Nicole started her first entrepreneurial journey in 2007 with her husband. They decided to start an organic farm & micro-brewery in the Cascade Mountains of the Pacific Northwest. During the seven years that they ran Acadian Farms & Brewery, she was in charge of all things marketing- everything from events to social media to website design. Learning + doing everything on her own, Nicole created an SEO-friendly website that reached #1 on Google and utilized the power of social media and influencer outreach to get featured in prominent publications like The Oregonian, Portland Monthly, and The Seattle Times, as well as popular craft beer blogs.
So let's talk about marketing because this is obviously your world. I know that you do a lot with marketing plans as we do as well. But how would you recommend that small business owner get started with a marketing plan?
So that's like, the biggest kind of problem I see when I work with a lot of different business owners. They have ideas, and they have a little bit of a plan, and then maybe they have some people kind of helping them, but there's no overall cohesive strategy. So that's where we start and it kind of starts with your foundation, like, what are your goals? Who are your potential customers? Where are they hanging out? What are their struggles? It doesn't have to be like super overwhelming, once you kind of even just start writing everything down, pulling all of that information out of your head, looking at a calendar, and again, knowing who your customers are, and where they're hanging out online, or what their hobbies are. Just really starting to brainstorm all those ideas helps create a plan and an effective plan, and they leave feeling so less stressed. I was working with someone last week and she goes, "I am just so excited to finally have a marketing plan!" So that's what I love doing, and a little bit of planning really, really goes a long way.
One of the things that I've learned is, even though you have a plan, it may not work out the way that you want it to, it's a lot easier to adjust when you have a plan versus trying to make changes when you have nothing fleshed out.
Yes, totally. A lot of them will work out their strategies and just put their notes down all that and like a Google Drive folder, which is super easy, or you know, people can use Dropbox or whatever. But being able to refer back to that, as you said and be like and look like okay, maybe we need to shift like this isn't working or like, you know, we all just went into lockdown again, like how can we adjust where necessary, but having a place to look and kind of keep track really just really helps.
So what are some of the most common things that you're coaching your clients on right now?
So a lot of it is this planning that I've been talking about. Some are a little bit further along and then so it's just really trying to figure out which channels are best for them. Then we start exploring different ways to reach their ideal customers, whether it's, one of my clients just had a big challenge within a Facebook group, and it went really well, she got so many sales, and then another one is planning to expand her YouTube channel because that's where her potential clients are and spend a lot of time. So it's really just getting that plan, and then getting even more granular about where we're gonna execute this and then going into best practices with that, and their schedule, and then just kind of holding them accountable as well. We have so many things when we're running a business so just having that little bit of accountability is super helpful.
Your LinkedIn profile says you offer simple marketing strategies. So can you elaborate on the use of the word simple and what are some simple ways that other small businesses can market themselves?
Yeah, totally. So yeah, in my bio, you know, it mentioned that my husband and I ran a small business for seven years. It was a farm, so not like, huge profits. So we had to figure out simple, easy, and pretty low budget ways to market our business. So I used a lot of what I did in that in what I do now in helping clients. But so it's a lot of social media and I know, some people like, "Ugh, I hate social media." But when you are able to understand the different nuances of the different platforms, and why you're doing it, and then like some stats of like, so many people are on social media. Then just sharing all of these different things and how to do it, then it is simple because we don't know what we don't know, you know what I mean. So, I just like to provide all these different ways and I really come with the approach of teaching them how to do it, even if I'm going to be doing it for them, I want them to know why we're doing, what we're doing, or where we're doing it. So even a simple one, for example, when we had the farm, we had beer, and we're in a very, like craft beer world here in the northwest, it's huge. So I would hold an open house event for all of the craft beer bloggers, and they would come and taste all our beer and then they would go back and write on their blogs and put it on their social media. So we were able to like really grow and gain brand awareness. That kind of like, evolved into like, a lot of the newspapers and publications, even from Seattle coming in and reaching out to us because they saw us on other blogs. There are so many ways, like once you kind of get these small business owners talking, and they get into the strategy, they hit so many great ideas. Once I get past that overwhelm, and not quite kind of like understanding why it's happening, then it just opens up the floodgates, which is awesome.
So this podcast is all about networking and relationships. Obviously, that's something that you're doing and you shared some great examples of fostering those relationships from a grassroots marketing level. Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking stories that you've had?
