Transcript of Investing in Small Businesses to Do Good for the Community
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John Jantsch: This episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Amanda Brinkman. She is the chief brand officer for Deluxe, and the host and producer of the very fun, Small Business Revolution TV series, which is in season four currently. So, Amanda, thanks for joining us.
Amanda Brinkman: Thank you so much for having me.
John Jantsch: So, start by setting up the premise of the show for people that are not familiar with what you’re doing.
Amanda Brinkman: So, the small business revolution main street is a docu series, where each season we revitalize a different small towns main street through its small businesses. We really believe in the thesis of the show is that if you have a strong, small business core that any community or town can thrive. So, each year we ask people to nominate their favorite small town. And then the Luxal invest half a million dollars in revitalizing that winning town’s main streets, and they’ll be featured in that season of the show.
John Jantsch: So, where can people tune in if they want to find both past seasons, and follow along with you right away?
Amanda Brinkman: Lots of different places. So, they can watch it on Hulu, or it’s on Amazon Prime Video. Amazon just picked it up, or it’s streams online @smallbusinessrevolution.org. So, if you don’t have Prime or you don’t have Hulu, you can watch it online for free @smallbusinessrevolution.org.`
John Jantsch: Awesome. So, let’s talk about the town. So, I love this concept of marrying the two things. Not only the small businesses, but just as you suggest, the impact that that has on the overall community. And some of these small towns are hurting, I think in that regard. So, talk about the process for choosing the town, because I know you get inundated with people that say, “Oh, come to our town.”
Amanda Brinkman: Yeah, exactly. Well, I think that’s because small towns are all struggling with the same thing, no matter where they are geographically. All small towns are struggling with… Big box retailers are moving down on the edge of town, which is putting pressure on their mom and pop shops. They’ve got online competition, which is a problem for small business and across the country, no matter what size community you’re in, you’ve got restaurant chains moving in.
Amanda Brinkman: It’s really hard for these small businesses to compete. And when you think about a small town, and when you tell someone to either visit your favorite small town, or where you’re from, you talk about the small businesses. Small businesses are what make a town or a unique, or a community, or a neighborhood, even in a large urban area, these small businesses are what make it unique. You talk about the barber shop, or your dad used to get his hair cut, and you got your first haircuts, or you talk about that diner where they know your order, or the local coffee shop where you see people that you know from the community.
Amanda Brinkman: You talk about these gathering places that small businesses are, and small businesses also give back to their communities in disproportionate ways. They are the ones who are spending their tax dollars are seeing within your community, they’re hiring employees from your community. They’re certainly the ones who are sponsoring the local little league team. And so we need to see these small businesses be successful in order for towns to thrive. Because again, that’s a differentiated small town is their individual small businesses.
John Jantsch: So, my father was a manufacturer’s representative. So, we’re talking about 50 years ago, and he would go to these small towns, and there he’d always have three or four clients on now on the square on every one of them. And my favorite was… I used to go with him sometimes when I was growing up on these trips, and my favorite was always the hardware store, with the worn wooden floors and everybody working there had worked there for 35 years, and they knew they had one of everything, and they knew where it was. Still, today there were a few of those around, aren’t there?
Amanda Brinkman: Oh absolutely. And you know, what’s so special about small businesses is that they often say to us, “How do I compete with online pressure? I can’t compete with those online prices or their distribution.” It’s like, no, you can’t. But what you can compete on is that personalized customer service. The fact that when you go into those local hardware shops, they know how to fix the thing you’re trying to fix, and they’re going to spend time with you getting to know exactly what that challenge is, or that problem is that you’re trying to solve.
Amanda Brinkman: And big box stores can try and emulate that same service experience. But when you’re not from that community, or you’re not the owner of that business, it’s just hard to get the average employee to treat the customers at that same level of personalization. And so, we always tell small business, compete on what you can be differentiated around. And that is that service, and knowing your customers, and knowing their unique needs.
