Owner Stories, Nikki Gillingham, President, Blue Whale Communications, Kelowna, British Columbia
Nikki Gillingham is a content wizard, able to take a topic, learn all about it and turn a subject into likeable, relatable content. And that’s what social media, and in turn, Blue Whale Communications are all about. It’s the variety of clients that keeps Nikki buzzing, as she loves to learn about new people, industries and services and help clients of all different business types succeed online. From a personal standpoint, we’ve been working and collaborating with Nikki for over a year now, and we’re always impressed with Blue Whale’s output. So we were excited when she agreed to participate in our Owner Stories series.
Our interview with Nikki is below. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Also, make sure to read our Owner Stories series and remember to support local businesses in any way you can while these physical distancing restrictions are in place.
10|20 Marketing: Thanks for participating, Nikki! So how did you get into social media, and what is the origin of your business?
Nikki Gillingham: Thanks for the opportunity, Mark!
When I was in school for Communications and PR, social media wasn’t even a part of our projects, aside from including some Tweets in our communication strategies! After graduating, I worked in marketing and communications for several years, from government agencies to national organizations to small non-profits. Social media was a growing but small aspect of the work I was doing.
4.5 years ago, when I started Blue Whale Communications, the intent was to be focused heavily on strategy development and content marketing. However, the requests I kept receiving were often for social media support. So I took the strategy and content and applied it to social media, focusing on gaining leads instead of followers, and things took off from there!
10|20 Marketing: That’s excellent, Nikki! Often the marketing dictates the direction you go in. I was once told that it would take at least five years to figure out what your business will be. Are you there yet? How do you see Blue Whale evolving?
Nikki Gillingham: That’s a good question! At the risk of putting words in my own mouth… I think we’re getting there! We are now at the point where social media management is the core of the business, and I’d like to see that continue to grow. I have brought on several freelance content creators to the team, and we’re really taking Blue Whale from ‘online business’ to ‘agency,’ which is exciting! The extra support allows me to work more on the business instead of in it. I’m taking the opportunity to coach those interested in learning and doing it themselves and launched an online course for those interested well. So I think Blue Whale has settled into a nice rhythm. We’ll continue to expand on the current business model, which is a combination of done-for-you social media management services and coaching or consulting. Of course, ask me again in 12 months, and my response might be totally different!
10|20 Marketing: I might ask you again next year! So what’s your wheelhouse in terms of clientele? Do you service a specific type of business, or is your client roster more random? An immediate follow-up to that question is, If you have an ideal client, how would you describe it?
Nikki Gillingham: One of the things I absolutely love about running an agency versus when I worked in the field as an employee is getting to work with clients in all different industries – it’s fascinating, I learn so much! The majority of our clients are small, service-based businesses, for example, laser and aesthetics clinics, wineries, dentists, real estate agents and brokerages, nutrition coaches, and even other communications agencies and consultants. It’s really all over the map, and it’s a lot of fun! An ideal client for social media management services is a business owner with an established business, already earning consistent revenue, and who wants to generate more leads with a smarter social media strategy.
For the coaching aspect, ideal clients are either new to business and entrepreneurship and want to create their own unique marketing strategy. They have an admin overseeing some of the marketing work and want them to optimize what they are already doing. We offer a 1-hour strategy call called a Power Hour. It’s an opportunity for anyone to hop on a video call and ask me any questions they have at all about marketing and social media. I get to chat with everyone from those whose businesses haven’t launched yet, to those with 20+ years of experience wanting a fresh perspective.
10|20 Marketing: Love it! You certainly know who you’re after and how to attract new clients. Let’s switch topics now. I want to ask you what your thoughts have been about the last year. How has your business adapted? Have you seen a change in how your clients are approaching their marketing?
Nikki Gillingham: The past year has been one for the books, hasn’t it? Initially, things really slowed for Blue Whale – marketing is always the first thing that gets cut from budgets! But that opened the door for me to pivot into the coaching space and allowed me to create the online course and other offers at a lower price point. So the second arm of Blue Whale really grew out of the pandemic. I don’t know if marketing, in particular, has changed so much as life in general has – of course, many had to move online, and that change in operations changed the overall messaging.
Instead of booking appointments, salons are suggesting products that to purchase for at-home care. Instead of promoting gym memberships, health and fitness experts share at-home workouts, renting equipment out, or offering virtual classes. The other big question is, when you go from seeing loyal customers regularly to not at all, how do you maintain that relationship? Maybe that’s where the marketing has shifted (or rather, more businesses are embracing the online side of it). We see more faces on social media as owners go there to share their stories and stay connected with their audiences.
10|20 Marketing: Do you see a one-size-fits-all approach with social media for your clients, or do you see some networks work better for certain types of businesses? Do you have favourite networks? What else do you do? Email, content writing, other approaches?
Nikki Gillingham: I don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach, but I think all platforms can work for all businesses. Even when we’re in the B2B – or Business to Business – market, at the end of the day, a human is on the other end making those decisions for the company. That human goes home at the end of the day and scrolls through Instagram, watches videos on YouTube, or chats with friends on Facebook. All places where they can inadvertently discover your business when they’re not thinking about business. That’s why messaging and understanding your audience is so important, more so than the platform you’re on. That’s not to say all businesses should be on all platforms, but I don’t think one platform over another will make or break a business.
Personally, I love Instagram. It has a higher engagement rate than other platforms, meaning users are more likely to interact with content than elsewhere. I’ve built real, genuine connections on that platform and have made new friends, business connections and generated leads from showing up and talking to people. THAT’S what social media for business is all about – having fun, building connections, and generating leads in the process.
Besides social media, we also manage email marketing, blogging and copywriting, and even basic website design.
10|20 Marketing: Nikki, thanks so much for taking the time for us. We loved spending this time with you!
Nikki Gillingham: Thank you! I had fun too!
This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org. And if you’re interested in a free online small business marketing consultation, we’re happy to set up a time to discuss your situation as well.