Ep.2 Dawn Kane
[00:00:03] Corey Quinn: to the B2B Vertical Marketing Podcast, where you'll discover new opportunities to grow your business from seven figures to eight, from the world's most successful B2B SaaS and agency owners and executives. I'm your host, Corey Quinn. Today I'm joined by Dawn Kane. Welcome Dawn.
[00:00:21] Dawn Kane: Thank you, Corey. Appreciate you having me on.
[00:00:23] Corey Quinn: you please introduce yourself to those listeners who may not be familiar with you or your back?
[00:00:28] Dawn Kane: Sure, of course. I'm Dawn Kane, I'm CEO and co-founder of Hot Dish Advertising. We're based in Minneapolis and we are a almost 24 year old agency, so it's been a long ride. Lot of fun. our vertical is the franchise category.
[00:00:42] how would you describe franchising?
[00:00:43] Dawn Kane: Oh, that's kind of a loaded question. There's a lot of ways you could answer that. franchising obviously is a business model. You're right. In which, Organizations, develop a concept and a brand and then find that this is something that's easy, replicated in the marketplace, and that there's a need and a [00:01:00] desire for their products and services.
[00:01:01] Corey Quinn: And so you were started byyourself and Greg Lindbergh back in 1999.
[00:01:08] Dawn Kane: Yes.
[00:01:09] Corey Quinn: did you start with a franchise focus at the beginning, or did that come sometime down the road?
[00:01:16] Dawn Kane: Yeah, that definitely came down the road. It was early on, fortunately. We were very fortunate. Greg and I had worked together at another agency, that really supported actually a different vertical, which was, the mall industry. I helped oversee and run the internal, advertising agency for general growth properties, which we had about 140 miles around the country.
[00:01:37] And developed campaigns for those, individual properties to obviously bring awareness for the retailers that were in the store and get you to come shop at their mall versus another mall that may be close by. And so when general growth, collapsed the business here and moved to Chicago. it was not something that I was looking to make a move, nor was Greg.
[00:01:59] I had been [00:02:00] at another agency where we tried to develop a, retail marketing arm to their business and as traditional agencies go. As you know, Corey, there's lots of layers and a lot of people touch it, and through that adds time and adds money.
[00:02:13] Dawn Kane: And in the retail industry, the margins are a little bit smaller and so, when we were closing down the location here and moving it to Chicago, I had approached our then creative director and Greg and said, Hey, I think there's an opportunity in this market in Minneapolis to have a retail focused agency.
[00:02:32] when we first opened, we naturally went after. retail, uh, stores that were in the mall that may have been not the top performers, let's just say. And so, one of the first clients that we landed happened to be a franchise. And so as franchising goes, there's a lot of networking, as you well know.
[00:02:51] Dawn Kane: It's a very rich, community of people who just love to share and see each other thrive in the business. And so had the [00:03:00] opportunity to go to this company's conference where I met a gentleman that's, uh, based in California. And in talking to him, he's like, oh my goodness.
[00:03:08] You totally understand franchising the way you talk about how you're managing this company and what you've done in the past. I'd like you to come down to my conference and learn a little more and see if this might be an industry that appeals to you. Attended his conference and met some additional folks that were on the supplier side like us and said, you need to come to IFA, their annual conference is coming up in two months.
[00:03:32] And so I went back and we're working in our shared space with, um, church tables and folding chairs and, you know, as you start a business and said, Hey, Here's this great opportunity. I think I should go to this conference. And for us starting out, it was kind of a lot of money. but Greg, my cfo, as he's always said, if you think it's the right thing to do, then we should do it.
[00:03:53] And, went out to that conference and was like, oh my God, like what is happening here? There are so [00:04:00] many industries within this one kind of vertical, right? And so you could be at one conference and have access to so many brands, which was like, seriously, this was crazy.
[00:04:12] And then you peel it back a little further and you identify like, okay, not only is all this consumer marketing out there, but they're trying to sell these franchises. And at the time, people really were not doing. marketing the way we are today to get that person to invest in a brand, take their life savings per se, or roll over their 401k and invest in a business, they were simply taking their consumer marketing strategy and messaging and pushing it out on portals and hoping somebody would find them and pick up the phone or send them an email and want to learn more.
[00:04:47] And we thought there's a better way to do this. And so, we started to explore more of that and became very involved in the franchise community and truly understood that niche even further inside of [00:05:00] franchising and kinda the rest was history. We were like, this is really where we need to stay because. We compete against every other agency that's out there when we talk about the consumer side or branding, um, to a certain degree.
[00:05:14] And this allowed us to really stay hyper-focused and talk to multiple brands with multiple audiences and multiple sides of their business. And, I would say, , we kind of maintained some external clients being here in Minneapolis, we were fortunate enough to work for Target and, uh, Wilson's Leather back in the day.
