company culture as more important than compensation. 

Likewise, I would personally rank the vitality of our personnel above revenue numbers and profit margins. Take care of the people in your house, and the bread will come. 

To borrow a phrase from Traction, the business strategy book that every VisionPointer reads as part of their onboarding ritual, we have been very intentional about “getting the right people on the bus” and “putting the right people in the right seats.” And we’d be nowhere near where we are today without our VisionPointers – past and current. 

Growth is a human-first process.

I could feign modesty and say that I never dreamed we’d be standing among the elite group of less-than-20% of small businesses that survived 20 years. But if I’m being honest – and true to our direct and straightforward culture trait – I couldn’t imagine any other outcome, economic crisis and all. 

From day one, we were built to go the distance, because we invested in our people. Growth is a human-first process. It’s as much about coming together as a family as it is moving forward as a business. 

A Debt of Gratitude 

As the founder and Chairperson, I’m humbled by and proud of every VisionPointer who has left their fingerprints on our legacy: from our data dynamos and creative luminaries to our marketing strategy mavericks, client service superheroes, and fearless leaders across our multidisciplinary teams. I’m equally grateful for our clients. These partnerships make the work we do possible. 

I’ve forged enduring friendships (I still keep in touch with many VisionPoint alum to this day), learned lifelong lessons, and have, through our work in higher education, made a difference in the lives of thousands of students our clients serve. 

No other work is as rewarding.

Over the next decade, I see VisionPoint elevating the entire higher education sector through our work.  

Success Is Self-Made 

We may not be the big Madison Avenue ad giant or the multinational tech conglomerate. We don’t have the fanfare and pageantry of the Apples, the Googles, or the Red Hats. Though we’re older and wiser, we’re still that scrappy, close-knit startup at heart. And we’ve proven that we can not only survive, but thrive, in the face of any challenge. 

I would bet on our people against anyone. 

Success here is self-made. Over the next decade, I see VisionPoint elevating the entire higher education sector through our work. I can’t wait to see how we will out-do ourselves and make each coming year better than the last.  

Diane Sutton is the Founder & Chairperson of VisionPoint Marketing. As the visionary behind the agency’s sustained growth and success, Diane helps colleges and universities shape custom full-funnel marketing solutions that achieve institutional goals. If you would like to start a conversation with Diane or any of our experts, please reach out to our team. We’re on a mission to help higher ed institutions succeed.