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.

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.