Breathing Out, Checking In

“How are you?”

When was the last time someone asked you that question, and you felt like they actually meant it?

No, let’s take this one step further: when was the last time someone asked you that question and you answered, authentically?

I’d always thought that this question (or variations of it) was vital to ask, but with this pandemic, there’s something screaming inside of me, “NOW MORE THAN EVER.” 

To ask, and to listen — closely, and intently. And, my eyes are tearing (only slightly!), just imagining the heaviness that this question could bring. 

In the midst of this pandemic, we’ve experienced loss, anxiety, and just a whole load of chaos. Some moments have felt like a standstill, while others have felt like you can barely catch your breath. 

In the midst of the crazy, will you pause and allow me to ask, “how are you?” 

And, will you answer honestly, and wholeheartedly?

As you think through it, perhaps you’re overwhelmed and thinking, “I don’t even know where to start.” 

Here are some guiding questions:

  1. What have you been grateful for in the midst of this pandemic? What have been some of your hardest spaces? 
  2. What were some incredible wins? And, where have you felt discouraged? 
  3. What do you need right now? How might you get there?
  4. What is one thing you can do today to light a spark within you?

I know, you may be thinking — wait, how is this even marketing or business oriented?! I CAME HERE FOR SOME DIY MARKETING CONTENT. 

I’m not sure I have the perfect answer for that. But, perhaps it’s a little DIY for you today — because, guess what? You matter. How you’re doing matters — it matters to your family, your friends, and your business.

And, over the years, here’s a little secret I’ve learned: when we take the time to check in on ourselves, some pretty incredible things follow. 


For the Love of Marketing

For the Love of Marketing

I fell in love with Human Psychology in college. It was like I had discovered a world where my analytical mind, random knowledge retention, and joy in behavioral observation didn’t freak people out. 

I find it a challenge to “reign it in” when it comes to talking about a subject I love. Even with years of practice, anytime I get excited, I tend to talk louder, faster, and more in depth than anyone else can seem to stand. And while I’ve watched hundreds, possibly thousands, of eyes “glaze over” in my life, I always knew deep down that these traits would help me somehow.

As a five year old, I wanted to be a clown someday. I remember dreaming of how much fun it must be to be a part of a circus, making people laugh and bringing joy at the simplest of silly acts. Years later, in the early barrage of being asked what I would be when I grew up, I began to wonder about marketing. At the time, I didn’t actually know what to call it, but after telling my dad that I believed I could convince anyone to buy anything, “even this pencil!” he said I might be perfect for marketing.

This may come as a shock, but no, I did not realize my dream of professional “clownship,” but I like to think that clowning around definitely has its place in my career.

Like many millennials, years went by and the expectation of furthering my education, choosing a career, managing expenses, and finding a life partner all began to shape my future, rather than my dreams. I found myself floating from job to job, counting down the hours until I was to clock in and spend my shift being told that I talked too much, was smart yet overwhelming, needed to know my place and stop trying so hard, that I was too emotional, too invested in my coworkers, and too focused on life outside of work. As easy as it is to get caught up in how angering those judgements were, I look back on it now as a period of time when the jobs I worked did not fit who I was and they never would, no matter how hard I tried.

I was meant to talk too much, to have too many random facts stored in my head, to watch people’s behavior and how they found joy in life. Sitting on the bleachers at a school assembly in ninth grade, I had fun telling my friends how a fellow student’s body language spoke to their personality and emotional state. These moments were long before I found the world of psychology, marketing, and a community of people that valued my strengths.

I remember the first day I woke up for a job that I truly loved. The thought popped into my head, “Wow. For the first time I’m counting down the hours until I get to sit in that office chair. I can’t wait to get to do this for the rest of my life!” 

When was the last time you thought that? 

Of course my goal here is to provoke thought—to challenge those who aren’t fulfilled, empower those who don’t quite fit, and to virtually high-five those living out their dreams. My love of marketing is far deeper than just marketing, it’s a love of people. It is an honor to seek out the why behind their behaviors, aspirations, appearance, etc. And it’s a joy to bring that to the forefront of their businesses.