[00:05:32] I don't think they're around anymore, but some other bigger brands and which was a lot of fun, but it was somewhat of a distraction for where we really felt our niche was. and being business owners in the franchise space, we got to work with a lot of entrepreneurs, like the founders of these companies, and that's really powerful.
[00:05:48] It's exciting and they're passionate about what they do and. I dunno. It's just, it's a great space to be.
[00:05:55] thank you for all that. If I was to feed this back to you a little bit, So you left the, [00:06:00] previous agency where you were with Greg and another partner decided to go out on your own and focus on retail through the mall agency,approach locally in there in Minnesota.
[00:06:11] Corey Quinn: You landed a franchise. Was it a franchisee that was a,
[00:06:14] you landed?
[00:06:14] Dawn Kane: No, it was was corporate. Yeah. So, yep. Yep. They were
[00:06:17] based in, uh, Connecticut.
[00:06:19] Corey Quinn: Okay. Awesome. so at that time, were there a lot of other agencies sort of serving the franchise market, across through the consumer, the brand and the Fran Dev, the way that you guys had, had done that, was that new or is that, was it fairly competitive?
[00:06:33] Like what was the landscape.
[00:06:34] Dawn Kane: Yeah. Well, back then it seems like I, I just actually got my IFA membership and next year, this or this, uh, year is 24 years or 20 years being in the IFA, which is hard to believe, but, no, nobody was doing it then. Back then, the way that the majority of franchisors oars looked to find additional franchisees was through the portals, and so there was.
[00:06:59] [00:07:00] Some content that was out on the portals, obviously that, you know, talked about the br the brand and the business opportunity and all of those things. There really, it really wasn't marketing in the way we think about marketing today. very few brands had, you know, full dedicated websites to the franchise development side.
[00:07:20] So we like to say we were pioneers in that, in recognizing that opportunity and really talking to brands differently about. Okay. We're not selling, you know, a $13 burger or a, you know, $200 Rug cleaning service. You're selling a significant investment and the person you're talking to is different and you have to get inside their mind and show that value that your brand can fill for what they need.
[00:07:48] A lot of it was, you know, be your own boss. don't work for somebody else. Things like that. Free up your weekend. Well, we all know that's not true. When you want a business, whatever your business is, that's not true. So , [00:08:00] you know, but, but those were the types of messaging that people were doing at the time, and it has become much more sophisticated, the media landscape.
[00:08:08] Dawn Kane: If anybody knows it, you know it better than I do. The media landscape has changed dramatically over that period of time. And so not only from, the opportunities and the platforms that we have access to, but how you can segment them out, you know how you provide information to them how you, then can report that data back to your clients and it changes every day, right?
[00:08:33] What we knew last week is probably different this week, and we know who the Big G will change it again next week. So,
[00:08:41] Corey Quinn: Yeah. that, keeps us employed. Right. Just
[00:08:44] It was easy. They wouldn't need us.
[00:08:47] Dawn Kane: and keeps us guessing,
[00:08:49] Corey Quinn: Yeah. Right.
[00:08:50] Dawn Kane: guessing unemployed,
[00:08:51] Corey Quinn: Yeah. .Um, and so you, had a lot of sophistication and experience and it, and, it seemed like you, you felt like there was an [00:09:00] opportunity for you to leverage a lot of that experience and bring that, that, that fresh perspective at the time. with regard to how to market franchise brands to potential new franchisees, you, you could bring that to the market and, and really pioneered, as you said, and be able to, really make a big sort of splash if you were in the franchise industry exclusively.
[00:09:20] Dawn Kane: Yeah, I think, I hadn't thought about. Through this whole journey, honestly, until you prompted me, in your or first note reaching out to put this call on a schedule and I was like, that's so interesting. I actually have worked in these verticals and as I reflect on that, one of the key things that I think really separated the agencies apart was that they did a great job of bringing in individuals that really knew and understand those categories. Um, the medical agency that I worked for in Manhattan, they, we had doctors on staff. We had, uh, folks that came out of pharmaceutical companies in the marketing [00:10:00] department that were in R&D and sales, that had backgrounds in, you know, biology and science and all of that, that, you know, helped with the content development and just really made sure that we were staying true. It was highly regulated. Right. Um, again, which is same as franchising. So, um, that was, was really interesting. And then moving to the first agency that I worked here in Minnesota, while they had, they did have some other divisions.
[00:10:29] They were small. They truly. Grew the ba, their brand and business on the agriculture industry. And the same was true. They had folks that came out of ag companies that were, um, whether they were researchers or marketers, et cetera, and those types of things add a tremendous amount of value to your end user partner.