John Jantsch: All right, so you roll into town, you’ve chosen a city, and you have a fun way because you reveal it. They don’t know they got picked. So, you’re all in, you pick that town. How do you pick the individual businesses in that town then? Because, obviously there’s a whole lot of people that would love help.
Amanda Brinkman: Absolutely. So, each year we get about 200 businesses that apply to be one of the six businesses we feature each season. And we do work with all of the small businesses within the community, Deluxe hosts, marketing seminars, and financial seminars. So, we go door to door and help the small businesses. So, we can really only feature in depth, six of them within each season of the show. And so, a couple of things we’re looking for is, through the series we’re really trying to show them what a difference marketing can make for small businesses. And so we’re looking for a business where maybe marketing is a challenge for them, and where we think it will make the biggest difference. We’re looking for businesses where people-
John Jantsch: So, basically every business.
Amanda Brinkman: You know it, that’s true. So, you can help us narrow it down. We’re all set. And so we also are looking for business owner stories that are going to resonate with the audience. And because the whole part… One of the main reasons we do this show is because there’s something about that affirmation.
Amanda Brinkman: So, the large base of our fans are other entrepreneurs and small businesses because they want to learn from what we do in the show. But we also are striving to affirm the viewer that the things that you’re struggling with as a small business owner, aren’t unique to you that other people are struggling with this too. Because, it can be very lonely to be a business owner. And wonder if other businesses are struggling with the same thing, and why don’t you have the answers. And so, we want to find stories where the viewers can see themselves in those struggles, and see themselves in the stories.
Amanda Brinkman: And the whole reason again, is a seriousness because through that story time we’re also trying to inspire non-small business owners to support small businesses. So, when you hear a family story, and why they run the business, you put a face to the business, you want to go out and support them. So, we’re trying to find stories that resonate both in a business level, as well as a personal level. We’re also trying to show a great diversity of businesses, not just diversity in the business owners, but that’s a very important factor for us throughout the seasons. But also diversity of the kind of category or vertical of business.
Amanda Brinkman: So we don’t want to just do a restaurant makeover shore, or just retail, we want to show very niche businesses too. So, in past seasons we’ve featured a dog groomer, or a boxing jim, or a barber shop, a daycare center. We want to show as many different kinds of business too, to make sure that the advice that we give in the series is as applicable to as many kinds of businesses as possible.
John Jantsch: Now you have a co-host on the show, and first couple of seasons it was Robert, oh gosh, I’m forgetting his last name.
Amanda Brinkman: Robert Herjavec.
John Jantsch: There, Herjavec there we go.
Amanda Brinkman: From Shark Tank.
John Jantsch: And now you have Ty Pennington on the show with you. And I will say, you’re a much sharper dresser than he is.
Amanda Brinkman: [inaudible] I got to tell you, I don’t mind you saying that.
John Jantsch: So, tell me this, what are some of the universe… You already mentioned it, marketing, but what are some of the kind of universal problems that you see, that you walk in, you go, [inaudible] here we are again.
Amanda Brinkman: The two things we seem to struggle with the most, are the marketing. Not understanding how to use marketing to grow and differentiate their business. And the second thing is their finances. So, not necessarily having a handle on their numbers, or what the numbers are telling them. And so that is why those are the two things we focused on most in the show, because those are the two things you need to have a handle on, to really run your business and those are two things that most business owners start their business to get into. They don’t come naturally to a lot of people for good reason.
Amanda Brinkman: People start a bakery because they love to bake, not because they can’t wait to build a website, or to figure out what the heck SEO is, or to balance their books at the end of the month. But none of the important factors of the success of your business. So, every episode and in real life, we just come in to walk alongside those businesses and help them with the resources, so that they can get back to doing what they love about their business. We never have to invent the passion for this business. We never have to convince them to try a different kind of bakery. And they’ve got those pieces of their business nailed. We just try and help them with the things that don’t come naturally, because we want them to be successful.
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John Jantsch: Some of the shows have some drama. There are tears, and there’s joy, and there’s anger and frustration. What’s been the most touching story for you?
