Blue Whale’s Nikki Gillingham Puts Content Into Marketing

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 mark@10-twenty.com. 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.

Community is the Key At Metspace

Owner Stories, Caterina Mazzone, President, Metspace, Montreal, Quebec

Late last summer, we joined Metspace West Island to network and access the lounge. The minute you walk through their doors, you feel at home. That’s the sense that Caterina Mazzone and Paolo Catania have worked so hard to create at their two co-working locations. Mission accomplished. Starting in April. we’ve moved into a closed office and couldn’t be happier with the arrangement. We now have a wonderful space to work out of that’s private, but also still very much associated with the community. Our interview with Caterina delves into their plans for now and down the road, and includes an inspiring message for those looking for positivity as we move deeper into our new normal routines.

Our interview with Caterina 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: Hi, Caterina! Thank you for agreeing to this interview! We’re excited to have you participate. Can you give us a little bit of background on how Metspace was started and walk us through your business concept?

Caterina Mazzone: Thank you for the opportunity!

How Metspace started was quite a natural process. In 2013, we closed a family business and we had an office that was empty. My husband decided to go to real estate school in 2014 and as his courses went on, his fellow students started coming to the office to study or to work. Shortly thereafter, the questions were asked if they could rent an office and voila, Metspace was born!

Our business concept is simple, we are building a community and offering the space as a tool to help you feel empowered, to help with your growth and to help with achieving your goals!

10|20 Marketing: Can you walk us through your locations, give some context on why the two locations were chosen? Why St. Leonard and the West Island?

Caterina Mazzone: St-Leonard is the first location and it is where we had the empty office so it just happened! As for the West Island, it is part of our expansion plan. We are aiming at the 4 corners of Montreal and then increase the radius nationally and eventually internationally!

10|20 Marketing: Have your plans changed over the last year in terms of expansion? How did the pandemic change things for Metspace? And how did you see it affect your tenants?

Caterina Mazzone: At Metspace we try to make all our members feel comfortable. When the pandemic first hit, we had to make necessary adjustments. We took every precaution to ensure our members felt secure but most importantly safe in our workspace. One of the values we uphold in our community is that once you join Metspace you become family. We adopted habits and rules that took care of not only our members but our staff as well. In terms of expansion of course some of our plans were delayed. We had to put a pause on some projects.

As we now continue in our new normal, we are starting to once more branch out and begin new ventures and partnerships. We have adjusted and have maintained a clean and healthy workspace for all our members and tenants by having routine cleaning, monthly sanitization treatments and hand sanitizers distributed throughout the space. This not only made our members feel safe but our tenants and staff feel comfortable as well.

10|20 Marketing: That’s amazing, Cat! What’s the profile of a typical member? Metspace caters to people and businesses of all sizes, but what do you think they all have in common? And what type of business really thrives within your Coworking concept?

Caterina Mazzone: The typical member profile is an individual or small group that is an entrepreneur or works for corporate. We have seen that the common factor of them choosing to come to Metspace is that they want a place where they can work yet feel like they are part of a community. In the past 6 years, we have witnessed so many friendships, partnerships, and business transactions happening between our members!

10|20 Marketing: Speaking from experience, I agree that you and Paolo have done a great job of making everyone feel a part of a community! Can you describe some of the events you put on that help create that community feel?

Caterina Mazzone: Thank you Mark! We are doing our best to make everyone’s experience at Metspace, an exceptional one! One of our events that everyone looks forward to is our monthly lunches! It gives our members the opportunity to meet one another while having lunch provided by us! Our community loves this event so much that they ask us for the dates a few months in advance to block off that lunch hour!

10|20 Marketing: Yes, the lunches are great! Any last words of encouragement for our readers as they try to find the light at the end of the tunnel regarding the pandemic?

Caterina Mazzone: Yes, absolutely! What I know for sure is that we are all in this together. The beauty of our Metspace community is that the common values are focused on 6 c’s! To connect, to collaborate, to create, to cultivate, to conquer, and of course, to celebrate! I invite your readers to come by Metspace and take a tour or to come work for the day! We will make sure you feel right at home!

**

This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. 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.

How A Car Dealership Can Increase Foot Traffic – and Website Traffic Too

Whether you have one location or multiple, generating traffic to your car dealership is just as important as increasing traffic to your website. Yes, we know that it can sound like two very different goals, but they don’t have to be in all honesty. Here are some of the tools and tactics we recommend including in your marketing strategy to ensure that you increase your car dealership’s visibility.

Geofencing Targets Your Ideal Clients

Geofencing puts a virtual fence around a specific location – for example, a competitive car dealership – and serves ads to the smartphones of people who enter the fence perimeter, presumably, your ideal customers. The ads then let those people know about a sale you’re having, new inventory, or anything else that would encourage them to visit your dealership.