[00:10:51] It's why, you know, a Glaxo would've hired the agency I worked for, or Pfizer hired, the agency I worked for, or why [00:11:00] Pioneer Seed hired the agency here in Minnesota and like that we have followed that model. The majority of the senior team members in our actually. , all of the senior team members in our agency have worked at a franchise company in the marketing department or otherwise, so they truly can bring that experience with them.
[00:11:21] Whether they sat on supporting the franchisees or on the development side, or both, they ha they see the business through that lens and can really add a tremendous amount of value to our client partners, and that's what we hear a lot from our clients is that we just, we truly get franchising. We get the marketing of course, but we really get the franchising.
[00:11:45] And even on the consumer side, if you're supporting local franchisees, you gotta package it up in a way that they can understand it and can use it. It's great to provide them the tools, but if they don't know how to use it or why they're doing it, that's a whole other set of [00:12:00] issues that you have. So when you're able to communicate, All of that back out in a way that they again, can recognize this is how it's gonna add value to my company, my business.
[00:12:10] They'll do
[00:12:11] Corey Quinn: your
[00:12:11] Dawn Kane: website s
[00:12:12] Corey Quinn: ays franchising has a language of its own. would you say that franchising has an insider language?
[00:12:20] Dawn Kane: Oh gosh, yes. I mean, you could just look at the FDD that used to be the UFOC, and it was probably something before then that I don't, I didn't know or, or, uh, remember. But um, yeah, all of the different nuances, not only with, the national ad fund, the NAF, You know the different items inside the F D D, again, talking about the regulation there, and then you start going outside of that, well, inside the regulatory issues, NLRD, and I mean, the list goes on and on and on, and as a partner to the community, you certainly need to be familiar with all of the things that [00:13:00] they're dealing with, whether it's inside their own system or globally from a franchise perspective, because what happens in your state, California, as we know then affects everybody across the country and they tend to, Really have a, a pretty hard lens on the franchise community, and that's why it's important for, I think, within the vertical for folks to stay engaged in the industry so that they can stay on top of this to preserve all the great things that franchising offers.
[00:13:31] Corey Quinn: The franchise industry is constantly changing and innovating, and there's legislation always, and there's a lot of focus there. How do you, and how does your firm stay current with the franchise industry?
[00:13:42] Dawn Kane: Yeah, so actually, um, I was fortunate enough to be former chairwoman of the supplier forum, which is one of the three legs of the stools inside the IFA. Um, they have the franchisee forum, the franchisor forum, and the supplier forum. again, back in, around 2003, I think it was, [00:14:00] uh, that we started with, the I F A made it.
[00:14:04] It was a very deliberate decision to stay involved and I was very fortunate, as I mentioned earlier, and as you well know, this industry is rich with people who have a tremendous amount of knowledge and they are very willing to share, and are open and want people to succeed inside this space cuz there are a lot of people that come and go.
[00:14:24] And so I think when you show and make that effort and keep showing up, right? You keep showing up at the conferences, you participate in the sessions, you participate in round tables, you read the content that's sent out from I F A and Franchise Update Media, franchise Times, all, all of those great resources, entrepreneur Magazine.
[00:14:48] You know, that is continually giving us additional information what's happening, whether it be legislation wise or just, um, some trends and things that we're seeing in franchising. [00:15:00] myself and our, all our team members stay involved and again, attend the conferences, et cetera.
[00:15:05] Corey Quinn: What would you say to an ambitious business owner who is looking to get into franchising as an example here, meaning selling their product or service into franchising? what advice would you give them when it comes to getting involved with the IFA, which is the largest association there and staying current?
[00:15:25] Like, how would you advise them with regard to the approaching that?
[00:15:28] Dawn Kane: Yeah, that's great question. And, and the IFA does offer many different opportunities. Of course, coming up here next month is their largest conference, and that, that can be great. But I, I will say it can be overwhelming. , um, it's, uh, very well attended, but it, it does offer you a great snapshot of what this industry is all about.
[00:15:51] Um, you do see it from every side. You may have a product or service that you think, like, I did that I, you know, you think you're going in from a [00:16:00] consumer lens, and then you see where all the opportunities are and you can adjust or add additional services perhaps. But to really understand the magnitude of not only the association, but the entire industry, which is ginormous.
[00:16:16] Um, I think you have to, you have to be involved. So I would recommend, somebody attend the conference. Um, it is a, you know, it's a decent investment. You don't have to become a member right away, but you would pay more to attend, the membership has tremendous value because there's monthly and weekly newsletters that go out that help keep you top of mind.
