Marketing & Branding for Small Businesses

Marin Davis

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*PS. Below you will find an auto-generated transcript of this episode.

Arek Dvornechuck: Hey, what's up Branding Experts Arek here at Ebaqdesign. Welcome to On Branding Podcast. And today, my guest is Marin Davis. And Marin is the founder of Local Collaborative, which is a branding and marketing firm that helps small businesses succeed by using simple, creative approaches and strong communication strategies.

So Marin has a background in journalism, public relations, and graphic design. And she loves to share her expertise and insights with other entrepreneurs.

Hello, Marin. Thanks for joining us today.

Marin Davis: Hey, thank you so much. I'm doing well. Thanks for having me.

Arek Dvornechuck: Thanks for joining us. You run a branding and marketing agency, right? And can you just talk to us about what differentiates you from other branding and marketing agencies?

Marin Davis: Yes. So our branding and marketing agency is called Local Collaborative. We are a bit different because we are 100 percent virtual. We don't have a brick and mortar location. And I am a military spouse who started this company because I wanted something that was purposeful work, a purposeful career that I could have for the rest of my life and move with while prioritizing my family because we need that freedom.

So it's also been very important to me that we focus on hiring other military spouses as well as work from home parents.

Arek Dvornechuck: So you are 100 percent virtual. So you manage the whole team online, right? Can you talk to us about what's your typical process of working with clients? Do you do strategy, you offer strategy and design or just strategy or just design? Can you talk to us more about that?

Marin Davis: Yeah, it's really 50/50 on people who come to us who want to start off a brand or people who come to us and already have an existing brand, and maybe they just need some clarity or some ideas or maybe just another helping hand in their business. 

A primary part of our job is focusing on that strategy and that content piece. So when people think of branding, and I know you're probably familiar with this, they think of colors and logos and the brand. What we really focus on, while we do have a fantastic design team, we mainly focus on the psychology and the strategy behind brand archetypes. We focus a lot on language and we focus on setting them up for longevity in a brand mission statement or message that will be here far past whenever they decide to sell it or pass it down to their kids, right? 

So we focus a lot on the strategy. And then the second piece of that is making sure that brand follows through consistently online, which is in content creation, content promotion, and any kind of strategic communication online.

Arek Dvornechuck: That sounds great. I also use archetypes in my work. I think it's a great framework overall, archetypal framework to use, for branding purposes. So that's great. 

Can you talk to us about your typical process? Let's say a client reaches out to you and they need a new branding or they need to refresh their brand. Maybe they have some visuals. But perhaps they don't have a clear idea of what their positioning should be. They don't really leverage archetypes or anything like that. Maybe they don't have a mission statement. Can you just walk us through your typical process? Do you conduct discovery sessions? How do you figure out all those things for them?

Marin Davis: Yeah, we do have discovery sessions initially. That's the most helpful to get either on a video call or a phone call if they're in whatever town we're currently in. An in person meeting is something that gives me a good idea of their space. If they have a physical location. or getting part of that experience with their service. I think that's the biggest piece and the biggest way that someone can elevate their brand or take their brand to the next level and know that they're getting a return on the investment that they're putting into their branding or marketing agency is to bring in that third party perspective because we are able to see a lot of things that person is not able to see because they're so into and so close to their business. It's very personal and emotional for them. 

To bring in that third party aspect will pull out those stories or the pieces of that brand that are very unique and will give their audience something new and fresh to look at. I think that it's also a way our tagline is, “All you need is less”. We believe that we're not here to sell you. We're here to say actually you can hone in on two or three platforms that you want to focus on for social media. Here's how to simplify your logo. Here's how to simplify your messaging. And by bringing that clarity and that simplicity, it really takes away the overwhelm that a lot of business owners experience as we know, having to be their social media manager, the owner, the person doing their taxes. They have so many hats that they're already wearing and we want them to enjoy their business. We all started for a certain reason, so I really like to hone in on that as well. A lot of people want to because they want to take a step back and it's such a time suck for them.