Geofencing helps drive foot traffic to your dealership, but it also helps with brand awareness and recognition, since people see your ad. It can also help drive traffic to your website, as the display ad is clickable on a smartphone. 

Use Google Ads To Generate Valuable Leads

Google Ads uses keywords to show an ad to your ideal clients. To rank, or show up, on the first page of search results differs in cost depending on the keywords used, but it’s a great way to guarantee brand awareness (because people will see your ad), and you only pay if someone clicks on it and visits your website.

Google Ads can be used to drive three main actions: visit your dealership, call your dealership, or visit your website. You can even kill two birds with one stone by sending people to your website to book an appointment at your physical location. 

Social Media Marketing Increases Awareness Of Your Business

Social media for business has come a long way in the past couple of years. It’s no longer just about posting pictures or updates. Platforms like Instagram give you tools to help your dealership get found, drive more people to your website or find your physical location. Hashtags, location tags (that open in Google Maps), a call button, an email button, a link to your website, and searchable name and username fields – these are all features that are built into the platform to help your business grow.

Social media accounts also appear in search results, so having optimized social media platforms can help your business visibility off of those platforms, too. You can also enable paid advertising strategies on these networks to get more out of your social media presence, often with the same goals as Google Ads. 

Content Marketing Is The Engine That Generates Trust

Content Marketing is when you create content (in the form of blogs, YouTube videos, infographics – whichever type you choose!) to share valuable information with your ideal clients to build trust with them and encourage them to take profitable actions. 

Content marketing helps in two ways: 

  • By adding new content to your website (with a minimum of 300 words), you signal to Google to come back and crawl your site, helping with your SEO (search engine optimization) rankings.
  • The more valuable information you share freely with your audience, without selling to them directly, the more you build trust with them and the more likely they are to come to you instead of a competitor when they are ready to buy.

An example of relevant content might be a blog post titled, “3 Reasons Why it Might be Time to Invest in Winter Tires”. Then, to expose your content to a broader audience, use social media to distribute your content to an even wider audience.

Local Listings Management Cost Little For Big Returns

Several online business directories help dealerships become more visible and send people to your website. These include Google My Business, Facebook, Apple Maps, FourSquare, N49, Hotfrog, ShowMeLocal, Uber, TomTom, and many, many more.

These online profiles include essential information about your business, like a website link, physical address, hours, and phone numbers. When you have active listings on these directories, it helps potential customers call, get directions, click through to your website, or share details about your dealership with others.

Consistency across several business directories helps validate your business for each one, which impacts your overall SEO rankings, making your locations more findable.

Listings Management is part of a suite of marketing services 10|20 Marketing can help your car dealership with, whether the end goal is to increase foot traffic, website visitors, or both.

If you’re interested in learning more about some or all of these marketing solutions, or ones we didn’t list here, contact us or give us a call Toll Free: 1-888-388-1020. We look forward to hearing from you! 

Joelle Dorfman sees the new reality of realty

Owner Stories, Joelle Dorfman, Real Estate Broker, Groupe Sutton Performer, Montreal, Quebec

We’ve known Joelle Dorfman since we were kids, as she grew up in our neighbourhood and was friendly with our family. More recently, we’ve reconnected through our common networking group, The Networking Club here in the West Island of Montreal. getting to know them through our community sports programs and then as clients of 10|20 Marketing. Joelle has been a real estate broker since 2006 and has an interesting perspective on the market, the pandemic and just plain old hard work.

Our interview with Joelle 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. And with the second wave now upon us, it’s the right time to prepare your business online.

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Joelle! Thanks so much for agreeing to participate. So when did you get into real estate? Is this what you’ve always done? Where did you get your start?

Joelle Dorfman: I officially got my licence in June 2006. Before that, I went to McGill University and earned my Bachelor’s of Social Work. After I graduated, there weren’t many jobs in that industry so I worked as a Montessori school teacher for three years. After that, I worked as an office manager at my father’s engineering consulting company until he sold the business.

I come from an entrepreneurial family. My father, brother and husband all ran or run their own businesses. I believed that the business experience I had working for many years in a professional engineering company, along with my social work education gave me the perfect tools for a career in real estate.

10|20 Marketing: Can you describe what kind of market we’re in now. And what advice do you have for anyone looking to buy a home now?

Joelle Dorfman: Well, it’s been a strange one! Lol. This year is a very unusual one, just like in most industries. The real estate industry was basically “on pause” and since things have reopened, any properties that had been on the market or have been put on the market, have sold quickly, often with multiple offers. It’s been a great market for sellers and often a frustrating market for buyers.

If you’re looking to buy a property, act fast and don’t hesitate! Work with a broker who is active in the current market and is consistently looking for anything new that comes up for sale.

10|20 Marketing: How do you see the housing market changing in the next 5 to 10 years?