[00:16:36] They offer some, opportunities at this conference, for example, where they have ambassadors that they'll connect you with and that you'll be able to reach out during your time at the conference and if you have a question or you. Somebody, they can help you do that. so yeah, I think just getting involved at least at this level, and then you can determine based on, you know, your different audiences, what [00:17:00] other conferences make the most sense, whether they're put on by IFA or some of the other, you know, industry partners.
[00:17:06] As I mentioned, Franchise Update Media, Franchise Times, many of them have their own conferences and they are targeted to specific audiences, how would you respond to that business owner that is hearing this, but saying, you know, Why is that important? why go to the conference, why do all these things? I'm just trying to sell my, my, my product into, or I wanna, I think I want to focus on franchise, but that seems like a lot of effort and a lot of time and resources.
[00:17:32] Corey Quinn: Do I really need to do that?
[00:17:33] Dawn Kane: I think it adds a tremendous amount of credibility. Uh, honestly, I will say, you know, over the years that I've been involved, I've seen a lot of vendors, not only in my space, but in other categories, that they come and they show up for one show or two, and they're like, The ROI wasn't there and then they're gone.
[00:17:51] I don't think you can expect to come once and get a lot out of it. I think you have to do the networking that's involved. I think if you have a franchise client [00:18:00] already, then it's even better to attend it. Show the support to that individual that you care about this industry. You wanna help protect it, and that you know you, they can use.
[00:18:10] Um, Partner, client partner to introduce you to other brands and say, Hey, this is what they do for me. They do a great job. You should consider them. So I think that networking with your existing client partners at this space, like I mentioned early on, you have a multitude of. Brands and clients there at different levels from, all the different types of decision makers in an organization from the CEO on down.
[00:18:36] And, you never know who you might be sitting next to at lunch or you don't know who you may be sitting next to on online, at coffee. And you know, it's just striking up a conversation, not sitting in your room, checking your emails in between things will go a long way to make that investment incredibly valuable.
[00:18:54] But you have to put the effort in and I don't think that's different. Anything else you do [00:19:00] if you want to do it well, it's not just, again, open your doors and they will come.
[00:19:04] Corey Quinn: So in other words, the buyers at least en franchise, and, and we can, assume in other verticals that are similar to franchise, they care that you're involved at some level or that you, that you are specializing in that, in that area. in the, in their, industry.
[00:19:18] Dawn Kane: I think most do, I really do. I think that they, they recognize that if you are a partner, vendor, partner, supplier, whatever you wanna call us, um, in this space, and you take the time to truly understand the nuances of these types of organizations. I mean, we, you know, touched here and there on some of these, um, right.
[00:19:41] Things that are regulated, but there's so many nuances around that. I can't, as a franchisor, you can't tell your franchisees they have to use a certain vendor in some instances, and so you have to provide them. But you can say, these are all folks that are part of the I F A or, and [00:20:00] we recommend them because they understand the category and the challenges that you face.
[00:20:04] So I think that's truly where, a supplier can differentiate themselves from others. That may be just, you know, a bunch of accounting firms or a bunch of ad agencies like myself or, um, whatever the case may be, point, point of sale systems. And there's certainly vendors that are not IFA members and don't attend these that.
[00:20:25] Do work within the category for sure. But I think if you truly see this as an opportunity and you want to, uh, play at a higher level and believe in the, in the industry, believe in franchising, then I think getting involved is a tremendous way to
[00:20:42] Corey Quinn: If you were to start over from scratch, would you, would you do that? would you get involved with the IFA early and, and assuming you were committed to franchising, is that something you, you would do for yourself?
[00:20:52] Dawn Kane: Oh yeah. Well, we did within the first year of identifying that the fra, this was an opportunity. Had I, would I have done it three years [00:21:00] sooner? Had I known about it 100%? Yeah. I, AB absolutely would have. I think that, again, it just offers so much. Information. opportunity, content, you know, the, the list just goes on and on and, and I can honestly say Corey, like some of my best friends are from the franchise industry, vacation together.
[00:21:21] you know, just. All, all the things that you do with people you enjoy being around that are like-minded and are passionate and all of that. It's just, it, it's been just an amazing, amazing community, I guess is the best way to say it. I saw a glimpse of that in the pharmaceutical space. I saw a glimpse of that in the agriculture space, but nothing compares to this. And, and maybe that's because again, all of the different, brands and business opportunities that are in it together, you're constantly learning.
[00:21:54] Right. I mean, if you're not constantly learning in this space, I don't know what you're doing. Cuz you can like one day [00:22:00] be talking to somebody that's, you know, washing windows and, you know, skyscrapers and the next day somebody that you know, they're, Making hamburgers or carpet cleaning, whatever the case may be, there's so many different industries and nuances to learn from.