So being able to understand what their goals are really helps us frame our strategy as well as our messaging. And a lot of the time, I'd say maybe 80 percent of the time, that's also something that's missing from their client experience. And that's something that is turning. Potential customers and to paying clients or preventing someone from coming back as a return customer So really finding that we've seen a lot of retention increase with our clients as well as converting the content that you're putting out on your socials and converting that into sales.

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, so basically “less is more”, right? 

Marin Davis: Exactly

Arek Dvornechuck: We all know that, as business owners we tend to do so many different things and ultimately, it's a big chaos and it's hard to work with that. And as you mentioned, from a third party perspective that's really what a lot of businesses do, especially small businesses. They try to do all of it themselves and they like this perspective, but it's really helpful to bring someone, from a third party, to look at your existing materials and help you figure it out. And look with fresh eyes at what you have and try to simplify and clarify this for you. So that's great. 

So you do branding, you also do content creation and social media. What type of brands or businesses do you usually work with? Do you specialize in specific industries?

Marin Davis: Sure, so that's something I've really enjoyed about our business ever since my internship at an advertising agency. I realized that I really liked the agency style where you have multiple different clients and you're working with several people throughout the day. So that's something I carried on whenever I started my own agency. And we've worked with a ton of different industries, which is also fun to always be learning about different people and their businesses, as well as making sure that if we have two real estate clients, two hair salons, that they don't have to worry about competing with each other or that we're putting out similar work for people in similar industries, no matter what state or area that they're in.

So we really work a lot with solopreneurs. People who are just starting out or it's just themselves, someone like a realtor. And there are also people who own small to mid-sized businesses, a lot of boutiques, law firms, you name it, an arborist company, we've probably worked with them. And I'm from Kansas, so my family and our family friends, we all grew up farming. So we've also had quite a few clients in that Ag(agriculture) industry as well, which is something near and dear to my heart. And I really enjoy that.

Arek Dvornechuck: Yeah, that sounds good. Solopreneurs, small businesses. Real estate businesses, hair salons, law firms, you name it. And I totally agree, talking about from my own experience that, sometimes clients reach out and they want to make sure that you have experience in a specific industry, but I don't think it's actually good for you. It's actually better if you work with a marketing or branding agency that does not really specialize in a specific industry, right? Because they are more open. They're more excited to work with different businesses and basically the process is the same, right? And it works for all kinds of businesses. It is just more interesting to work on different projects.

And as you already said it would be probably boring if you work in one industry. It's repetitive, right? And you don't want that. You don't want to develop similar positioning or similar messaging for similar clients.

Marin Davis: If I may, I think that's not only good for us and people who work in this industry to know that and not burn out or not run out of ideas, but for people who are maybe listening and if they've thought about hiring someone, I think that's the biggest benefit of offering free discovery sessions or consultations with someone to not only see their portfolio, but if I'm new to you and I have those questions that a potential customer has, I don't know your language that you use in your company. I don't know the process. I'm bringing in all of those questions that someone has and that could be the reason that they haven't hired you yet. So I would encourage people to speak to three to five different agencies that they've maybe had an eye on. You really want someone at the end of the day, not with the most experience because you're going to be just another law firm or another XYZ company to them. But someone who really understands the reasoning behind your business, the purpose and the mission behind it, and who cares about your business just as much as they do.

Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. Can you talk to us about some of the challenges you came across when working with clients and how you dealt with those?

Marin Davis: I think the biggest challenge that we come across repeatedly is just the, I'm going to say lack of knowledge to bound it all up. We know how quickly social media changes and how often it changes. So people don't know the best practices, the best uses, where they need to be, how to use it. There's that side of the piece of knowledge. And then people who have not gone to school maybe for design or for PR, marketing. People who don't understand the importance of a strategy behind what they're posting. We're in an age where we all grew up with social media being free and used for personal pages, but the idea that it can be used online as a marketing or advertising tool, as well as working in now you have all these influencers, right?

