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Hello to all our lovely readers out there & Happy Summer!! Well, we guess it’s not quite officially summer yet, but Memorial Day is right around the corner, so we’re just going to go ahead and declare it summer in Accounting Therapy Land! 

And with that – we’re also going to sign you up for summer school – but with a twist!  

We’re thrilled to announce the launch of our Summer School Blog Series! During our second blog post of each month, from now until August, we’re going to shine a spotlight on a different industry (industries to be featured are marketing, HR, legal, and tax). But, instead of us answering the questions, we’re going to be asking them! Each month, we’ll ask an industry expert (and fellow small business owner!) a series of questions designed to give you the answers that you’ve been just dyyyying to know! So, gear up sports fans and get ready to embark on a summer of growth, insights, & tips and tricks from the best of the best!  

Without further ado, we present the 1st session of our Summer School Blog Series with marketing extraordinaire, Daryl Avery Swanson! Daryl is the Founder of NE PARADIGM (NEP), a full-service marketing and design firm dedicated to supporting small businesses. Daryl has extensive experience in marketing, branding, and strategic partnerships and has worked with all kinds of clients from start-ups to national and global brands. Daryl & her NEP Team are known for “bridging the gap between marketing, sales, and leadership” ß something we absolutely love!  We had the pleasure of working with NEP last year and cannot say enough amazing things about their team! So, let’s dive into our Q&A session with Daryl!

  1. First & foremost, why did you start your business & what did we miss in our intro spiel that you want our readers to know?!
    • "I started NEP with the purpose of providing small business owners a valuable solution to their marketing and design needs without the burden of investing in a full-time marketing team. Our solutions offer businesses the opportunity to access a diverse team of professionals with expertise in various areas of marketing and design, all at the cost equivalent to hiring a single marketing coordinator. By utilizing NEP, businesses can elevate their competitiveness in the market, while allowing owners to concentrate on growing and managing their business, rather than getting bogged down with additional tasks. I am passionate about empowering small businesses to succeed and thrive by offering them the tools and support they need to grow in today's competitive landscape."
  2. What are some of your go-to marketing strategies for the “cost-conscience” small business owner? 
    • "I think it is important to understand that you do not need to be everywhere and attract everyone. It is imperative to start with understanding your target audience and your ideal client. Answering the questions, who are they? What is important to them? Where are they getting information? How can you support them by adding value through your expertise? To be effective in your energy and spending, you need to have a targeted approach to your marketing strategy that aligns with your business initiatives and revenue goals. I prioritize where prospective clients head first for information and credibility. You want to make sure your website matches your messaging and your brand. You need it to be concise, informative, and easy to navigate. You also want to make sure that your brand represents your business. You also want to make sure if you are B2B that your LinkedIn profile both company and personal are optimized. Once you have completed those, you want to work on organic opportunities. Take full advantage of platforms that don’t have a cost to participate such as social media, setting up a Google My Business page and content generation for organic SEO – all these things support brand awareness, reach, and credibility without an associated cost. My top five cost-effective, sustainable go-to marketing strategies that should always connect back to your website are:

      1. Social Media
      2. Email Marketing
      3. Local partnerships and collaborations
      4. Referral strategies
      5. Organic SEO content generation"
  3. In the grossly overpopulated space of social media… are small businesses still able to build a loyal customer base without a big budget? If so, what are some tips?
    • "Absolutely! Small businesses can certainly build a loyal client base on social media without the need for a big budget. There are some caution signs to look out for. First, do not go down the rabbit hole of being on all social media platforms. Every company is different, and your social media strategy should be customized to your business and your audience. NEP focuses on LinkedIn and Instagram with a 60/40 concentration towards LinkedIn based on our audience. We look at impressions as much as engagement. Another caution sign - do not get discouraged by likes and comments. Focus on increasing followers and expanding your audience and the impressions that your content creates amongst your audience and others. Be authentic in your voice and your content on social media. Make sure that you are operating in an 80/20 split between value-added information relevant to your audience and direct selling. Think of your relationship with your followers as a bank account balance – are you adding to that bank account balance (value-added) more than you are withdrawing (CTAs)? Be consistent with your branding. Your look and feel needs to be consistent. Share your wins and celebrate your community. Look out for the changing algorithms and follow the data your reporting is telling you."
  4. When creating brand content (written or visual), what are some techniques small businesses can use to stand out?
    • "Understand your audience and tailor your strategies to deeply connect with them. Craft a brand voice that mirrors your company's personality and remains uniform across all platforms. Establish a brand guide encompassing logos, colors, typography, imagery, music, and more to uphold a consistent and unmistakable visual identity. Embrace authenticity and stay true to your brand – it's perfectly fine to show your human side!"