[00:22:14] And, and you can borrow a lot of those things too, right? Just cuz it worked over here doesn't mean it's not gonna work over there
[00:22:20] or or vice versa, that it is going to work over there. So there's uh, there's just a tremendous, wealth of, um, learning and giving and information and, uh, This, in my opinion, this vertical offers has unlike anything that I've seen, um, there, there may be others out there, but
[00:22:38] Corey Quinn: Let's shift gears here for a moment and talk a little bit about, sales for your agency. how do you source new customers?
[00:22:44] Dawn Kane: Um, a number of ways. I would say the number one way is referral. we truly are blessed by the clients that we have that really see the value in what we do and refer us to other franchise, companies. as you know, there's [00:23:00] also some movement that happens in this industry, so when people move from place to place and they like you, they bring you, uh, so that's always nice, but we, we do a fair amount of marketing on our own. we push out newsletters, we attend, conferences and do sponsorships there as well. Uh, we do a lot of speaking at, various, uh, events as well and round tables. like I mentioned that ambassador program for IFA, we'll be participating in that as well.
[00:23:28] Yeah. We're trying to get a little bit more deliberate at times. it's business is good right now. I mean, there's a lot of movement out there and so we're pretty busy with the work we have, but being more deliberate, doing our research ahead of time on the brands we're going to be speaking with.
[00:23:45] Make, you know, are there gaps in the categories that we're servicing and customers that we'd like to go after to fill another niche within inside the vertical that we don't have? as I mentioned you to you earlier, that employer engagement is something that's [00:24:00] completely, not completely new, but fairly new to us, that we have really not even talked to a lot of our existing customers about.
[00:24:08] So growing within our existing customer base will be another area of opportunity, which sometimes can present some challenges. I mean, you mentioned it earlier, even within each brand, you may be working with the C D O and then the C M O, and then you know somebody else in another department depending on what service you're providing.
[00:24:29] Um, sometimes we've had clients say, I don't wanna introduce you to them because then you're gonna put you all your efforts over there and you're gonna forget about me . So while there's, uh, you know, we see it as what a great opportunity we can be your one stop shop. Uh, not everybody sees it that way.
[00:24:46] Corey Quinn: Right. I love that you guys are expanding your services and you're helping your current clients to do more through additional services. I think that's super smart. But I, I had a question around, uh, you mentioned your number one source of new customers is, uh, is referral.[00:25:00]
[00:25:00] has it always been referral? Like in the, earlier, in the early days, Were you getting a lot of referrals from the franchise industry or, you know, did that happen after a certain period of time?
[00:25:09] Dawn Kane: Yeah, I, I'd say we had a fair amount of that. Um, it wasn't always necessarily a client either. Like the, again, we talked about even the supplier community being very rich and, um, with folks that, again, You find the people that have that like-mindedness, um, maybe share some of your work ethic, core values, the way in which you manage your business.
[00:25:35] And when you find those people and you learn more about each other's business, then we start referring to each other. Oh, you're looking for somebody that writes manuals. I know somebody who's amazing at that and I can give you their
[00:25:49] name and
[00:25:49] you can vet them out and it works. Exactly. And I think that's been a huge opportunity for myself and others in this space.
[00:25:58] So it's, it's [00:26:00] not always about, um, , you know, the client referring, you could be a vendor partner and quite frankly, we're pretty friendly with our, um, other agency competitors. When I have a conflict, I know who I can pick up the phone and say, Hey, , I don't know if you have this category, but I can't work with them.
[00:26:15] I'd love to refer them to you. So it it's even within our own space that we're referring back and forth cuz we would rather see the work stay inside the franchise community because we definitely believe there is value.
[00:26:29] Corey Quinn: It brings up an interesting point, which I've heard, sort of an objection to nicheing down or going to a vertical approach, which is that you're gonna limit the number of businesses that you can work with because, maybe a brand in this case doesn't want you to work with their primary competitor.
[00:26:43] Right? And so how do you think about potential conflict in, in, in approaching sort of a verticalized business?
[00:26:50] Dawn Kane: Yes. Couple of things. Um, we always go to our EXI existing client first and let them know that we've been approached by another brand. And [00:27:00] if they have any issues with that, then we would not pursue that opportunity. Uh, we would al would then also tell that prospect that we're working with somebody in that space, and if they see it as a conflict, then we should not continue the conversations.
[00:27:15] Um, if, if both parties are. They, they're okay with it. because sometimes, as you know, in franchising, there's some regional growth and they really aren't gonna step on each other's toes. then we, at least even in that situation, we assign different teams. So in our agency, you get a dedicated team assigned to your business.