I can't think of a favorite story, but when you say networking I just think that there are so many things that popped into my mind of so many people that I've met through networking, I'm just a huge advocate of it. I'm an ambassador for our local chamber here in Hood River, I'm a chamber member because we live on the Columbia River. So it's like Oregon, and Washington right next to each other, so I'm in another chamber, but it's like, two minutes away. Also, I do a lot of online networking, and this podcast too was really started with that in mind to create a community because being an entrepreneur can be hard and lonely and I have met people from around the world. I just got an email last week from a gal that had been on my podcast last year, introducing me to someone that needs what I do. So that was almost a year ago, and I was still top of mind enough for her to think of me and reached out and now I have a meeting with her next week. Networking is essential and I just love having that community of having people that know what it's like trying to grow a business, maybe you don't necessarily own it, but, you know, just that whole community.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture your network in your community?
Usually, it's a good bit of social media of just really reaching out and making those connections a lot. Whether I work with them, or they're on the podcast, or people that have been on the podcast will introduce me to other people on social media. So just trying to stay in there because it is meant to be social, you know, that was first and foremost. So just really going back and forth and meeting these people and having a genuine interest in just getting to know people. I introduced two ladies today that both have podcasting interests and they both live in Boise, Idaho. So I was like, "Hey ladies, y'all need to meet," and now they're going to meet for a social distance coffee soon. So really trying to stay in touch with people and follow up and see how their lives are going. Lately, it's been social media, more so, than any other channels.
What advice would you offer that business professional who's really looking to grow their network?
I know, it's kind of hard right now because we don't have any of the in-person meetups or networking occasions, but there are so many opportunities online. There are so many Facebook groups, there are so many LinkedIn groups. I've met so many people those ways, and have been referred business and just met people and had zoom chats and ended up working together. Even local chapters like ours are having online coffee networking meetups. BNI, I know I think they've moved to an online platform as well, so there are opportunities. It's not the same as being in person but I would start researching those and just getting involved in joining those groups and just kind of observing and getting involved and introducing yourself just like you would at in-person meetings.
So if you could go back to your 20-year-old self, what would you tell yourself to do more or less of or differently with regards to your professional career?
So this is something I've just recently figured out so I would definitely, I guess, tell my 20-year-old self. Just say yes and just start. I've watched so many opportunities go by me just because I was kind of scared to put myself in that position of being out of my comfort zone, or just to try it. I probably wouldn't have gotten past that had I not started my podcast, because that really put me out of my comfort zone a lot. Now, I love it and I can't imagine it not being in my life. I probably wouldn't have gone into coaching, either, because I'm pretty introverted. So those two have really forced me out of my comfort zone. So at 20 I know, I was not doing things that put me out of my comfort zone. So I would say just get started and just go because who cares!
So we've all heard of the six degrees of separation, who is one person that you'd love to connect with, and do you think you can do it within the six degrees?
I'm gonna say Mel Robbins, or Shonda Rhimes because I read both of their books this year, and they were amazing. It changed my life. Yeah, I don't know, though. There's gonna be somebody that knows somebody. I guess so with both of them it kind of ties back to maybe that is why it did have such a big impact on my life this past year. You know, Mel Robbins, like breaking into the psychology of why we do or don't do things, I thought that was really fascinating. Also, she talks about you're not ever really going to feel like doing some of these things, so you just count backward and go. I was like, "Oh my god, she's right," don't get so emotionally attached and just do it. Then I really, really enjoyed Shonda's book, The Year of Yes. Again, just starting saying yes and finding out what happens. The way she writes is awesome and just seeing her transformation was just really eye-opening. So I would talk to them about their books and dig deeper.
Do you have any final word or advice to offer our listeners with regards to growing and supporting your network?
I would just say that having a plan for networking and reaching out to these people should be part of your marketing plan. But you know, really just taking a little bit of time, even if it's 30 minutes or an hour. This is a great time of the year to do it before we go into the new year. So just, you know, taking a little bit of time, like, how can I reach out to more people? I have one client that I help with, who is an attorney, and she wants to grow her network. So we've come up with the list, and she's gonna send $5 Starbucks digital cards, and ask two attorneys a month to go on coffee dates, virtually. I thought that was a really fun and creative yet simple way to really open up our network. So yeah, just kind of pulling all of those ideas, but putting them down on paper will really help you not get so overwhelmed.
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