Washington Concept is built on this fundamental truth: in an ever changing world, the only constant in marketing is humans. We are a team comprised of people who genuinely love people, thrive on relationships, adventure, making connections across the globe and maintaining those friendships.

When you work with Washington Concept, it is this team that fights alongside you when the world changes, supports you when the inevitable doubt creeps in, and celebrates your successes in both professional and personal environments. We aren’t just a marketing agency, we are your team.


Why Relationships?

Why Relationships?

When we first started out as a marketing agency, someone asked me what our niche was. They, also an owner of a marketing agency, shared that their focus was on businesses in the medical field, along with health and wellness companies. To tell you the truth, I had no idea what our “niche” was or even what it was supposed to be! I found myself, suddenly bashful and insecure, ready to leave the conversation as I had no real response.

What was our niche? Did we have to have one? Is it necessary for a marketing agency to “specialize” in something? 

My journey of planning for the future began at this exact moment— it was so defining and I will never forget it. The biggest question I had to ask was: what makes us unique as a business? And the answer was plain, staring me right in the face! It was Jay.

Now, before you think I’m going all mushy, please allow me to unpack that thought. Jay, as a person, is a fairly unique character. If you talk to his friends, family, mentors, even people who don’t like him all that much, they all agree: that Jay Oakes is pretty great! And, while this is a fairly basic statement, the fact that it is said about Jay, is what makes it so intriguing.

I met Jay about 12 years ago, married him, traveled with him, and had a couple of kids with the guy. You could say I know him pretty well. 

So, I took this knowledge of him and compiled this list of what makes Jay…well, Jay:

  • Jay has this uncommon ability to remain friends with people regardless of distance.
  • He can tell a person, with a smile on his face, that he disagrees with their decisions or behavior, and when he walks away, they all say, “That Jay Oakes, he’s just such a nice guy!”
  • He can read people so well that within 5 minutes of meeting them, he knows if they are fun, trustworthy, reasonable people.
  • When traveling, even across the country, there is always someone (usually a person I don’t know) that comes up to us and says, “Is that Jay Oakes? Hey man, how’s it going?!”
  • He hires people based on this criteria: if he would enjoy camping with them.
  • He never wants a person to feel as if he is trying to get their money.

I have found it so interesting that a person can say things, potentially offensive (yet kind) things, in a way that leaves the listener feeling refreshed, encouraged, and ready to take on the world. Believe me, if he knew I was writing these things, it’s likely he would feel weird about it and ask me not to post this article, but there are important points to be made here!

As I was pondering our niche, trying to find a way to communicate what made us as a marketing agency so unique, I kept being interrupted by my our team, by our friends, by a desire to go places, do things, be a parent, achieve my dreams, see the world, etc. It was these things, along with Jay’s distinct skillset, that led me to Relationship-Based Marketing. Not only was our desire to connect with our clients on a personal level, but to deepen the connection between our clients and their customers. 

In the world of marketing, there is one constant: People. And while you can argue that people aren’t constant at all, it is a human’s desire to connect with other humans that remains so powerful in our world. 

Jay’s official title on his business card is Owner/Curator of Creativity. He has curated a team of talented people that believe in the value of relationships, that work hard to connect with someone regardless of distance, that care enough to challenge someone’s thinking in a positive way, and that know how to enjoy a good camping trip.

Not only have we applied this mindset to our internal team, but we find strength in intentionally choosing to work with clients we believe in. It is in that relationship that we find a sense of purpose: encouraging and building up other business while helping them thrive.


Follow Through = Growth

Follow Through = Growth

“If you want to grow, you need to have the courage & conviction to do what you say you’re gonna do.” This is an amazing principle I gleaned from Story—a conference put on each year for creators & storytellers looking to deepen their skills and push past their goals as business professionals. But this principle, to actually do what I say I’m going to do, to finally organize my file database, to go out of my way to finish that marketing campaign at 9pm rather than tomorrow, to write that blog post, finish reading that book, to plan a team training session, to create a sales incentive program, to… the list goes on and on and on.

Imagine a world where I’d completed all of these things. My team would be stronger, more equipped, more confident. We would be faster, more efficient, better at communicating. There would be a high level of trust and responsibility, opportunity for fresh ideas, the power to say yes instead of no. 