[00:27:34] It's not like, you know, whoever's there and can answer your question type thing. And so, within that, we assign different teams to the business in order to keep. You know those interests separate.
[00:27:47] Corey Quinn: I think that's great. you mentioned that you go to conferences, you go to IFA Imagine you go to other franchise specific conferences, is that correct? what role does conferences play in your growth as, as a brand?
[00:27:59] Dawn Kane: [00:28:00] Oh, it's, it's wonderful. Um, for, for a number of reasons. a depending on the conference, having a booth there can be helpful. and the reason being is people can find you. Now there are some conferences. I don't do a booth at all because it doesn't make sense. It's easier for me to walk around, but a conference like IFA for example, where there's over 4,000 people attending and you're trying to meet up.
[00:28:22] I don't know, maybe 15, 20 people Plus your clients, right? If you have a booth, they know that you're gonna be there at certain times. And yes, we all have our phones and we can find each other, but let's be real, that doesn't happen as easily as, as we'd all like it to because , when you're in these large properties and
[00:28:40] miles away by the time you get
[00:28:41] there, Yeah. Exactly. So having a booth works at some conferences, but, you know, reaching out to individuals, not, we don't do the blanket elast. I'm sure you're getting, and I know I'm getting from other brands, like Stop by Booth X, Y, Z. We reach out specifically to [00:29:00] folks that we wanna talk to and try to set up those meetings ahead of time where possible, if we know we're talking to a brand and they're familiar with a client we have, we'll often try to set up a time where the two of them can meet. So that they can talk and share, you know, what their experience is like working with Hot Dish. if we happen to have, one of our clients in our booth when we're working the booth, we're definitely gonna take advantage of that and say, you know, Hey, come talk to Lori, she's our client, or talk, you know, talk to Charles.
[00:29:27] So, so, so, yeah. So, so that works really well. but I think you have to, as I mentioned earlier, be engaged at those conferences. If you're going to attend, be engaged, you know, meet folks, have an open mind. , even if there's a competitor there, they could be a, a good resource for you. how do you define word of.
[00:29:46] primarily it being somebody who hadn't heard of us otherwise, and, um, they are talking about us or maybe they're somewhat familiar but don't really know what we do. Um, and they, [00:30:00] they're speaking to another brand about, you know, their agency and then mention our name, um, would be, I guess, the most basic way to
[00:30:11] explain it.
[00:30:11] what role does word of mouth play in your, in your growth of your business?
[00:30:16] Dawn Kane: Oh yeah. I would say that's, there's a fair amount of that. I would say we probably get no less than five leads a week on our website. and I always, they don't always fill that out. Most people don't, right? They just wanna plug in their information, but I always ask how you heard of me and, uh, or not me, but hot dish.
[00:30:35] And, they'll often, very often it's, oh, I was talking to so-and-so. , um, or I met with, I just met with a gentleman the other day and he's on a networking group that's on LinkedIn that I hadn't even heard of. And I, I asked him, I said, how'd you hear me? He said, oh, your, your company name came up in this, uh, networking group.
[00:30:55] And they, you know, they've said, oh, well you should talk to Hot Dish. And so I went to [00:31:00] your website and I filled. No, actually he reached out to me on LinkedIn. I take that back. Um, but um, yeah, I mean, it, it happens a lot and, um, I think there's a lot of value in that. But again, that goes back to you need to be that person, right?
[00:31:16] You have to put yourself out there. You have to network, you have to, you know, , I believe you have to have high standards, um, both for you and your team members and the clients you bring on. and, and how you service your, your business. How, how you maintain your business. And, you know, if you make a mistake, own up, um, that goes a long way.
[00:31:37] And, and people will say that,
[00:31:40] they say that word of mouth is sort of the holy grail of marketing and of of business growth because, All of the momentum that you've built as a brand and all the great work that you're doing, all of that is sort of working for you on your behalf.
[00:31:53] Corey Quinn: Right? You have people recommending you, like you said, on LinkedIn conversations and offline and, and, and at these conferences and, [00:32:00] and networking and so on and so forth, and, it's not surprising that, you know, it's become an important part of your business and your growth. You mentioned you get about five leads a week overall.
[00:32:09] Let's just take a step back, like on a monthly or quarterly or annual perspective, how many leads do you get that is an influenced, at least by word of mouth, would you say? Like, maybe not on an absolute number. What percentage of the leads do you, that you get are influenced by word of mouth, do
[00:32:25] I honestly, I would say it's probably 80% or more it, it's a huge part of, our new business. but both Jen and I, um, Jen being the president of the agency, Jen Campbell, we're pretty engaged in other, like within other franchise communities, we're, we're in networking groups and doing all those things to stay in front of people, so we're top of mind as well.