Amanda Brinkman: Oh my. I think this season it’s hard, because we in real life are so close with all these businesses, and I think all of their stories have such emotional elements. So, I think that one of the stories that we’re seeing really resonate with people, and certainly did with my team and I if Whilma’s Filipino Restaurant, it’s episode two of season four. The [Forgosa] family is from the Philippines. And so, Whilma who owns the restaurant, and her husband moved their family from the Philippines to Searcy, Arkansas. It’s the great American dream with literally $100 and two suitcases. And they moved their four children who are all under, I believe the age of 10 at the time. All in pursuit of creating what they perceived to be a better life for their children, or more opportunities for them.
Amanda Brinkman: And how brave to not only do that, so she as apparent on how sacrificial, and then also to them start a business and being a business owner from the most briefings you can do. And we saw her be… What I talked about before. She has a passion for cooking. She’s an amazing cook. She has this incredible sense of hospitality, which is inherent to not just her Filipino culture, but just her as a person. But things like cost of goods and marketing, and interior decor, and some of these other things we’re seeing in her way of actually being a profitable business. So who should have been in business about 10 years and had barely paid herself and some years maybe not at all. And working that hard, you want to see people be able to… There’s nothing wrong with making money from the business when a business is meant to do and provide for the family.
Amanda Brinkman: And so we were just so proud to see what marketing and the publicity of the show, and helping her with some of those operational things like quantity sizes of menu pricing, and some of those less fun things to talk about, but how they could really impact your bottom line. And so that was a very emotional, I think probably because she just sat in such a space of gratitude throughout the entire process. And it’s always wonderful to see a family come together and move themselves forward. It’s very rewarding.
John Jantsch: So, I’m freely will admit, I’m a fan of the Queer Eye series and there is a little bit of that for business. It feels like there’s a lot of hope you’re focused on businesses as opposed to individuals, but there’s a bit of a makeover aspect to it, isn’t there?
Amanda Brinkman: There really is. And I think the other thing we have in common with Queer and they wish more shows for following this is. This is really a makeover show with heart. We aren’t there to make the business owners look stupid, or to look like we’re the saviors we’ve certainly had distribution partners, not the existing ones, but others that we’ve talked to that want to dial up drama,or different things like we’re not just not going to do that. Yo don’t need to invent drama. When you run a small business to be antagonists is, in a business like that there is no need to pretend or dial that up. We’re truly just there to help, and there are certainly dramatic moments in every episode that come out just naturally, because that is the nature again of being an entrepreneur.
John Jantsch: It’s very personal. So, you’ve got a few seasons under your belt now. I suspect you’ve probably checked back in with some of your folks from past seasons. Have you seen real impact in bottom line impact? They have a different business now?
Amanda Brinkman: Absolutely. Every business is certainly far more profitable. Some of the greatest success stories are a season two Annabella Italian restaurant and Bristol borough has tripled their sales, and hired a few more people. Ellen’s dress and bridal from Wabash, Indiana season one went from being $100,000 in debt, and never paying herself to certainly paying herself in doing well.
Amanda Brinkman: Well first of all, the fact that all 24 businesses are still in business, is actually a statistical anomaly in terms of business. Seeing this is being able to stay open and those open rates. But no, they’re all doing extremely well and in different ways. Some have more work life balance, which was a goal for them. They’re all more profitable. Some of them would be able to hire people, which was a goal. So, all of them had certain goals going into it and those have been met.
Amanda Brinkman: And the funny thing that we do is, each season we actually kick off the season with a return to episode from the previous season. So, we did a return to all [inaudible] a few weeks before we just launched season four, which is in Searcy, Arkansas. And it’s so fun to see impact on the whole community. Some of that half a million dollar investment from Deluxe also goes to the town. We gave aesthetic improvements to the main street, and invest in different things within the town as well. And it’s just fun to see the ripple effect. It’s more than just those six businesses. The whole town is really on a different trajectory on the other side of the small business revolution.
John Jantsch: So, your publicity team, when they were lining up this interview said that you were going to use this occasion to announce season five’s winner.
