12:10 to the Top: Kelly Walner Edwards

  • 12:10 to the Top: Kelly Walner Edwards

“Getting information about a business in front of the right people and inspiring them to take action is what it’s all about,” said Kelly Edwards, founder and chief marketing strategist of Lawton Marketing Group, an award-winning marketing and branding agency providing services to firms across the U.S.

“Although we do work for other industries and other sectors, probably 90 percent of our business is in the financial industry,” she added. “It’s a highly specialized marketing niche and we have a lot of expertise in it.”

Cultivating strong professional relationships and thoroughly understanding regulations involved in the financial sector are key to the firm’s success. LMG clients include both independent advisors and ones affiliated with national brokers such as New York Life, Northwestern Mutual, Wells Fargo and more.

When marketing piqued Edwards’ interest in the 7th grade, she knew she had found a career she would enjoy. While interning for Slingshot in Dallas, Edwards earned a bachelor’s in advertising and marketing from the University of North Texas in 2002.

“Just after 9/11, I graduated into a recession with a tough job market,” she said. “Fortunately, I got a job with Slingshot. They were the first all-digital agency in the nation.”

Edwards’ first client was Jack Daniel’s Whiskey, she said. “That was a pretty fun account for a kid coming out of college.” She also worked on other accounts including Lenox China, Tia Rosa Tortillas and several other well-known brands in her early career, but venturing out on her own was something Edwards had dreamt of for years. Tired of the rat race in Dallas, she and her husband Coby, a native Lawtonian who had become a firefighter in Frisco, Texas, took a leap of faith.

Trusting in God and her marketing expertise, the couple brought their kids to southwest Oklahoma in 2012 to be closer to family and launch LMG. Working from their kitchen table, they soon grew to the point that they needed to hire staff, so they moved into a small business incubator at Cameron University. Continuing to grow to what is now a team of 14, they eventually relocated LMG to its present location in downtown Lawton.

“From day one our company has grown 100 percent by word-of-mouth referrals,” she said. “We’ve never had to do any kind of marketing or advertising to get clients, which is a blessing. There are not very many companies that have the unique expertise that we do in marketing for financial advisors. It’s a very regulated industry due to FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and the SEC (Securities Exchange Commission) so a lot of marketers don’t want to have anything to do with it. We love the challenge of doing great marketing despite the restrictions, though.”

Receiving national, international and local recognition, LMG has brought home more than a dozen awards for their work. The agency has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau, they were named Small Businesspeople of the Year by the Lawton-Fort Sill Chamber of Commerce and received the Regents Excellence Partnership Excellence Award by the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education for its partnership with Cameron University.

Although the vast majority of LMG clients are out of state, the firm does work with businesses in the area, including Firo Fire-Kissed Pizza, Lawton Country Club, Oklahoma Sports Network, several churches and medical professionals. They also do a lot of work supporting nonprofits’ initiatives.

“We have a heart for trying to help our community in any way we can,” she said. “We lend our support to Lawton Public School Foundation, United Way of Southwest Oklahoma, Hearts That Care Medical Clinic, Hungry Hearts Feeding Ministry, Lawton Farmers Market and several others.”

With LMG in full operation, Edwards decided to meet her lifelong goal to become a published author. She has written The Referral Magnet, a book that teaches financial advisers how to grow their business through the people they already know. “It’s all about growing your business by generating more referrals without asking for them,” she said.

Published by Lioncrest Publishing, The Referral Magnet is set to be released in hard copy and audiobook through “Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Audible and the whole nine yards” this December, she said.

Finding ways to give back to the community, Edwards was a founding board member for Lawton Young Professionals, and currently serves on the boards for Lawton Economic Development Corporation and the Lawton Public School Foundation. She represents Ward 3 for Lawton Public Schools Board of Education and is the current vice president of the board.

Improving education for Lawton youths is one initiative Edwards is quite passionate about, she said. “If I see an area where I think I can make a difference, I’m not one to sit on the sidelines and complain; I’m going to get involved.”

Edwards’ son Dane is a freshman at Lawton MacArthur High who plays football and soccer. Daughter Aspen, an 8th grader at MacArthur Middle School, plays volleyball and soccer. “They both play soccer at a pretty competitive level,” Edwards said proudly, “so we travel a lot for that.”

“I have the most incredible family ever, so everything we do revolves around them,” said Edwards. “We moved here to be closer to family and have more time together. We run our business in a family-friendly way because we don’t want our staff to ever have to miss anything. Balance is important to us.”

For southwest Oklahoma, Edwards is “encouraged by where we are and where we’re headed,” she said.

“There’s a lot of potential to grow if we embrace who we are, and I see a lot of great momentum in that direction,” she continued. “We need that positivity and that drive because we have a lot of talented people with great ideas. We have people who know we have to invest in our community because this is a great place stay and a great place to raise our families.”