[00:32:52] Dawn Kane: Um, and I think. Those folks are the ones that are, getting our name out there in addition to our [00:33:00] clients. and then, you know, some of the other partners that we use, even in the, that we're doing our own marketing from, sometimes they're getting questions like, who should I talk to? , you know, I saw this.
[00:33:11] Are they good? And they're referring as well. So it's really having all these tentacles out there, right, of folks that know you, know your reputation and feel comfortable referring you because they know that they'll be in good hands and. Honestly, Corey, like, if we don't think we could do a good job for your business, we'll tell you.
[00:33:30] Um, I'm, we're not afraid to resign business if it's not right. We're not afraid to say no if we don't think it's a good fit out of the gate or like, as I mentioned earlier, or if it's a conflict. We truly believe in being transparent along the way on, uh, from the minute we engage and have those early conversations through our entire partnership.
[00:33:51] I think you have to be in order to be successful and like-minded people wanna work with like-minded people.
[00:33:57] Corey Quinn: And I think the. Fact that [00:34:00] 80% of your business is driven by word of mouth validates the fact that you, obviously, you have a tremendous amount of integrity in what you're doing. And now you mentioned, and we've touched on this, that you've expanded your services into employer branding, which is a whole nother service line.
[00:34:15] can you talk a little bit about that? Like what is employer branding and, and, and why should brands be thinking about about that.
[00:34:21] Dawn Kane: Yeah, it's, um, it's interesting because again, there's also that joint employer that's out there that we have to be careful about. So, um, the way we tend to look at, the employee engagement side of things, there's, there's a couple of ways on that, that outward facing or that brand awareness side. It's really.
[00:34:39] Getting that message out there about whatever your product or service is, your business is, right, and why this would be a great organization to want to consider to work at. Why should I consider working here and get them to at least. Learn more, right? So driving them to something to a site or a landing [00:35:00] page or picking up the phone to learn more about how could I be a fit for this company and do I see opportunity for growth here?
[00:35:09] And then once you know you have that going on in. and you have folks inside your organization, how do you keep them there? What are the things? And depending on the brand, it could be different. There's a lot that happens, you know, inside the company itself, but there are things from a marketing perspective that an agencies can help support by putting together programs that are for, um, it could be for.
[00:35:32] Upselling to get additional, um, salary or rewards where they see I have an opportunity to expand beyond just my paycheck. I can enhance what I'm doing here. Um, there could be opportunity for referral, like bringing in another, you know, friend, why not work with your friends? Bring your friends here as well.
[00:35:53] So there's a number of different ways that you can do that. I think. It gets tricky. you know, we don't want the, [00:36:00] the franchisor involved in the hiring process for them. It's just really creating that awareness of why this is a great place to work and, and helping the, the franchise. Company, the franchisor, see how to position that differently.
[00:36:13] It's really not different than when that, you know, light bulb went off when people said, I, I gotta stop selling my franchise the way I'm selling my consumer business. It's really selling that value proposition from an investment standpoint, and now I'm selling that value proposition from. Why I should care to work here.
[00:36:34] It's not about like, again, the product you're going to be selling, it's about the environment you're going to be working in and the ability to, you know, service customers that, whether it be, you know, you're doing home care services and giving, maybe you're giving back to the community, but it's still a job, but you're making a difference in people's lives.
[00:36:53] Um, where others, you know, they may. Going into a, a Jimmy John's where it's more that upbeat, fun, you know, meat [00:37:00] friends kind of thing. So there's, you have to sell that value prop.
[00:37:04] Corey Quinn: I was not too long ago introduced to this idea of, of employer branding and, and my, my appreciation of it is that, um, is based on the fact that, you know, you can't, you know, when you're on the inside of a company and you love working there, it's just great to, as it's easy to assume that. On the outside that people will know that it's a great place to work or that it has a lot of values, right?
[00:37:27] And so I think that's a missed, missed opportunity. And so smart brands are now realizing, Hey, we need to come up with a marketing plan. Or branding, positioning as you're saying program to really share the virtues of the business so that people in the market who are looking for a new position, who would be a great fit, that they know who we are and what we stand for, and that why that we're a great, great, you know, place.
[00:37:52] Dawn Kane: E. Exactly right. And all those things you just said, it's interesting. Not everybody has that defined, and so that's where
[00:37:59] an [00:38:00] agency can
[00:38:00] come in and help
[00:38:01] Corey Quinn: Oh my gosh. I, I would say a majority of businesses don't have that to define
[00:38:05] Dawn Kane: That's so true. Yeah. And, and when and when you start to do that and you have that lens and you look through everything through that lens, it makes it so much easier to communicate and then everybody in your organization can communicate it that way. And to your point, when you're on the inside, you see what you see and feel
[00:38:24] But that's not, tran doesn't transcend outwardly.