There is always going to be someone and there's always going to be something. So I think that's the biggest piece that we always have to talk with people about is you may think you come in wanting one thing, but what we advise is maybe a different route and that could be the bridge, that little hump that you need to get over in your business to really see effective change.

Arek Dvornechuck: Right. So bound it all up, how to bring consistency. That's probably the biggest challenge. And I can definitely relate to that. There are so many tools, so many options out there. And it's just the question is how do you use them to your advantage, right? And how do you use them efficiently and effectively and how do you bring that consistency and create something that is unique, original and you can own it and become recognizable for it.

That's definitely a big challenge. And now, how long does it typically take? I know that you have different clients, but typical branding projects. Can you walk us through, maybe like stage by stage, how long does it take to update your messaging and your branding?

Marin Davis: Sure. So it really depends on what stage in their business they come to us. But ultimately, whenever they come to us, we see, okay, a website or we need to build a website. They consult with their brand book. And then we usually refresh their social media pages, whether they're starting completely new with a logo that we've created for them. Or it's just a rebrand on their pages. 

Anywhere from two to three weeks is really where we like to get for the initial switchover of everything. There's always a process to give admin access for your Instagram page and all of your accounts. Websites take a bit longer just because there's so much copy on the pages, as well as structuring how everything works funnel wise, right?

That might take 30-60 maybe 90 days depending on the size of the website or how long that business has been around. But really on the social media makeovers, which is something that we even do if they're not a long term client. That's a really short term project that some people just don't have an idea of what to do.

So that includes optimizing their profile with their highlights Their SEO for their bio, how to get people to their page, any saved banners on their imagery, some templates. We really just look at what they need and then we compare that with what they want and we can usually get it done within I'd say under two to three weeks for something like that.

Arek Dvornechuck: So yeah, that's understandable. So it all depends on how big is the project, scope of the project, but yeah, if it includes a website, as you already mentioned, there are a lot of moving pieces, right? The messaging and so on. So that may take a little longer.

And I have the last question for you. I know you know that there is this revolution now with AI and do you use AI tools yourself? What do you think about AI tools? Do you think, as branding experts and marketing experts, we are going to incorporate them into our process?

What do you think about all of that?

Marin Davis: Personally, I am not the biggest fan of AI. I've tried it out a couple times. It just doesn't seem personal to me. What I would rather do is speak to text on my phone or do a voice note to see how I actually speak for a company and then translate it that way. That's the help that I like. I don't want to run into anything that I know that 's been a discussion point about copyright and infringement and all that. It's just it just hasn't been for me yet.

It hasn't been as personal either. Now, do I think that as we move forward, is it still going to be used in the industry? And are we still going to see a lot of effects from that, especially on the digital side and incorporating your customer experience? I do, and when it gets to that point, I know I'm going to have to jump on board and learn more or hire someone who knows more on that side. But right now I haven't really been using it for clients and I haven't found it that effective for my own business either.

Arek Dvornechuck: And I would agree with that. Maybe it's helpful to get some initial ideas, but talking from my own experience, still, those AI tools, they make a lot of mistakes, even ChatGPT, Claude, and stuff like that. Those founders, they don't really know. They admit that in interviews how it all works because it pulls all this information and rephrases that and makes a lot of mistakes. So you'd need to fact check those. And the answers might be generic, as you mentioned, they are not personalized, they are not customized. So that's a bigger challenge, but perhaps in the future, it will become better and better. And maybe one day we will all use it.

So we are going to link to your website. And are you active on what social media is best to connect with you?

Marin Davis: Yeah, so our website is and that's where people can connect with us or get any of the free downloads about things that we've talked about today. I also am most active on Instagram @localcollaborative. And that's the two places that you can find me the most.

Arek Dvornechuck: Okay. So Instagram and your website we're going to link to both and thank you for coming on the show. I appreciate that.

Marin Davis: Thank you so much for having me. I had fun.

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