As a business owner, I am ashamed to say that I am not the best at follow through. That my integrity, in this area, needs serious work. While I can easily get caught up in the disappointments and missed opportunities of the past, I realize that focusing on what is next, with follow through and true commitment, is what will dictate my future.

As you read this article, I want to leave you with this challenge: what is it that you need to follow through on? Make a list, stick it on your wall, your computer, your mirror—anything that will be in your face and force you to see what needs to be done. If “Integrity is the missing ingredient to success,” the only one who controls your integrity is you.


Assess, Pivot, & Adapt

Assess, Pivot, & Adapt

Business Marketing Trends in 2020/2021

What a theme for 2020—Assessing not only the value of your business, your employees, your products/services, but, more importantly, assessing the future. As a business owner in Washington State, I had to take a long, hard look at the vision for my business, my financial goals, and well, the reality of putting food on the table for my family.

March 2020 hit us hard, as it did for most small business owners. Our sales goals were flipped upside down with in-person, relationship-based networking coming to a halt. We watched from our phones, computers, and TV as the world froze—unable to comprehend the depth of change that was upon us all. We were deeply humbled and thankful for what the local food bank could provide as we desperately fought to pay our team and our bills. The weight of our team’s needs and concerns to feed their own families kept us awake at night, drove us to come up with fresh ideas, new campaigns, seek new business, and a conversation that came to this main point: “If we go down, we’re going down swinging by helping as many businesses survive this as possible.”

The pivoting came from multiple collaborative meetings that focused on marketing trends and projections from late 2019. Just eight months ago, we were pushing Customer Experience, Loyalty, Live Video, Strategic Marketing, Personalized Ads, and plenty more. Each of these trends are still relevant, but there is an additional filter that must now be used in order to effectively pursue them: COVID-19.

With a COVID-19 filter, Live Video can be shot from inside your home—customers won’t mind if your kids interrupt you, if anything, we’ve seen increased customer engagement because of it, they love how “real” it makes you as a business owner.

Customer Experience and Loyalty with a COVID-19 filter can be approached with the same relationship-focused video chat, an email that is written directly from you, engaging posts on social media that show appreciation and value to your customers, and overall, by you as a business owner seeking out a healthy friendship with them. Customers want to feel advocated for, they want to support businesses that believe in and stand for something.

Strategic Marketing and Personalized Ads work hand in hand. Both require a business owner to truly know their customers, who they are, what they love, and how to talk to them through the COVID-19 pandemic.

For Washington Concept, it was not only the COVID-19 filter that forced us to pivot, but the understanding that humans are habitual beings. While we all thirst for human interaction and prefer in-person connection, we are extremely limited by the Stay-at-Home orders/mask requirements and will continue to be for possibly another year. I’ve always believed in the rule that it takes 3 weeks to form a new habit. And as customer’s habits change, as their favorite restaurants, small retail stores, and other non-essential in-person businesses are closed, they are forced to create new habits. To shop online, to cook at home, to enjoy happy hour with friends in their backyard, and overall, spend their money differently. As a woman, I can tell you that I’ve saved so much money on makeup and clothes due to the pandemic. But, I didn’t stop spending that money, I just spent it elsewhere: on my garden, on outdoor toys for my kids, on organization for my home.

I don’t know how many times I’ve heard other business owners say, “We’re excited for things to go back to normal!” Even I used to say it. But in our pivoting, we had to come to the conclusion that what we knew in 2019 is gone. Our world is forever changed by this pandemic. It is our responsibility now, as business owners, to “unfreeze” our thinking, to assess our business and our goals, to pivot in a new direction that takes this new habitual culture into account, and to adapt to a new way of doing things.

Perhaps for you, this means finally creating that website, making your products available for purchase online, restructuring your employees to now have a shipping department. Maybe it means pressing into social media, seeking new leads through targeted ads, or establishing a marketing strategy that prioritizes your customers and reaches them during the pandemic.

Truly adapting, for us, meant being willing to let go of the strategic goals we had eight months ago, seeking help, doing research, and finding new ways to reach our clients in a relational way. Digital communication can be challenging, often slower and confusing. But, for now and the foreseeable future, it is the best we have.

I wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t encouraging business owners to take advantage of what tools they have, the help/wise counsel around them, and to show value to their customers. I strongly believe that it will be this course of action that helps businesses, yours and mine alike, survive and even thrive in 2020 and beyond.


How to Start a Podcast?

Over the last decade the popularity of podcasting has absolutely skyrocketed. It’s an incredible platform that allows people to go into extended conversations and gives individuals and businesses the opportunity to have their own modern day radio show. Recent statistics show that 24% of Americans (68 million) listen to podcasts on a weekly basis, with 80% of total podcast listeners being under the age of 55. Podcasting is a great way to market and build your brand especially to younger generations. If this technology is something you want to start taking advantage of, luckily for you, setting up your own podcast is fairly simple. Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Come up with a name and create branding around it: First thing is to come up with a name for your show and create some artwork for it so you can build your brand.
  2. Invest in audio equipment: If you’re just getting started and want to keep it simple, just invest in a podcasting microphone. You’ll also need something to record the audio for when you go live. If you have an iPhone you can easily find an external microphone (just a simple Google search will point you in the right direction) that is compatible and you can record your live show directly onto your phone with the voice memo app.
  3. OPTIONAL – Advanced recording and editing: If you want to step up the production quality a level, you can record onto your laptop. If you have a MacBook, the garage band app works great and even gives you the ability to edit the audio recording. There is also a free, downloadable program called Audacity that allows you to record and edit your podcast.
  4. Setup hosting: Just like the Youtube platform hosts videos, you’ll need to find a website that can host your podcast. One that I’ve used in the past and would recommend is called Blubrry. They have different plans available depending on how much content you plan on creating and will provide you the proper RSS feed which is needed if/when you submit your podcast to iTunes. There are plenty of other hosting platforms you can choose from as well. Another one I’ve found is Squarespace which is a website builder/host. If you have a Squarespace website, you can host your podcast there as well.
  5. Create iTunes account and submit podcast: Next you want to submit to iTunes or any other audio platform (Google Podcasts, Spotify, Soundcloud, Stitcher Radio, etc.). You’ll need at least one completed episode of your podcast before you can submit it. You’ll also need an active Apple ID. Once you have those ready, go to itunesconnect.apple.com and login with your Apple ID. Next you’ll enter in your RSS feed link (this is provided by your podcast host, and it’s the link that connects the host where all your episodes are to iTunes itself). Every time a new episode is uploaded, iTunes will automatically pull from this link to update and the new episode will become available. To finalize the setup, simply follow the onscreen instructions—you’ll input your podcast name, description, and upload the logo/artwork. Click submit and you’re done—It may take iTunes a few days to approve it.
  6. Get the word out: Use your website and social media to promote your podcast and provide a link to where it can be listened to and/or downloaded.

Congratulations you’re done! You now have one more way to build your brand, promote your business and engage with people.


When is it time to call the experts?

As a business owner, you hold close to your heart the mission and values of your business and everything that makes you proud to work day in and day out to have a successful business that brings you joy. There should be as much heart and soul, if not MORE in your marketing to successfully communicate your mission. Let’s go over when it is important to call in an expert to help communicate your mission.

  1. Do you have the skill? There are many programs and resources out there such as Fiverr and Canva that can give pre-maid templates for building graphic design projects such as social posts, flyers, postcards, logos, etc. These resources come at a great financial advantage, but the saying of “you get what you pay for” is always true in the world of art. Do you have the skill that will allow you to have graphic representations of your business that effectively communicate your mission? If not, it’s time to invest in an expert.
  2. Are there more profitable things you should be doing? Let’s be honest, if you are the owner of a high-end plumbing company and pay yourself a salary averaging lets say $75 an hour, would you rather invest that hour into training others to have that same skill to be able to take on more jobs? Or would you rather spend multiple hours creating a social post that brings in hopefully one job? Remember your value. I’ll trust you to install my new bathroom shower and you trust me to work on your next marketing campaign. You will get more jobs, and I will have less leaks. We will both be glad we invested in the experts.
  3. Are you planning to spend a significant amount of money on marketing? If you plan to spend $50,000 dollars a year on marketing, what do you hope to get back in return? If you are planning to spend such a significant amount of money on your marketing, you better make sure that its is someone who is taking care of your needs to bring your business in at least $50,000. If you can’t guarantee you are able to bring in the dough with marketing, it’s time to invest in an expert.