Amanda Brinkman: Well, that was very preempted on themselves. Here’s where we’re at actually in the process. So we’re actually, [inaudible]
John Jantsch: I was going to stay silent there as long as you needed.
Amanda Brinkman: We’re actually in the process of narrowing down the season five nominations. So, over the course of the five years, we’ve received 35,000 nominations accounts. So, every year we get thousands and thousands of towns nominated. So, we’re not even close to announcing that, because what we do is, we narrow down to the top 10, we go out and visit them, boots on the ground, and then we announced the top five, which we’ll announce on January 14th, and then it is up to the public, the public votes, where we actually end up going. And once we identify the five, it’s out of Deluxe is hand sending it up to the American public to vote. And then I’ll pop out on someone’s stage. I believe it’s scenery 28th.
John Jantsch: Okay, awesome. So, your title is chief brand officer. I’m guessing there’s a day job beyond the show involved in that?
Amanda Brinkman: Yes, there is. Over the years, it’s been nice that I’ve been able to focus more and more in the series producing and hosting, and show running a series is an all consuming full time job. And so my team and I are quite focused on the series itself, but we’re very proud at Deluxe that we not only do the small business revolution, but it’s truly our brand purpose turned into a brand action. And so we very much as a company look at this as the leading efforts that we do to really get our brand out there. And it’s making a difference beyond just selling small businesses, marketing services. We’re actually going out and putting our money where our mouth is, and helping these communities and businesses. And so, much of what I do is focused on that brand pieces is how this is leading us as a company.
John Jantsch: And really this is going to sound like a commercial for Deluxe, but here it goes. Deluxe is such a great example of one of these companies that is a very old company that was in a very old industry, that was very entrenched in a very old industry that said, “Wait a minute, at some point people are going to stop buying checks. Maybe we’re going to have to do something else.” And I think a lot of companies died because the golden calf was there and they hung onto it.
John Jantsch: I think Deluxe probably earlier than a lot of companies pivoted to,”Hey, we have to be something else to our customers.” And we got into marketing. You were one of the first companies to really get into content, as a lot of us marketers started talking about it 15 years ago, and now maybe just briefly. What are, what are the offerings at Deluxe look like for small business?
Amanda Brinkman: So, we can help a small business with anything they need to market their business. So, whether it is designing your logo, building your website, securing your domain, email marketing, promotional items, apparel, business cards, email marketing, the list is long. Anything you need to really market your business. And we’re really the only company that can do all of those things for small businesses. We certainly have a lot of competitors that just focus on email marketing, or just business cards, or just domains. But it’s really nice to work with one company that not only has the heart that Deluxe does, but that can do all of those things for you, because it’s just easier than having to try and go and work with a different company for [inaudible] marketing needs.
Amanda Brinkman: And again, we really do it because we recognize that marketing just isn’t something that comes naturally to small businesses, and we want them to be able to focus on what comes naturally to them. So, why not work with a company that can walk alongside you in an affordable way where you can focus on what you want to do in money in your business, rather than trying to figure it out, some of these marketing things that keep evolving and changing over time.
John Jantsch: Speaking with Amanda Brinkman, she is the host and producer of the Small Business Revolution Main Street, currently in season four of that you can find on Hulu and Amazon prime, and Amanda, tell folks where they might also find more information about the work at Deluxe and the show itself.
Amanda Brinkman: So, we encourage people to either visit Deluxe.com, or smallbusinessrevolution.org, and smallbusinessrevolution.org is a really great resource to hear more behind the scenes of what we work with the businesses on. So, especially if you’ve seen an episode maybe on a different platform like Hulu or Prime, it’s a great place to go and find out more about how we built out that website, or why we recommended a certain marketing solution, or a certain financial solution, gives a little bit more in depth. Because as you can imagine, needs to be scenes that ended up being about three minutes in an episode or actually, two hour conversation. So, we really want to provide small businesses with the resources to understand the strategies that we recommend.
John Jantsch: Awesome. Thanks so much for showing up, and sharing your time and information with us, and hopefully we Will run into you soon out there on the road.
Amanda Brinkman: Thank you so much.