[00:38:27] Corey Quinn: I've just got a couple more questions for you. This has been really helpful, for my listeners and those folks who are really interested in, in, verticalizing their business very seriously. So thank you for that.
[00:38:38] But what would be your advice to someone who's thinking about verticalizing, as part of their, as part of their business?
[00:38:45] Dawn Kane: Sure. What I would tell anybody to do is to take a look at the competition in the space and understand what you can offer that might be different or better because whether you're in Fran, the franchising space or any other [00:39:00] vertical, They're all crowded industries, right? They're all there.
[00:39:05] There's a lot of competition regardless of where you go. So understand who are the primary folks that you think you might come up against and then, you know, do your, do your SWOT analysis, do your due diligence. Understand what, what they own and, and what again you do and how you're gonna do it differently, or how you're gonna go to market differently.
[00:39:26] Even then within that vertical, are there. Areas where you think you can service the business better than others. Because again, the franchising space is complex. And I'll be honest, we've made, we've made mistakes along the way. Um, you know, we, we took on some business not too long ago where we went and were going to support, um, franchisees at the local level.
[00:39:51] For the franchisor. We weren't ready for. Like we are now, but we weren't at the time. And it, it was, it was painful. [00:40:00] And, um, it, that was one of those situations again where we recognize that this was. Probably more than we could do and said, you know, we should probably, you know, we're not gonna leave you hanging, but we should probably part ways.
[00:40:14] And it was like, no, no, no. Let's see if we can make this work. And, you know, there were, we did some good work there, but there were miss misses that we, we had and um, we eventually parted ways and they're doing well, but, You have to know what you're getting into and know what you're good at, and know what you're not good at, and know when to say no.
[00:40:34] And if there, if there's a, a little, there may even be a smaller slice there, but you can make that into something bigger down the road.
[00:40:41] Corey Quinn: in other words, verticalizing is not a silver bullet. That you actually have to have a, a great business. You have to really care for the customer, be differentiated, and, and, and provide real value.
[00:40:51] You can't overlook that.
[00:40:53] Dawn Kane: Couldn't have said it better. Absolutely,
[00:40:56] Corey Quinn: I just fed back with you what you shared with me. I saw that you were awarded the [00:41:00] best franchise marketing company in 2022 By Entrepreneur magazine. Congratulations.
[00:41:05] That's, that's fantastic. I know you've been on the list for, you know, a number of years.
[00:41:09] You're at the top of your industry today. What is maybe one or two things that led you to, to being
[00:41:15] Dawn Kane: here.
[00:41:16] Ooh. Um, gosh, I, I guess, um, well, I don't know if this is exactly right, but I will tell you, um, we started EOS recently, well, three, we're three years in,
[00:41:30] and it has. we were always focused, but I think it made us really dial in and, living more to your core values every day like you had 'em, but it wasn't something you talked about on a regular basis.
[00:41:45] It wasn't something that you necessarily, you know, ran your business by on a daily basis. It wasn't something that anybody on my team probably could articulate back, but today, they can. And I think really [00:42:00] honing in on who we are, how we're going to care for our, our business, how we're gonna care for our team members, because without the team we're
[00:42:10] nothing. And so I think that truly has, uh, helped lead us to that, that position. Um, and then again, just staying true to our.
[00:42:23] Corey Quinn: That's beautiful. And then my last question for you, Dawn, is what is your motivation?
[00:42:29] Dawn Kane: Oh God, I haven't thought about that in a long time. Um, I just, I love this space. I really
[00:42:39] do. I,
[00:42:40] yeah, as I mentioned earlier, my, some of my best friends, my best friends are in this space. I like, during Covid, I, I mean, you couldn't see anybody. , you could see your friends here locally, you know, outside, but you couldn't see like the people that you love and you spend so much time with and you've had all these [00:43:00] great relationships with.
[00:43:01] And so, um, that motivates me is to like do the right thing for our clients, who many of them are friends as well, do the right thing. And for the industry and the other partners that are here, and of course my family, you know, my kids and Ralph and all that. I mean, they. , they love it too, honestly. Like they ask me questions all the time and, and it's exciting that they care about, you know, this, this as well.
[00:43:31] Corey Quinn: Yeah. Well, that's wonderful. Thank you so much, Don, for joining me.
[00:43:35] Dawn Kane: thank you Corey. Appreciate everything.
[00:43:38] Corey Quinn: it's been great. All right, folks. That's it for today. I'm Corey Quinn, and I hope you join me again next time for the B2B Vertical Marketing Podcast.[00:44:00]