Joelle Dorfman: Predicting is an imperfect endeavour. I think what this pandemic has taught us is that working from home can be a positive, as employees can be just as productive! So after the pandemic, companies may still allow their employees to either work from home on a full-time basis or allow them to work part-time from home. This will require people to have more space to set up proper permanent at-home offices which will, in turn, translate to the need for larger family homes.

10|20 Marketing: Great perspective, Joelle! What have you personally learned during the last few months from a professional perspective? From a personal perspective?

Joelle Dorfman: From a professional perspective, I have realized how my education in social work has really helped me to understand how to work with clients who may be feeling stressed out and unsure about their future during these unprecedented times.

On the personal side, I have learned how much I enjoy spending time with my family but also how much I miss the social aspect of life. I’m a very outgoing and sociable person and have realized what an integral role my friends play in my everyday life.

I think this pandemic has forced us all to look at our lives through different eyes. We’ve learned that we shouldn’t take anything for granted because we never know when it will be taken away from us, at least temporarily.

10|20 Marketing: Do you have any advice for other brokers out there? What about for brokers who may be starting out in the industry and only just now getting their feet wet?

Joelle Dorfman: In this business, it can be a lot of ups and downs. When you first start out, you have to really want it because it’s very challenging to get started and establish yourself in the industry. Like in anything in life, hard work pays off!

10|20 Marketing: Great advice, Joelle! I appreciate your time and participation in our series!

Joelle Dorfman: My pleasure! Thanks for having me!

**

This interview is part of our Owner Stories series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. 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.

All Alexandre Rivard wants is for everyone to be well

Local Business Owner Spotlight, Alexandre Rivard, OM Bien-Être | Wellness, Pointe-Claire, Quebec

We met Alexandre Rivard last summer at his quaint store OM Bien-Être | Wellness in the Pointe Claire Village. In the words of their website, the store “features over 200 different crystals, artisanal jewelry, eco-friendly products, smudging and aromatherapy accessories.” They also host community workshops. The success of OM Bien-Être|Wellness, both at their retail location and online, has prompted expansion to a location in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue due to open once the physical distancing restrictions are lifted.

Our interview with Alexandre is below. And please make sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series and support local businesses in any way you can while these restrictions are in place.

Interview with Alexandre Rivard of OM Bien-Être | Wellness

10|20 Marketing: Hi, Alex! Thank you so much for agreeing to be in our series. It’s greatly appreciated! Let’s jump in. So your field is unique and your store in the Pointe Claire Village is a gem! Can you explain how you got into the business and why you choose wellness as your livelihood?

Alexandre Rivard: Hi Mark, it is a pleasure for me to be a part of this series. First of all, as a kid and even in my young adult age, I was always picking up rocks from the ground. I was fascinated about their colour and texture. Later on, crystals came into my life and I was starting to get interested in their energetic healing properties and stories. I was starting on the path of healing and decided to launch a company that offers energetic bracelets. It was important, at that point, to bring wellness and spirituality into other people’s life as I was incorporating it in mine. Then, two years after that, my partner Jason and I opened a store called OM Bracelets and, nine months after that, we launched OM Bien-Être | Wellness. At OM, you can find over 200 different type of crystals, meditation and spiritual tools as well as eco-friendly and aromatherapy products.

10|20 Marketing: That’s so interesting, Alex! Can you tell us a little bit more about OM Bracelets? Where was the store? What were your challenges? Why did you decide to expand on the concept and build that into OM Bien-Etre | Wellness?

Alexandre Rivard: I was helping someone start their business in energetic jewelry and I decided to start my own brand as a hobby. The branding was different, at that time, from all the other ones we saw on the market. We included a properties tag with every bracelet, had a name for each one and the material used. Then, we opened the OM Bracelets store where we had our bracelets on a wall, crystals and spiritual tools in a 150 square foot space, hidden in the back of Lakeshore Road, in Pointe-Claire Village.

The main challenge, was to get people in, be talked about and have more sales. It picked up fast, we worked seven days a week to make it happen. Then a few months later, we started the develop the concept for the OM Bien-Être | Wellness store. We moved to Cartier Avenue to a bigger space. We wanted to have the biggest selection of crystals that a store can have, and more product categories. We needed more space, more products, more inventory and more visibility. The opportunity was there, so we jumped in! And now, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue is coming to life!

10|20 Marketing: Amazing! What kind of timeline are we talking about here in terms of moving from the first store on Lakeshore to the location on Cartier? Also, how are you drawing people in?

We opened the small “test” shop in September 2018, then did the renovation on Cartier and opened June 1, 2019. At the beginning, we had a following of maybe 2000 people on Facebook, word of mouth helped a lot, and online marketing. We also have sandwich boards to catch attention. We run contests, marketing and promotions. We also offer a loyalty program for our recurring clients. Our presence online is growing as well, as we post at least once a day a day on Facebook and Instagram. We also have new clients every day. We receive new products every week. Now, we are working on our online shop, since we have more time because of COVID-19.

