A solid brand permeates throughout an organization and rules everything - sales, marketing, company culture, business decisions, employee relations, recruitment and retention, and more. But how does that work? How do you figure out what your brand truly is?
We asked two professionals with ample experience—Corey Brewis and Cynthia Walker, partners and co-founders of Unfussy. Both worked for larger agencies in the past but wanted to work with brave and open-minded business owners and community leaders willing to wear their heart on their sleeve in order to stand apart from the crowd. It’s a powerhouse studio with additional skilled team members brought on as needed.
Here`s how they explained branding, “Where brand is the heart of an organization, visual identity, graphic design and imagery form the face; messaging and communications the voice; and lastly, how this communication is delivered–to whom, where and when– is marketing action. Each element must work in unison to tell part of the same brand story - thereby providing a holistic, consistent, authentic and accurate representation of the entity as a whole. The brand is both a perception and a driving force, and in the absence of its clear definition, any marketing action is at best a shot in the dark, and at worst a potentially damaging waste of time, effort and money.”
“Our actions should be defined by what happens in our hearts,” claims Corey, with a background in journalism, freelance writing, brand development and marketing. It’s apparent he’s a creative soul and a writer to his core. A writer that stirs up imagination, inspires thought and gets conversations going. Cynthia holds a background in art and is naturally imbued with a range of technical skill sets like design and production, website development and more. Collectively they deliver on the projects they take on.
As a team though, they connect people to the intangible offerings that a community or an organization can present to make lives better. They thrive on coaching and working with organizations to find the driving pulse in their heartbeat and make authentic connections with their audiences.
Unfussy are brand-first marketers who ensure all clients have a solid brand foundation and strategy first before any marketing components are done, such as website design and development, digital marketing, traditional print advertising, ad campaigns and social media, etc.
A brand helps build loyalty, equity, consumer value and longevity, so a company needs to connect first before they can direct. Only after a meaningful connection is made, can you then present a call to action with true conviction and effectiveness such as visit the website, speak to someone or make a purchase. Identify what intangible wealth you’re offering beyond simple product or service that no one else can.
There are challenges however. For Unfussy, there’s a misunderstanding out there about branding and the true value of letting a brand direct your marketing. To address this challenge, Cynthia states that, “We incorporate a branding 101 educational component into our brand strategy. We do this specifically for key decision makers and stakeholders so they know what we’re doing, what to expect from the process and why it’s critically important to go through all the steps.”
Every decision, recommendation and word used has intention and is based on promoting someone’s brand. Perhaps consider getting the beating heart of your brand checked by Unfussy.
Author: C. Tracy Williams
Editor in Chief
Lutz Building Enterprises was born in February 2018, by Thomas Lutz, founder and owner and consummate artist, out of a strong passion for the construction industry and a solid conviction of autonomy and independence.
In the face of some very hefty challenges, namely the downturn in economy during the last couple of years, coupled with the crippling COVID-19 pandemic, Lutz Building Enterprises is growing steadily and marching forward in full force. They are even planning to expand their workforce by hiring one full time employee and one part-time.
This stubbornness in facing life challenges is due largely to the unwavering determination that Thomas has in making it a success against all odds.
This fact is summed up best in his own words: “I have built the business; it's growing and we're moving forward. Determination and sticking with it is what brought me here. I hope that's inspiring to someone.” This is very inspiring indeed.
Lutz Building Enterprises provides a wide spectrum of market offerings to clients. They run the gamut from residential to commercial construction.
From interior renovations to painting, and from drywalling to flooring; as well as finishing decks, fences, even custom woodworking. They are flexible, agile, and open to almost any type of construction project.
In the world of business today, competition is fierce everywhere and anywhere. Of course, being located in a small city like Red Deer, this business fact of life is that much more prevalent.
This challenge, however, can be surmounted by being readily available to clients’ inquiries, questions, and requests. As well as being fair, accurate, and transparent with your prices.
As Thomas puts it aptly: “as long as customers know where you're at, you can do pretty well. But if the other guy has a little bit more time on his hands and can reply to phone calls and emails a little bit faster, then he's going to cut you out.”
