Can we talk about how POOPED we are from our recent “50th episode” celebrations?
But in the true spirit of what the 4AM Report (and the reason we HIT 50!) is all about – the show must go on!
We love Maritimers. The east coast of Canada is stunning, and the people are warm, welcoming, and good humoured (we love them so much we even have one on staff! LOL).
Maritimers are also fighters. An historically economically depressed region of Canada with an aging population (‘cause all the youngsters shuffled off to Toronto or out west for work!), PLUS overall low population growth, things are starting to shift. Today’s digitally driven society, a global economy, and stronger immigration are all helping to level the playing field. In fact, a recent study says the economic outlook for the Atlantic provinces is positive overall.
And that shift is down to – in part – entrepreneurs like Neil Stephen.
The Art of Giving Back
Our most recent guest on the 4AM Report, Neil is a brand communicator and CEO of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia’s This is Marketing. He believes strongly in the ripple effects that naturally occur in a community by helping brands and businesses succeed.
We spoke about how what keeps HIM up at night goes far beyond typical marketing dilemmas. His biggest concern is the economic stability of the part of Canada he and his family call home. And he views his role as a marketer as also a kind of “economic growth enhancer.” His goal? To use his team at This is Marketing to ultimately create as many as a thousand new jobs in Atlantic Canada.
As he says, “If we can create 1000 long term jobs here by helping our clients grow, yeah, I’ll be able to sleep better. You know, in this part of the world, the Call Center comes to town, and it says they’re going to hire 300 people. That’s huge news! But, it’s equally huge and devastating five years later when the call center leaves. For us, if we can create 1000 jobs here, by helping a business go from two employees to four, or four to eight or eight to 12, and grow sustainably – then this part of the world just got a little bit more sustainable too.”
We can’t love this idea enough. And it’s a “talk” we’ve been “walking” since the Covid-19 crisis started. Helping other businesses succeed, ultimately results in all kids of good juu-juu.
Here’s more from Neil:
Marketing in Times of Covid: The NASCAR Analogy
“I happen to have been at NASCAR lately. And if you’ve seen a car race, you know, what you end up seeing is the cars are very spread out and the person in the lead can be more than a lap ahead of other people. But from time to time, there’s a crash. Of course, everyone loves a crash. It’s fun to see the cars flying! But what it does is, it causes a caution [yellow] flag, and it brings the whole field together again. And what I’ve been trying to communicate to the businesses that we work with is, this [Covid-19] is a yellow flag – the entire marketplace has been brought together again. And, as things begin to open up again, that’s the green flag. Things are starting to go, and you can really put the pedal to the metal – and in this unique scenario, you have the chance to move up positions very quickly. If you can innovate, out-drive, and be a bit more technically innovative, you can go from eighth place to six, or eighth place to third very quickly.”
“It depends on how prepared you are, how unprepared your competitors are and whether or not you’re seeing the field that way, right? The biggest players in your industry (that’s not you), they’re likely going to have the vehicle to get them out front. And you’re not going to outspend the Walmarts or the Amazons of the world. But chances are especially if you’re a smaller business, you’re competing in that middle of the pack. And to go from 11th place to seventh is massive. So, in this unique moment, yeah, the field has totally consolidated, everyone’s tied together. And if you’re smart about it, you can get ahead quickly. You just have to be really paying attention.”
Some Companies “Just Get It” – Rescue the Ones That Don’t!
“Let’s say there’s 1000 small businesses in an average Canadian community. Probably 50 or 80 of them are led by people who are really entrepreneurial and really creative. They’re like, natural marketers. And they’re the ones that are already crushing it on social media! I saw it happen with the pandemic, all of those same accounts and those same businesses they were the ones that people were featuring: ‘Oh, wasn’t this smart? Wasn’t this creative?’ That’s how they are. They’re naturally like that. So, we come to the rescue of the businesses and the business owners that aren’t like that, right? [Our advice has] been a lot of: How do we make good use of this time? How do we understand how your customers have changed? We do a lot in the consumer packaged-goods space. People selling in grocery stores, and my god – the changes in how people shop in a grocery store are just shocking. If you’re not on the list before they go to the grocery store, forget it. If your whole marketing strategy revolved around being on the shelf, just being in the store, you’re done. Unless you’re flour or yeast!! We had, a handful of clients that, you know, their rack in the store was very important to their marketing. And now everyone’s shopping with their head down, using grocery lists, and we saw their sales plummet. So, we had to start thinking ‘How can we be creative and get on people’s shopping list before they even go to the store? We’ve all had to really rethink a lot.”
Stand Out from the Crowd with Your Origin Story!
“Most larger brands are going to be able to outspend you, right? So, think ‘Okay, how do I hack my way into relevance here?’ It takes guts, it takes having a story and being willing to tell your story. And understand that, I may tell a story that, if there’s 1000 people, my story may only appeal to 80 of them, but man, is it ever going to appeal to those eighty! And then they’re going to become customers, right? It’s about defining who I am and who I’m not – running towards who I am, and storytelling all the way so that the people who identify with that story can see themselves in you, in your brand, and in your products. They see you as an extension of their own values. And that’s where I think a lot of small businesses really win. When they know who they are, know who they’re not. And they embrace everything that makes them unique. I see that with clients who are afraid to say things that might alienate people and alienate audiences. But whenever we’re having that conversation, and we’re talking about, ‘Well, this might not appeal to these groups.’ My antennas are way up because it’s like, you’ve got to take risks around the creative. The other thing too is, it’s incredibly hard to get attention, incredibly high attention. So, if you are going to take a risk to get attention and it doesn’t pan out? You’re not going to get any attention. No one’s going to see the failure or the mistake, you’re working your butt off just to get a little bit of exposure. Take the risk. If it doesn’t work, no one sees it. But chances are it will work, especially if you’re being yourself and you’re being authentic. Your audience will continue to grow.”
Neil also mentions a *koff* high profile so-and-so who allegedly stole his company name out from under him (hence why their social accounts are “brands by Tim” and not “This is Marketing”).
But you’ll have to listen to the episode if you want to find out who. We’re crafty that way. 😀
You can find us over on Apple Podcasts – hope you’ll check us out!
And if you’re losing sleep over a particular marketing/business related problem during this Covid-19 economic uncertainty, or if you have a guest idea on the topic, let us know. Drop us a line at c+p digital.
And as always, sweet dreams…well, hopefully!