Moral of the story is, you will know when it is time to call an expert. If you are paying yourself more to do the work personally then you would hiring a marketing agency, its time to find a marketing agency that best fits your needs and can successfully communicate the message you hope to share with your customers.


Authentic vs Stock Images

You will hear me ask, “Is the branding consistent?” at least twenty times while working on a project. The power of brand recognition can be seen in a shape/color causing your mouth to water, a smell associated with shopping for clothing, or even a voter’s choice on their ballot. The logo on your website or business card, is not your brand, it is a symbol of your brand. Branding goes deep into the heart of a business and its customers, establishes trust, and therefore must be shared to reach new customers. 

It is important that you know your branding: the mission of your business, what you believe, and what your ideal customer believes. Then, use this to filter logo ideas before choosing the right one.

When looking to have a logo designed, here are some helpful steps to get you there:

  • Use your Ideal Customer Profile to determine what visuals appeal to them (color, font choice, design styles, etc.).
  • Share this information with a designer, explaining that you need a symbol that reflects your branding. Don’t be afraid to request a few mockups to choose from.
  • Be weary of who you share logo mockups with when trying to choose the best option. I recommend asking the opinion of no more than 2 other people, both who fall within your Ideal Customer Profile, to avoid having “too many cooks in the kitchen.” 
  • Remember to trust your gut! It is usually the business owner that knows their Ideal Customer best.
  • Once your logo, aka symbol, is chosen, use it! Be proud of it! Make sure it stays consistent and is placed everywhere your business is represented.
  • Keep it! I recommend that businesses don’t change their logo. If it is in need of some refreshing, an updated logo can be valuable to maintain a visual link to established customers while reaching new ones. It is not uncommon for new businesses to change their logo multiple times in their early years, but once you’ve settled on your branding, you will want that logo to stay the same.

For those of you looking to save on costs, fiverr.com is a great place to start. Similar to etsy.com, this website connects you with designers that are willing to design a basic logo based on the small amount of information you give them. Some fees start at $5 while others cost more. You may not come away with all the file types, sizes, and color options you’d like, but as a starting place with very little risk, fiverr.com is excellent. I once recommended them for a friend who was looking to design family reunion t-shirts. In the end, they were very happy with the price and as the logo would never be used commercially, Fiverr was perfect.

If you are looking for a more custom approach, feel free to reach out to us! Our design approach includes upcoming marketing and design trends, all so your logo is visually fresh for the years to come. We also meet with you to discuss styles, color meaning, your business’ branding, mission, and mockups, all to create a symbol that reaches your Ideal Customer. You will receive the original vector file and multiple sizes, file types, and colors with indefinite rights for any commercial use.

Regardless of what designer you go to, a logo is powerful—as a symbol of your brand, be sure to choose wisely and use it often.