In fact, it is this particular trait in Thomas that is giving him the strong competitive advantage over his competitors in the marketplace. Being honest with his pricing, having attention to details, especially those details that the client haven’t thought about during the planning process.
Thomas is always willing to explain the whole process clearly, precisely and point out things at the beginning so that clients know what to expect rather than being surprised at the end. It is operating with integrity and not taking advantage of people, whether they know a lot about renovations or nothing at all.
Being an ambitious entrepreneur, Thomas envisions the future of his construction business blossoming into a much bigger entity, having five to ten employees working full time, taking care of multiple renovation projects simultaneously with himself evolving into a project manager role.
Thomas ends his inspiring story with a potent advice to budding entrepreneurs:
“There's a lot of temptation to get a full-time job. But if you're really passionate about what you do, and you really want to build your business, you just need to power through sometimes, which is a lot of work, but the payoff of being your own boss, do your own thing, and build your own business is worth it.”
If elephants could jump, they would jump up and down with excitement of this marvelous Alberta business.
Jumping Elephant came about after a long and successful career with large agencies in the digital space. Sarah Kirkpatrick, founder and owner of the business finally decided to become her own boss and help small and medium size businesses market themselves online through the power of social media.
The genesis of the idea, however, happened long before that. With entrepreneurial blood running through her veins, inherited from her Mom who was also an entrepreneur. Origins of the idea began when Sarah was in school. She started helping family members and friends market their own businesses. This raw talent caught the eyes of some big digital agencies, who ended up hiring her full time. Thus, launching her successful digital and social media marketing career.
Today, Sarah runs a full-fledged and successful boutique digital and social media marketing agency with a cohesive team of sub-contractors doing many different tasks, such as blogging, social media content creation, web design, and digital marketing, just to name a few. She also works directly with small and medium sized businesses valued between $1.5 - $7 million in the capacity of a Fractional CMO.
Simply put, a Fractional CMO is having a ‘fractional’ marketing executive to help companies increase their return on marketing spend through digital marketing strategy, team development, implementation management, customer acquisition, and company growth. The business gets executive experience without the full-time cost.
This third pillar of their market offering was recently developed in response to a dire need in the small to medium size business world for specialized expert digital marketing services that go above and beyond the traditional social media support services, but without the full time expenses.
In terms of what challenges that could face startups and budding entrepreneurs in the online world, Sarah deftly advises: “get your email list started from day one, get some funnels in place, start collecting those emails, even if you're not using them now, you will want to use them in the future.” Sound advice indeed.
Jumping Elephant specializes in organic digital marketing. This includes, building digital marketing strategies for clients and building social media and blogging campaigns tailor made for their businesses. All that in addition to their excellent online courses on digital marketing, which can be registered for through their website.
The unique niche that Jumping Elephant has chosen, coupled with Sarah’s all-encompassing formal education and practical experience, in addition to the absence of costly overheads, all contribute to their competitive advantages in their marketplace.
Sarah’s dream five years down the road is to settle down in Victoria, BC by the ocean, while remotely running Jumping Elephant, which hopefully would become its own entity as an efficient engine running smoothly by a reliable and skilled team.
One final thought from Sarah is her recommendation to small business owners to take advantage of her free online course on how to optimize their social media channels.
Her last sage advice is:
“It doesn't take very long to polish your presence online and make it look that much stronger and more reputable for your audience, and it will make a measurable difference.”
As the real estate market in Alberta started rebounding from COVID-19, some proactive agencies are already ahead of the game.
Bridge Realty Group a proactive real estate business in Edmonton was incorporated by Travis Bannert, in 2019, after a long and successful career in sales and in real estate specifically within the last five years.
Travis declares “I really enjoyed the process of helping people out with selling and buying home.” Which was the genesis of his real estate career, in addition to having an entrepreneurial spirit and inclination to be his own boss.
Travis goes above and beyond the call of duty when dealing with people and potential customers. In some cases where the person might be facing financial hardship or have bad credit and does not know what to do or may have received some bad advice and was facing bankruptcy or foreclosure, Travis would step in and helps them with good advice or directs them to a good mortgage broker or a lawyer who help them get their financial affairs in order and save them from financial ruin sometimes.