10|20 Marketing: Very interesting. Let’s talk about the impact that COVID-19 has had on your business, if you don’t mind. Do you feel that because you sell wellness, you’ll be in a better position than other retailers? How quickly do you think you’ll be operational online? Do you expect your online sales to be as good as your retail sales?

Alexandre Rivard: Yes, the COVID-19, what a big thing for 2020. We try not to feel depressed about that, but it stopped a lot of things on our side. For me, it teaches me that we are still alive and we can change some habits to get over that. I am pretty sure that things will be different after. For OM Bien-Être, Jason (my partner) and I, it showed us that people can shop online for our products if they can’t come to the store. It really gave us the opportunity to add products that are different then our OM Bracelets brand. Fun fact, we sold maybe 10% of bracelets and 90% products that are now online. We needed to really go for it! It brings us visibility, sales and it help us to survive! We are almost done online, maybe adding 100 new products. Now, comes the suppliers challenge, most of them don’t deliver to business at the moment, because they think we are closed.

Are we in a better position? Probably! We are still losing contracts with airports and point of sales, at the moment, for bracelet sales, which is a huge part of our revenue. We hope to sale 50% online of what we use to do in the past months. We still have to pay rent, the new store renovation, and all other expanses. I don’t expect doing as much sales then when the store is open because some people will buy more when they can touch, some others don’t feel safe or confident enough to buy online. Also, it is hard to sell more online then what you can sell in person. You take time, one on one, with a client to really understand the need.

10|20 Marketing: So what are some of the ideas you have to market your online store? So many companies have started online and moved to a physical location. You might have to go from physical to online and then physical again. How do you think you can maximize your exposure online and then re-generate interest in your stores once you’re able to re-open?

For the online store, we added our biggest sellers, and we’re slowly adding more products. We try to make it simple for people. We offer free shipping over 75$ before taxes and also promotions. We’ve also doubled the number of points that our clients get when they shop online now from the total they would get when they’re shopping at our retail location. At the moment, we are doing online only, but our goal is to re-open as fast as we can. People are missing coming to the store and we miss them too! The time away is also giving us an opportunity to renovate our Pointe-Claire location to showcase more products. I think, with the online store, we will build a new clientele that will not be willing to drive to the store in the future. But our regular clientele like to touch and feel the crystals. They also like to chat with us.

10|20 Marketing: This has been great Alex, thank you for agreeing to participate! Are there any last comments you’d like to make?

Alexandre Rivard: I would like, first of all, to thank you for your time and passion. This went so fast, I miss the questions already. : )

••

This interview is part of our Local Business Owner Spotlight series. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. 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.

Our interview with Marc David is hot off the press. 

Owner Stories: Marc David, Foilprint in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, Quebec

I was introduced to Marc David by Neal Caminksy of Red Dream Studios. Marc is a real good guy who, along with his sister Martine, runs Foilprint, a leader in the process of decorating, imprinting & marking on manufacturer’s 3-dimensional parts since 1988. Over the years, as the company has grown, Foilprint has also adapted to the reality of the online market. Today, while the business is still true to its roots, Foilprint has changed in significant ways. 

Our interview with Marc is below. Please be sure to read our Local Business Owner Spotlight series and support local businesses in any way you can during this difficult time. 

Interview with Marc David of Foilprint

10|20 Marketing: I know the story of Foilprint’s origins are on your website, but perhaps you can give me a little background about your experience prior to starting the business with your mother. What did you do before that? Where did you go to school? Why printing?

Marc David: I grew up on the West Island. My sister and I were raised by our mother after our father passed away at a young age. Martine was six years old and I was eight. My mother always encouraged my entrepreneurial leanings. Starting at age nine, I delivered the Montreal Gazette every morning, The Montreal Star in the afternoons and the News & Chronicle on Thursdays. I cut grass for six apartment blocks in the summer; in the winter I went door to door in our neighbourhood looking for people that needed their driveways and door steps shovelled. Also sold greeting cards door to door and babysat for several Montreal Expos players that lived in our apartment building complex (by this time I was 12 years old).

I went to John Rennie High School in Pointe Claire and then John Abbott CEPEG. In 1977, I went to university at Gustavus Adolphus College in St. Peter, Minnesota and graduated in 1980 with a BA in business and economics. From there, I moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota until 1985 and survived by painting houses and starting a few businesses that failed. In 1985, I moved back to Montreal after my mother was diagnosed with cancer. While I loved living in Minnesota, I loved my mother more. Upon returning to Montreal, I started a business based on a product that I had seen in Minneapolis. It was a “Call Police” banner that a driver would affix to their rear windshield if they had broken down on the road and needed assistance. The business was moderately successful. I was able to get the banner into Canadian Tire and Woolco for the retail sector, and also sold it to Block Parents (Parents Secours) to be able for them to use it as a fundraising tool.