  5. What are some marketing mistakes small businesses make and how would you suggest avoiding them?
      • Mistake #1 - Inconsistent branding.
        • "You can avoid this by developing a brand and tone guide that feels true to who you are as a company and always refer to it when developing content. This helps to maintain a standard sound, look and feel so that your brand has one personality and doesn't appear unorganized."
      • Mistake #2 - Content without strategy is just stuff.
        • "You can avoid this by having a content strategy within your marketing strategy, reviewing what your analytics are telling you, and creating a proactive versus reactive content calendar that aligns with your business goals and services, Strategize. Implement. Analyze. Repeat for continuous improvement."
      • Mistake #3 - Leaving out calls to action (CTAs).
        • "You can avoid this by working CTAs into your messaging. Do this in a way that feels authentic to you and your business core values. Be strategic where you put them and where they lead to, make sure they are clear to your audience and try to make them trackable."
      • Mistake #4 - Focusing on one form of marketing versus a holistic marketing approach.
    1. What is one of your or your clients' biggest success stories? What's the key takeaway that could be applied moving forward?
      • "I am incredibly grateful that NEP has grown through referrals for our first 5 years in business. Our clients all have different types of wins. Success can be subjective to the initial intent. We have had great success with campaigns, client events, video series, creating functional websites, and my favorites have been building brand awareness and sharing a company’s story through a brand refresh and consistent messaging within their marketing. Key takeaways are to take the time to return to the basics and build off a solid foundation versus building on a shaky one. Be authentic. Get clear on your brand, your voice, your target audience, and your services. Focus on lasting results versus instant results. You are building a relationship with a community. That takes consistency and time."

    2. How important is it for a small business to put a "face to the name?" Does it have to be the face of the owner?
      • "Putting a "face to the name" can be crucial for a small business as it adds a personal touch and enhances the connection with customers. While is doesn't have to be the face of the owner, it should represent the brand effectively. Sesing a face creates human connection, establishes trust and credibility, builds your brand identity, and can differentiate you from your competitors."

    3. Looking ahead, what emerging marketing trends should small businesses keep their eye on and start to incorporate into their mix?
      • "The popularity of video marketing is skyrocketing. Small businesses can harness the power of short-form videos on social media platforms such as Instagram Reels, along with longer-form content on YouTube and other video-sharing platforms. This enables them to captivate audiences visually and effectively convey their brand narrative."

      • "Sustainability has become an increasingly prominent topic that commands attention. As a forward-thinking small business, it is essential to embrace transparency regarding your practices and proudly showcase initiatives that contribute to positive change, regardless of their scale. Be honest in messaging and efforts and be aware of greenwashing."

      • "SEO is another topic that is becoming more important with the noise of the internet."

        • "In the ever-growing digital landscape, search engine optimization (SEO) is emerging as an area of focus. It is vital to prioritize keywords related to your services and location to enhance the discoverability of your business. Be careful when hiring a digital marketing agency. Do your homework versus entering that partnership blind. Focus first on organic SEO before diving into the deep end of the pool with paid."
      • "The rise of artificial intelligence (AI) is hardly a surprise. By utilizing AI effectively, businesses can automate repetitive tasks, tailor messages to specific audiences or personalities, and gain invaluable insights that can guide decision-making. However, it is crucial to possess a deep understanding of AI and the content you are receiving from it, ensuring that it is tailored to your specific business needs. AI is not the ultimate solution itself, but rather a tool and a resource that can support ideation and processes."
    4. And lastly, if someone is interested in working with your team, what's the best way to start the convo?!

            Dang! Thank you, Daryl, so many great insights, tips, tricks, & ideas.  

            Well, loyal readers, what stood out to you? What is one idea you can immediately implement? Or one thought that warrants a pivot from your current strategy? 

            We hope you enjoyed our Summer School Blog Series - Session 1! Come back next month for some insights and strategies from one of our favorite CPA’s, Kelli Cox of CGC Accountants & Advisors! Until then! 

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