He does that without asking for anything in return, regardless of whether they will eventually enlist his services or not. In many cases, when people do get out of trouble, due to his help, they appreciate his selfless help and end up buying a house from him. That is how good deeds pay you back in buckets.
This kind of great customer service has led to his real estate agency to grow by almost 40% every year. So much in fact, that even during the pandemic downturn, business is growing. In fact he is currently interviewing people to hire in his agency. Hoping to have an additional two full time positions by the middle of 2021.
His biggest challenge is “trying to make sure that we're not wasting time on tasks that don't help the client and ourselves as well.” Travis puts it succinctly.
Cleverly, instead of cutting costs like most realters did, Travis invested more in marketing his business, which helps keep him on top of people’s minds, so when life returns to normal after COVID-19, whatever that normal might be, people will remember him mostly and choose him for their next house. True enough, his plan is now paying big dividends. That is the winners’ way.
Some time ago a survey was conducted asking people their opinions on how their experience was when working with realtors. The number one complaint of people with realtors in Canada was that they didn't get Back to them in time. People valued most a prompt response from realtors they worked with. This survey had a big impact on Travis. He vowed never to do that when he became a realtor. True enough, he honoured his vow and has always been honest and gave people the right advice. This is what put him ahead of the curve and gave him his greatest competitive advantage.
Travis’s sage advice to other entrepreneurs is: “If you are starting a new business, it will be your #1-time consumer. You need to be available seven days a week otherwise you need to figure out an alternative. Maybe get a partner that can take on some of the load.”
Success is sweet, and this Alberta business story, without a doubt, is very sweet.
Originating from a sheer coincidence of using a cigar humidor to store brown sugar, a star was born. A star business that is, was born in 2018.
SugarBaby Saver started with a chance spot at the Millarville Farmers’ Market and branched out to other farmers’ markets including the St. Albert Farmers’ Market which is the largest outdoor farmers' market in Western Canada, as well as selling their unique quality glass jars with humidor lids through Amazon and their own online store. You can also find their products in some boutique stores around Alberta cities.
This small, but vibrant, Calgary based business started producing their proprietary designed multipurpose SugarBaby Savers to enable people to preserve their food from waste. With vintage 1950s look and feel, they not only developed convenient useful products, they even designed them to match most kitchen décors, with white and black lids. All while being environmentally conscientious, as their jars are made from recycled glass.
Their customers loved the jars so much they were ingenious, by using the jar for all sorts of other things. Thus, giving SugarBaby viable new ideas of marketing it for marshmallows, dried fruits, cigars, soft pet treats, baked goods, and anything that needs that little bit of moisture. The jars are convenient to use, put in a cupboard and you forget about it for four months, then when you want to use it again It is still going to be soft and usable. Its ingenuity is in its simplicity.
With the reopening of Alberta is gearing up slowly and the St. Albert Farmers’ Market opening, SugarBaby Products is launching their newest product, a mini humidor, the “humi pocket.” Which came about in response to customers’ need for a smaller version of the SugarBaby jar and fits any wide mouth mason jar.
Jennifer Pedersen, founder and owner of SugarBaby Products, would tell you: “in business, you have to be able to trust yourself with your decisions, and if you fail, well then you have learned a valuable lesson.”
Their excellent customer service is what distinguishes them, in addition to their unique niche products.
Jennifer described it best by saying: “I think our number one competitive advantage is the fact that customer service is so important in our company. We strive to excel at earning and keeping our customers. I care how I make money, so I want to make sure that my customer has the best experience. I would not sell my products if they didn’t work.”
As for the quality of their products, Jennifer explains “I'm proud to say we've never ever once had any customer come back and say, I tried that, and it didn't work. That stands to show that our products actually do work.”
In terms of future vision, Jennifer explains that five years from now, they would like to be transitioned completely from retail to wholesale.
Her sage advice to other small Alberta businesses:
“believe in what you do, If you don't like what you're doing, you are not going to get far. You need to know who you are, what you offer and how you create value to your customers and don't be afraid to fail because it is the trying that matters.”
Courtesy of Alberta Chambers of Commerce