The banner had run its course by 1987 as cell phones were starting to gain in popularity and people could call for roadside help with their phones. In the Fall of 1987, I saw an advertisement in the Montreal Gazette placed by a company in Denmark that was starting to tour Canada with their new, small, hand operated hot stamping press. I went downtown to see a demonstration of the machine and ended up buying one. We had it set it up in the living room of my mother’s apartment, which was a stone’s throw away from the old Montreal Forum, and thus Foilprint was established. Our official start date was January 1, 1988.

10|20 Marketing: What a great story! So tell me a little bit about how Foilprint went from startup to where you are today. What were some of your challenges? How did you grow your business? When did you move to your current location in DDO?

Marc David: After starting off in my mother’s apartment in January 1988, I moved Foilprint into a commercial space on Ste-Catherine Street in Sept. 1988. I did this because the second machine I purchased was air operated and required an air compressor that would create too much noise in a residential apartment. First customers were acquired bit by bit by visiting print shops and offering my hot stamping services as a sub-contractor. Growth was slow and steady. Sales revenues in the first year totalled $16,000 and by the end of the third year we broke the $100,000 mark.

My mother passed away due to her illness in 1991. My sister Martine left her managerial job and joined me upon our mother’s passing. In 1992, we moved the business into a building at Guy St. and Notre Dame St. that was better suited for manufacturing purposes. Our big break came in 1988 when Martine found a new client that had a very large requirement. Over a three-year period, we printed and packaged over 7 million telecommunications parts. This order prompted a move to our current location in October 2000.

The aforementioned large order allowed us to continue making other equipment purchases which gave us the capacity to acquire new, large clients. That being said, servicing the manufacturing sector has been challenging. Apart from the economic slowdown after 9/11 and the 2009 financial crisis, our biggest challenge has been countering the effects of many manufacturers moving their production needs offshore. To counter this, we have added other product decorating processes to offer a one-stop-shop solution to print onto products. In 2010, we purchased our first UV LED product digital printer. In 2013, we purchased equipment to be able to offer drinkware products that we could sublimate our client’s logos and other images. In 2018, we purchased a digital inkjet printer/cutter to be able to offer labels and also to print heat transfers used to decorate apparel products. Our next planned equipment purchase is a direct-to-garment printer (DTG) to expand our apparel decorating department. This department is now our fastest growing segment of the business.

Although we started out as a sub-contract hot stamping company, we now have several different departments within the company that offers a wide range of product decorating processes. The result of this has been a more diversified client base and a reduced dependency on a small handful of very large clients. The irony of Foilprint now is that we no longer offer hot stamping services even though this is a process that launched the business.

10|20 Marketing: This is great stuff, Marc! Can I ask how many people you employ now? And what are your plans for the next several years?

Marc David: Foilprint’s staff currently numbers 21 full time and 2 part time. These numbers have held steady for the past few years. The business plan moving forward is to continue to grow our custom decorated apparel and accessories business. An investment into our first DTG printer (direct to garment) is scheduled for this coming summer. DTG printing is the most current apparel decorating technology available.

The plan also includes increasing our capacity to manufacture custom printed labels and using our label printing equipment to offer signage products including posters and window clings.  We currently have three print & cut printers that are very versatile allowing us to offer a wide variety of custom printed products in quantities as low as one unit.

In 2018 we opened our first online store on Etsy offering products based on memes. We have just completed the build out of our second online store using the Shopify platform. This store offers products based on yoga dogs and yoga cats themed products. A third online store will start to be built by late Spring/early Summer on a yet to be determined theme. The versatility of Foilprint’s product decorating processes allows us to produce individual personalized products that have increased in popularity and are uniquely suited to online sales.

10|20 Marketing: Thanks so much for taking the time to answer our questions, Marc!

Marc David: My pleasure! Thank you!

**

This is the second in a series of Local Business Owner Spotlight posts. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. 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.

C is for Cookie. K is for Kimberlie. And without either, we wouldn’t have The Finer Cookie.

Owner Stories: Kimberlie Robert, The Finer Cookie in Montreal, Quebec

The Finer Cookie Kitchen

We met Kimberlie Robert of The Finer Cookie at a BNI event in midtown Montreal last summer and we hit it off immediately. Kimberlie is as passionate about her business as a person could possibly be. You can see it in her eyes when she speaks about reaching and delivering special moments to people across North America. Kimberlie just adores packing her little labours of love in beautiful gift boxes and getting feedback from those who are lucky enough to have discovered her jewel of a company.