Logo Design & Symbolism

You will hear me ask, “Is the branding consistent?” at least twenty times while working on a project. The power of brand recognition can be seen in a shape/color causing your mouth to water, a smell associated with shopping for clothing, or even a voter’s choice on their ballot. The logo on your website or business card, is not your brand, it is a symbol of your brand. Branding goes deep into the heart of a business and its customers, establishes trust, and therefore must be shared to reach new customers.
It is important that you know your branding: the mission of your business, what you believe, and what your ideal customer believes. Then, use this to filter logo ideas before choosing the right one.
When looking to have a logo designed, here are some helpful steps to get you there:
  1. Use your Ideal Customer Profile to determine what visuals appeal to them (color, font choice, design styles, etc.).
  2. Share this information with a designer, explaining that you need a symbol that reflects your branding. Don’t be afraid to request a few mockups to choose from.
  3. Be weary of who you share logo mockups with when trying to choose the best option. I recommend asking the opinion of no more than 2 other people, both who fall within your Ideal Customer Profile, to avoid having “too many cooks in the kitchen.”
  4. Remember to trust your gut! It is usually the business owner that knows their Ideal Customer best.
  5. Once your logo, aka symbol, is chosen, use it! Be proud of it! Make sure it stays consistent and is placed everywhere your business is represented.
  6. Keep it! I recommend that businesses don’t change their logo. If it is in need of some refreshing, an updated logo can be valuable to maintain a visual link to established customers while reaching new ones. It is not uncommon for new businesses to change their logo multiple times in their early years, but once you’ve settled on your branding, you will want that logo to stay the same.
For those of you looking to save on costs, fiverr.com is a great place to start. Similar to etsy.com, this website connects you with designers that design basic logos based on the small amount of information you give them. Some fees start at $5 while others cost more. You may not come away with all the file types, sizes, and color options you’d like, but as a starting place with very little risk, fiverr.com is excellent. I once recommended them for a friend who was looking to design family reunion t-shirts. In the end, they were very happy with the price and as the logo would never be used commercially, Fiverr was perfect.
If you are looking for a more custom approach, feel free to reach out to us! Our design approach includes upcoming marketing and design trends, all so your logo is visually fresh for the years to come. We also meet with you to discuss styles, color meaning, your business’ branding, mission, and mockups, all to create a symbol that reaches your Ideal Customer. You will receive the original vector file and multiple sizes, file types, and colors with indefinite rights for any commercial use.
Regardless of what designer you go to, a logo is powerful—as a symbol of your brand, be sure to choose wisely and use it often.


Identifying Your Ideal Customer

What is your ideal customer? This is a FOUNDATIONAL question for your marketing strategy. Ideal customer, ideal client, regular patron, frequent shopper, whatever you call them, they are vital to your success as a business. In a recent meeting, I described the ideal customer as not necessarily someone you want buying your product, but rather someone that already is buying it. This customer is easy to work with, probably one of your favorites to walk in your store, likely, you could even see yourself as their friend.

My favorite Simon Sinek quote is, “The goal is not to do business with everybody who needs what you have. The goal is to do business with people who believe what you believe.”

So, what do you believe? When determining the ideal customer for a client, this is the first step. Before social media took hold of the world, a lot of advertising was based on demographic: age, race, sex, or even location. But now, as we have mobile devices in our pockets and purses that follow us everywhere we go, listen to our every conversation, analyze our search history and even relationships with others, successful advertising must focus more on the psychographic: attitudes, aspirations, beliefs, what makes them who they are. To make things a little less complicated, demographics focus on who the customer is whereas the psychographics focus on why they buy. 

With the psychographic leading the way, the path of discovering your ideal customer is fairly simple. Take a look a those customers that are easy to work with, that are already buying what you’re selling, and think about their lifestyle. While this process is made even easier by the lovely algorithms on your favorite social media platforms, this specific kind of targeted marketing can be done by answering these questions below:

  • What do they do for fun?
  • What do their relationships look like?
  • What, in life, do they value/prioritize? (ex. family, fitness, spiritual beliefs, work, health, time, etc.)
  • What do they find fulfillment in?
  • What are their dreams/goals, either personally or professionally?

While I’m sure there are more ways to identify your ideal customer, creating a profile that gives you a deeper understanding of the type of person, aka audience, you are marketing toward, will help you to stay consistent in your strategy. Not only will this ideal customer be easier to work with, but they are already 20% more likely to buy from you, simply because they are who they are. And, when the time comes to invest in paid ads on that favorite social media platform, you will know exactly who to target because you will get the greatest return on your investment.

I’ll leave you with this example: Let’s say you run a housekeeping business. You have found that your ideal customer is the busy family, where parents work, children participate in sports programs, they love to travel, and spending their precious time cleaning takes away from quality time as a family. 

Your business happens to be located within the heart of a university community that is also fairly diversely populated. When the time comes to run an ad, you have the option for the ad to be presented to everyone within a 30 mile radius, or to select filters that allow you to only present the ad in front of the people that fit perfectly in your ideal customer profile.

Remember, each person to see your ad costs you money. Do you think it is wiser to advertise to everyone, or just your ideal customers (again, who are already 20% more likely to buy from you, just because of who they are)?