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Megan Devine, newly named sole owner of D. Trio Marketing Group, is relying on experience from past challenges to guide the independent Minneapolis-based agency she co-founded through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Great Recession decimated D. Trio's mainstay direct-marketing business, Devine said. The agency pivoted and began specializing in branding, marketing strategy and multichannel communications. It expanded its customer base, too, adding higher education and manufacturing to go with its financial-services niche.

"One advantage of being around for a while is we have been through a few of these challenges, though nothing quite like the pandemic," Devine said. "But some of the same things hold true. It's more important than ever to talk to your customers whether they're consumers or businesses. They still have to hear from you, to see that you're confident and you've got their back."

D. Trio's staff of 10 is working remotely under the state's stay-at-home order and continues to scale up with freelancers and contractors, Devine said. The agency also is part of a larger network of national firms that it can draw expertise from as needed.

For a small agency, D. Trio's clients often are larger entities, Devine said. They include SunTrust Bank and Mortgage, Synchrony (retail and bank cards), Thrivent Financial, U.S. Bank, Dover Corp. and the University of Minnesota.

Devine and founding partners Maureen Dyvig and Fred Driver worked together at a previous agency before launching D. Trio in 2000. With one partner looking to retire and the other stepping back, Devine bought them out effective in early 2020.

"This is a huge opportunity for me to move forward with the next part of my dream," Devine said.

With the change, Devine has instituted a strengths-based focus at D. Trio, identifying skills staff members can use in collaborating with other team members and in supporting her in leading the agency.

Q: How are you communicating with clients now?

A: It's still important to talk to people. They may not have time but they'll know that you were there for them. One thing we want to do as an agency is see how we can help them get through this but also think through what those next steps might be, how to rebound after this is hopefully resolved. We're not trying to sell. We're trying to solve problems. But we have clients who need to continue to do their business and we are good at seeing the value in their business from their customers' standpoint.

Q: What makes you successful with bigger corporations?

A: Almost everybody here has worked at a corporation or has worked closely with corporations so they understand that structure and what customers need. We understand some of their constraints; we're used to working with regulated industries. We're also very deadline-driven and that seems to set us apart as well.

Q: How does D. Trio compete against bigger agencies for that business?

A: We own our strengths, we know who we are and we're not afraid to compete at that level. We have some creatives who are unicorns. They code. They understand technology. They're great designers so there's an efficiency that comes with that. We're all problem-solvers driven to create work that performs. We're not just there to do a tactic. We're there to understand the business and how the marketing can improve the business.

Todd Nelson is a freelance writer in Lake Elmo. His e-mail is todd_nelson@mac.com.