With Kimberlie in her kitchen in Montreal, we took the opportunity to have an email exchange to discuss what inspires her work and the rush she gets every time an order comes in.

Interview with Kimberlie Robert of The Finer Cookie

10|20 Marketing: Thank you for agreeing to do this with us! So let’s jump right in and get some of the more obvious questions out of the way first. When did you launch The Finer Cookie, what were its origins and why cookies?

Kimberlie Robert: I launched The Finer Cookie several years ago with the intention of creating a website that offered hundreds of wonderful cookie recipes, complete with photo tutorials and detailed explanations. I took my time with my explanations, warned of common mistakes in swapping ingredients. I understood the importance of taking beautiful photos that showed the dough’s texture and consistency, thought bakers would appreciate it and believed that brands would eat up this kind of content, as photo tutorials provided so many branding opportunities. I truly thought that I could make money by attracting brand sponsorships, advertising and specialty items – and that doing so would be simple. After all, why wouldn’t major brands be attracted to a website with beautiful photographs?

The reality is that big brands and advertisers are more interested in traffic than quality. One lucky day a colleague suggested that HE didn’t want to bake my cookies, he wanted ME to bake cookies for him to eat! I knew he was right. Cookies were just my thing. I seemed to have a knack for making delicious cookies.

10|20 Marketing: As we get to know one another, your passion for cookies is what really stands out whenever we meet or speak. So while I understand why your recipe-first site became an online cookie specialty store – for lack of a better term – I’ll ask you again. Why cookies? And, even more specifically, what is it about cookies that you love so much?

Kimberlie Robert: Why cookies? Because cookies are informal, two or three bites of sweetness. They can be shared, eaten one at a time (without ruining your regime), and made to suit any dietary requirement. Cookies don’t require a whole lot of discipline. Cookies by their naturearen’t a lot of commitment but satisfy a deep craving.

What’s important to understand about Finer Cookies is that they aren’t overly sweet or oversized (like, ahem, Costco cookies). Each cookie has its own texture and flavour profile. Yes, sugar is present, but it never will be the first flavour. Chocolate isn’t simply a dark brown cookie, but is fragrant and fudgy. Lemon remains lemony. You’ll be able to taste the difference between a pecan and a walnut. Eating three Finer Cookies at a time shouldn’t affect your blood sugar as an entire Costco cookie might.

Bottom line is that baking cookies become an ideal canvas to explore cravings, riff on tradition, and stretch across international borders.

Taking on the sugar-heavy Costco cookie, I love it! What is it about cookies that seemed like a viable business direction? 

Kimberlie Robert: Oh, that’s an easier one! Cookies certainly have mass appeal and ship with relative ease. Because they’re baked, they’re inert, not perishable, stable and don’t get caught in the web of horticultural and agricultural regulations. Weather permitting, they slide across the U.S. border very easily.

10|20 Marketing: Ok so let’s shift gears a bit and talk about the business side of things. What do you find are your biggest challenges in reaching new clients? How do you translate your passion for what you do into mass outreach, given that you’re selling cookies online?

Kimberlie Robert: Oh, my, there are several answers to this question.

At all times, I deliver the best product possible and the fastest, most responsive customer service that I can. My goal is to generate word-of-mouth. I need my customers to tell other cookie lovers about The Finer Cookie. Case in point, yesterday I spoke to a gentleman who, for the last 10 years, ordered from David Cookies (a well-known online cookie company). He told me that their chocolate chip cookie is his all time favourite. Once I learned this, I packed his box full of every cookie that included a chocolate chip. And I included a free bag of cookies. I want him to love his package and order from us for the next 10 years. I have many stories like this. One customer at a time.

Second, for as much as I want to believe I’m in the cookie business, I’m really in the gift-giving business. Finer Cookies are what friends and family send to each other. So the content across my social media and website focuses on the reasons why we send Finer Cookies. I want to convey my enthusiasm for sending gourmet cookies as a gift into the content on my social media and website. Always luxury and can’t-get-anywhere-else.

Third, our packaging also communicates my passion for the cookies we bake and ship. It’s the final statement. Or maybe the first statement since the customer initially meets our gourmet cookies at the box. The packaging tells the immediate story and sets the expectation for what they can expect to find inside.

10|20 Marketing: ok, last round! What are some of the things you do outside of work that inspire the work you do with The Finer Cookie? Can you describe the feeling you get when you see a new order come in? When you get that alert or call, how does it make you feel?

Kimberlie Robert: I admit that the line blurs between outside and inside work. I am consumed by my business. I think about it constantly. What inspires my work is seeing and experiencing the inspired work of others. Fantastic one-of-a-kind architecture. Storytelling that shows me a different perspective. Paintings that spotlight a moment that I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed.

