Interviews | October 27, 2020
Lighthouse Shines With a Diverse Range of Services
In the mid-2000s, Scott Salvati found himself with an unusual, intriguing task.
Some people he knew from his church were missionaries working with the Tabaru people in Indonesia. The Tabaru people overwhelmingly used verbal communication, to the extent that their written language was practically nonexistent. The missionaries, working as translators for the Tabaru, encouraged the growth of the written language by translating the New Testament into the Tabaru language. They needed someone to design and create the cover of the New Testament, ideally in a way that would communicate a specific connection to the Tabaru people.
So, they turned to Salvati, the founder and president of Lighthouse Marketing Services. Based in Elburn, Illinois, Lighthouse does more than just print. “We tactically execute a marketing plan through branding, creative, web development, printing, marketing automation, SEO, social media management and promotional products,” Salvati says. For the Tabaru project, Lighthouse focused on creative design.
Salvati wanted to design a cover that would immediately resonate with the Tabaru people. He turned his eye to Tabaru mat patterns. Tabaru mats have a totally unique design, similar to how individual Scottish clans have unique tartan designs. Any member of the Tabaru people looking at a Tabaru-made mat would immediately be able to identify it based on the design. So, Salvati designed the cover to mimic Tabaru mat design.
“When they saw the design of this cover, they knew immediately that it was made for them,” Salvati says. In the grand scheme of things, compared to some of Lighthouse’s other projects, “it wasn’t a big moneymaker,” Salvati says. But he counts it among the most meaningful jobs he has ever completed. “It was about making an impact. Wherever I am at the end of my life, I can say, ‘Well, I know one project that really literally made a difference,’” he says.
The Tabaru project is indicative of the values Salvati holds dear. For him, the most fulfilling projects are the ones that make a significant impact, even if, like the Tabaru project, they are not the biggest moneymaking jobs for Lighthouse. Whether it is designing the first business cards for someone setting out on their own or writing email copy that generates a significant number of click-throughs and conversions, Salvati prizes the projects that are most impactful for his clients.
“I personally measure our success by the impact we have with our clients. It’s really important for our clients to succeed. If they don’t succeed, we don’t succeed. And if they don’t succeed and we make money, I don’t feel great,” Salvati says.
In developing relationships with clients, Lighthouse prioritizes consistent communication, honesty and friendliness. Salvati says Lighthouse is there for its clients in the midst of big projects, but it also takes the time to reach out with little gestures at other times. In demonstrating its constant commitment and focus to its clients, Lighthouse has built lasting, trusted relationships.
Salvati’s focus on building strong, positive relationships with his clients also extends to his employees. This focus was informed by Salvati’s prior work experiences. Fresh out of college, he spent seven years working in professional sports. But when he began to feel burned out, Salvati decided to move home and start working at his father’s print company. He had been there for a couple of years when the company was sold to new ownership. Salvati disagreed with the new owners’ leadership style and felt the culture at the company had turned toxic. He left the company and started working in business development for a creative agency.
But the creative agency had its own issues, too. Though the owner was a great guy, the agency was struggling. So, Salvati and his wife decided to set out on their own. They started Lighthouse out of their townhome in the late summer of 2000. As Salvati puts it, they made a sandwich out of everything he had learned over his previous nine years of business. The new ownership of his father’s company had made money but created an uncomfortable and toxic work environment; the creative agency had been welcoming and friendly but struggled financially. With Lighthouse, Salvati wanted to run a profitable company with a positive culture.
“You spend most of your waking time working. So, it might as well be with an organization where you feel valued,” Salvati says.
Over the past 20 years, Lighthouse has faced multiple challenges, including a mini-recession in the autumn of 2000, the Great Recession in 2008 and the COVID-19 pandemic this year. “I tell people that anyone who owned a small or medium-sized business and was able to get through [the Great Recession] has the battle scars to show for it,” Salvati says.
His battle scars came with important lessons, and Lighthouse adapted over time to account for those lessons. Salvati found there were some extraneous costs that could be cut to save money and increase efficiency. One major cost? Lighthouse’s office space, which was gradually reduced over time and then cut entirely in January 2019. Lighthouse was all-remote over a year before most of the rest of the country abruptly followed suit at the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Because Lighthouse was already accustomed to its remote work model, it did not deal with a stressful or chaotic transition in March when many regions in the United States went under stay-at-home orders. And though some segments of its business slowed, Salvati says Lighthouse’s web development services grew over the spring and summer, helping to offset some of the costs associated with loss of business elsewhere.
The success of Lighthouse’s web development services reinforced Salvati’s decision to have the company provide an array of services rather than focus on one niche.
“What makes us unique is the ability to flip between different segments that complement each other,” Salvati says. So, when Lighthouse is hired to perform one service for a client, it can cross-sell other services, too.
Of course, it is vitally important for Salvati and his team to be knowledgeable about each segment of Lighthouse’s business. A pitch only works if you really know what you are selling. And while Lighthouse has gained considerable expertise over the years, Salvati knows where to go if he has a question about something or wants to bounce an idea off an expert audience: PSDA.
Salvati has been a member of PSDA since the earliest days of Lighthouse’s existence and has long used the listserv as a way to connect with fellow PSDA members. Now, he says he is excited about the transition to the new PSDA Community.
“There are so many more things you can do with it, and you still get the same functionality as the listserv,” Salvati says.
Whether it is the listserv or the PSDA Community, Salvati says he likes connecting with and learning from PSDA members who have such a “wide range of experience.” He also enjoys reading and gleaning insights from PS Magazine. But, he says, the most valuable thing he has gained from PSDA grew out of his attendance at PSDA events.
“I have made lifelong friends through [PSDA events], and many of us still talk monthly as sort of an informal board of directors for each other,” Salvati says.
With uncertainty ahead as the COVID-19 pandemic lingers, Salvati says he is confident in PSDA’s ability to transform itself with the times.
“The organization has grown and evolved as this industry continues to change, and I really value the people that lead it and the members in it who I consider my peers, friends and sources of business strength,” he says.
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