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April 23 2021 Calgary Chamber

Engage and Grow: Marketing Q & A

We had so many great questions for the panel at our recent Engage & Grow event that we couldn't answer them all. We caught up with our panelists and wrote a blog with all the questions that were unanswered. Read the blog to learn more about marketing for your small business.


Jill Dewes

Partner, Daughter Creative

Meaghan O’Brien

Marketing Lead, Ernst & Young

Madeline Phillips

Director of Operations, Drizzle Honey


Q: How do you stay current and on top of trends and encourage your team to think broadly too versus in reactive pandemic mode?

MP: Every member of the Drizzle team is constantly doing our own research when it comes to staying on top of trends. We look at competitors, foreign markets and talk to specialists as well as pay attention to things we like and dislike when we’re just out and about. Every week we meet (zoom) and talk about it. This helps start a conversation and gets us excited about the future opportunities for growth. The world is definitely changing, but we embrace it and use it as an excuse to be creative.

MO: Attend webinars and subscribe to relevant newsletters. I enjoy listening to Jelly Marketing podcasts lately Marketing Jam | Digital Marketing Podcast | Jelly Digital Marketing & PR (

JD: I subscribe to newsletters and listen to lots of podcasts.

  1. Attend conferences
  2. Follow good marketing people on social - Simon Sinek, Seth Godin, Malcolm Gladwell
  3. Encourage people to get outside more and just see what's going on - we are all a bit sick of our own 4 walls and with travel so restricted it can be hard to stay fresh and inspired. Encourage people to read more widely (start a work book club?) and eat more widely (try new restaurants or swap recipes) plus listen to things they wouldn't normally (new radio stations, Spotify playlists). 
  4. Start a work happy hour where people can chat each week and share a few things that inspire them
  5. Have a shared drive or private Pinterest board or a Slack Channel where people can save or pin things that are inspiring (at Daughter we have a Google channel called 'Extra Extra' and it's just little snippets of things people have found on the internet. Fun & fresh & simple.

Q: What can you do beyond social media to build your brand?

MP: Community involvement is a great way to garner interest and create buzz around your brand (pun intended). Attend conferences, trade shows, markets. Talk to as many people who will listen to you about what you’re doing and why. Volunteer or sponsor events. Go to places where your demographic will be! Take it to the streets - safely, of course.

MO: Position yourself as a thought leader at virtual events or podcasts (submit speaking abstract) – join a relevant committee or board to your role/area of expertise/industry

JD: Collaborations with like-minded businesses can be a great way to expand your audience.

  1. Networking and speaking at conferences can position you as a thought-leader and have a halo-effect on your brand
  2. Targeted digital ads are extremely cost-efficient and easy to adjust and optimize - start off by boosting an organic social post that you've seen good engagement on and go from there.
  3. Sponsor local events or gatherings - if you make a product, offer it up as an auction prize for a cause you care about (homelessness, healthcare etc.) 

Q: Which is better for a restaurant? A small number of engaged followers or a large number of less engaged followers?

MO: I’d suggest small and engaged as a great starting point – look for ways to get them engaged and keep them engaged – considering sweepstakes/giveaways as one opportunity to engage your audience

JD: Focus on a small number of engaged followers to start - you can then do 'lookalike' marketing to find more people like them, and also encourage them to be brand advocates - e.g. post about you, and refer their friends

Q: What is one campaign/method/ad etc. that you've seen recently that really felt fresh and outside of the realm of those ideas that you see everyone doing?

MP: I have been really into the idea of including the community (small or large) in campaigns. I think it’s great when a local artist creates one of a kind art for a product, or a musician composes a piece to create a real emotional connection or a brand. I know that collaborations in branding isn’t a new concept, but I personally am drawn to the one-of-a-kind style more than anything these days, plus it supports the arts!

MO: Emotional marketing – campaigns that are relatable and focusing on being more humanized to your audience - Nike’s Dream Crazier or Apple’s WFH ad

JD: ReThink is an amazing agency and I love most of their work. Their pandemic puzzle for Heinz Ketchup (a solid 1000 pieces of ketchup red...) was really smart. Played on that feeling everyone was having of being stuck at home, but in a playful and lighthearted way.

Q: What about if you are not trying to 'grow' a small business but just want to increase the service or upsell of current customer base.  Sometimes growth of customers is not always the target for my clients?

MP: I would say that follow up is the best way to refresh interest in your brand and ensure repeat business. Remind customers/clients that you’re there for them and ready to deliver - whether it’s personalized customer service, first access to a new product or a loyalty discount - people love being offered a way in. There are so many brands and ads that we see everyday, so adding a human touch and little reward goes a long way!

MO: I’d suggest a business development approach in providing follow-up and fielding input on current service they are receiving while also opening the door for conversation on how you can support them through additional challenges they may be experiencing. This in my opinion is a 1:1 or 1:few approach.

JD: Communicate with those clients on a regular basis and find out what they need, even if it's not related to what you offer. I like to ask 'what's keeping you up at night?'. You may see some trends, and then you can look to change your service offering to help - e.g. your clients might be struggling to implement strong Diversity, Equity & Inclusion policies and you can find a third-party to run a virtual session on that. Check out Vinciane De Pape's new site if you're looking for a consultant.

Q: How can a financial institution/bank can help a small business or do things differently to make an impact on small business here in Calgary? 

MP: Drizzle has been very fortunate to have received help and attention from Canadian financial institutions, but we have also gone out and looked for opportunities. I would say making it easy to access funding, open accounts and talk to advisors is the biggest impact you could make on a small business. Networking events for start ups and SME’s is also always helpful.

MO: Being there for your clients with the approach that you understand/empathize and can help during these very challenging times – be willing to listen as though each small business is in this together – each business has very different circumstances and challenges. Look at unique ways to provide content and advice to your audience such as webinars or speaker events – ATB does a great job at this Events – ATB Entrepreneur Centre

JD: There are SO many things a bank can do to help small businesses! Proactive communication to make sure they are doing OK and to let them know about any grants they can apply for; offering extended terms on existing loans or helping them with new financing if possible; just showing empathy is a great help in these times. Also - you can do things like promoting them through your own channels - e.g. social media takeovers or 'client spotlights' in newsletters or on your website. Also, connecting clients in adjacent industries and offering to moderate some networking so they can share advice or form partnerships is helpful.

Q: Earlier some of you mentioned an intern, how does one get an intern?

JD: The Canada Summer Jobs Program is a great way to apply for a summer student. It's closed now - but calendar it for next year! You can reach out to marketing departments and offer internships too - e.g. Bow Valley College, UCalgary, MRU - or reach out to AUArts for graphic design internships. Also - the local Ad Rodeo Association has lots of students volunteering who are looking for marketing roles. Remember though - internships should always be paid! Also - post on LinkedIn - you will be surprised how many people will know of someone looking.

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Don't miss our next Engage and Grow event on May 12, 2021!

This event will feature previous Small Business Award winners, how their businesses have grown, and what has changed over the past year through the pandemic.