The feeling when a new order comes in is absolutely wonderful. It shows me that there is a market for what I’m selling. I spoke to a woman this morning who loved everything about my site, everything about my menu selection. She couldn’t wait to get her cookies.

I have a project lined up for 410 boxes to be distributed at a conference – a conference about being excellent. A well known restaurant wants to place my gift boxes on their guests’ tables for dessert because the chef wanted his customers to experience the same wonderful feeling he got when he received his box through the mail. A major Canadian national company wants to send Finer Cookies to 450 of their employees.

Why all these great things? Because my cookies are wonderful. Working for customers like this – customers who get what I’m doing, justifies everything I know, everything I’ve learned, and all my skill sets. The circle is complete. It’s a feeling of wholeness.

10|20 Marketing: This is great, Kimberlie! Thank you so much for participating. We wish you nothing but the best. 

Kimberlie Robert: Thank you for including me in your series! Best of luck to you!

**

This is the first in a series of Local Business Owner Spotlight posts. If you’re interested in having your business highlighted, please reach out to mark@10-twenty.com. 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.

10 Ways to Continue Supporting Local Businesses In Challenging Times

Saying times are weird right now might be the understatement of 2020, but it really is new, uncharted waters out there thanks to the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. A lot of cities – and some entire countries – are on some form of lock-down, and while that might seem scary, it’s a pro-active measure to keep as many people safe as possible.

But while we’re doing our best social distancing, there are still local shops and businesses that are open, even if it’s at a reduced capacity. The Canadian economy as a whole has and will definitely take a hit, but it’s the independently-owned local businesses and their staff who are struggling the most. Many of the gyms, yoga studios, bars, restaurants, and wellness centres (like spas or massage therapy clinics) have all but shut their doors indefinitely.

10 Ways to Continue to Support Local Businesses Today

Fortunately, there are still ways to practice social distancing and support local businesses. Here are our top 10:

  1. Order Take-Out or Delivery

    Many restaurants, bars, and cafes have had to close their dining sections, but are still open for take-out or delivery options. Using an app to order and pay ahead of time can help minimize risks even more by eliminating the need for money to exchange hands.

  2. Purchase a Gift Card

    Birthdays, holidays, and special occasions will still happen this year. Why not order that gift card for that special someone now? Many shops are set-up to allow the purchase of gift cards online, so there’s no need to leave home.

  3. Book in Advance

    Though not mandated to close (yet), many spas, clinics, and treatment centres are experiencing cancellations left, right, and centre. If you cancel an appointment, why not reschedule it for next month? If you don’t have one booked, go ahead and treat yourself to a service – many online booking calendars are still open and taking bookings after we get through the next few weeks.

  4. Order Artwork

    What better time than now to order that painting you’ve been wanting for the living room wall? Many local artists have paintings, sculptures, or other pieces available for purchase, or take commissions. Reach out to your favourite local artist to see if they have what you’ve been looking for.

  5. Sign-up for Online Classes

    Many gyms, yoga studios, and fitness centers are offering live-streamed workouts you can do at home. If there is a paid option available and you have the means, opting for this service versus a free video can make all the difference in helping them keep their doors open.

  6. Purchase Services Still Being Offered

    Online service-based businesses are often still operating Business as Usual! Take advantage of the services they offer now while you have some downtime. If you’ve been wanting to learn more about a topic, now’s a great opportunity to go ahead and sign-up for that online course!

  7. Leave Google and Facebook Reviews

    Today’s consumer puts a lot of weight into online reviews from previous customers when deciding whether or not to make a purchase. If you’ve visited or purchased from a local business and were happy with the service, leave them a review! It really does go a long way to support local businesses.

  8. Buy Groceries from Local Shops

    One of the few things we’re leaving home for is to stock up on groceries. Instead of buying from chain stores, consider heading to a small mom + pop shop if there is one in your neighbourhood.

  9. Do Your Birthday Shopping Now

    Many product-based businesses offer online shopping already! Why not spend some time browsing through their online stores and check off all of the birthdays you have coming up in the next few months. If you’re really ambitious, you could even get your Christmas shopping started!

  10. Share on Social Media

    When you’re scrolling through Instagram or Facebook later, hit that Like button and share their posts. It’s a small act that builds awareness about your favourite local shops, and will help everything return to a sense of normalcy when this all passes.

What are some of your favourite ways to support local businesses? Is there a tip we missed? Share it with us in the comments! And in the meantime, stay safe and healthy out there, friends! And salute small businesses in your own way too!

Say Hi To The Local Search Association’s Website And You’ll Understand Why Optimizing Your Location Online Is So Important

The Local Search Association offers a wealth of resources for retailers, small business owners and local business operators. Their mandate is to help bring clarity to the value and importance of local online marketing optimization. While reviewing the Infographics section of their website, we found some data points that stand out.

Let’s review them.

Local Search Association Statistics

Most Helpful Sources For Finding Local Business Info

Digital channels are the most helpful for finding local business information, lead by search engines. Search engines are even more important than the company website, which highlights the critical importance of optimizing your Google My Business account (GMB). A big part of GMB optimization includes ensuring that ratings and reviews are added to the listing and responded to by business owners.

Doing so helps Google decide how often to present your listing and, more importantly, they help consumers decide whether to visit your location or not.

Local Marketing Reaches Undecideds

4 in 5 consumers using search engines to find local information. 63% of local search queries made by people who are undecided on a provider or retailer. So you can begin to see why it’s so important to be optimized. Try these other statistics on for size too: Local Searches lead 50% of mobile visitors to visit stores within one day, and address and location are the primary pieces of information sought by local searchers.

Put all these numbers together and it’s clear why Google My Business, Bing Local and other services such as Yelp and Foursquare are so important for your local marketing. Mapping technologies such as Apple Maps, TomTom and others also help you get found easily, while serving to provide additional SEO benefits to GMB.

Ask For A Local Review

The above statistic is fantastic and what you should take away from it is simple. If you don’t ask, you don’t get. Reviews actively play an essential role in consumer behaviour and are used as the tiebreaker for where to shop and what to buy.

BirdEye is an online reputation tool that helps small business owners generate positive online reviews. They cites that 92% of customers read online reviews, and 68% trust a local business more if it has positive reviews. So if 68% percent of the people you ask for reviews will give you one, and you ask people who think positively of you, you’re more likely to convert someone who searches for local solutions like you offer to a sale.

Conclusion

We’ve often cited this one last statistic, also from the Local Search Association, in our marketing materials.

According to a study conducted by the Local Search Association, about $10.3 billion worth of potential annual sales are lost because of wrong, missing, or incomplete local business information.

Think of the power of that statement. And then think of the power of being optimized to intercept searches from your business listing. The business potential is unlimited.

Full disclosure: 10|20 Marketing is a BirdEye believer. We resell their platform to our clients and have seen them enjoy tremendous success generating new reviews on their directory listings when they use this platform.

Why The Apple Watch Is An Important Location Marketing Consideration for Small Business Owners

The new Apple Watch Series 4 was released last week, and now that we’ve been able to play around with it, we see some incredible potential for it within the location marketing world. As a result, small business owners should be aware of some of the more obvious reasons to keep tabs on the Apple Watch – and some that are more obscure.

3 Obvious Location Marketing Apple Watch Uses

Connectedness

Let’s start with the obvious reasons and why they’re essential to the small business owner. First, it’s important to note that the Apple Watch, since the Series 3 iteration released last year, is available in an LTE version. LTE functionality allows users to stay connected via data and phone services to people and their apps. As a result, iPhone apps are now available on your wrist, for the most part, even when you leave home without a phone.

Online Directories and Reviews

Apps such as Maps, Yelp, Trip Advisor, Booking Now and other vital directories become even more crucial. At the turn of their wrist, your customers can now find you, read reviews about your location and decide whether or not your business is worthy of theirs. As a result, having a strong directory presence and review building strategy becomes even more critical to small business owners.

Apple Pay

Another way that Apple Watch can impact small businesses is through payments. Apple’s Wallet app is available on the watch, making it easy for customers to pay you. All it takes is a tap of the watch your terminal and, just like that, you’ve received your payment. This makes having a console that is optimized for tap and Apple Pay even more important than ever. For some consumers, knowing that you keep up with technology is a key reason for them to visit your business location. As of February of this year, it was reported that over 127 million people worldwide are using Apple Pay. And that number is only going up.

2 More Obscure Location Marketing Apple Watch Uses

Geofencing + Business Alerts

Geofencing is the use of GPS or RFID technology to create a virtual geographic boundary, enabling software to trigger a response when a mobile device enters or leaves a particular area. As a result, you can push an alert or coupon to Apple Watch users who are close to your business. With the haptic feedback from the watch “tapping” the wearer on the wrist, people will be aware of your alert sooner because they will feel it – and not discover it waiting on their phone when it’s too late because it was sitting in a purse.

Running Your Small Business

Time to look at the other side of the coin as well. While the Apple Watch can help you attract people to your business, it can also help you become a more efficient business owner. There are several apps designed to help you run your business and keep you on task. From CRM apps to ones for accounting and invoicing, or note-taking applications to reminders and to-dos, the Apple Watch can help you focus on what you do best and service the people who do come through your doors – all thanks to the navigation apps on their wrist.

As a small business owner, what’s important is being aware of the potential of this watch. It’s not that you’re expected to do all these things, but trying even one of the tactics may be the one thing to get on the radar of your potential customers. And that might very well be enough to turn someone’s indifference for your business into a real difference for your business.