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Join us as we explore the power of direct mail in the digital age with our guest, Brian Davidson. With over two decades of marketing experience, Brian’s expertise spans both traditional and digital realms. He excels in creating comprehensive marketing strategies that boost sales and customer loyalty, benefiting clients from national banks to local restaurants.
Behind Brian’s remarkable success is a deeply personal motivation. Witnessing a friend’s failure due to poor marketing inspired Brian to establish Light Switch Media, a visionary agency focused on empowering business owners with time-saving solutions to foster genuine, impactful relationships, growth, and success.
Brian’s mission is to bridge the gap between Main Street businesses and corporate marketing agencies, fostering authentic one-on-one relationships. Whether you’re a local gem or an aspiring entrepreneur, listen in to learn how Brian Davidson and Light Switch Media are propelling businesses to new heights!
Conquer Local is presented by Vendasta. We have proudly served 5.5+ million local businesses through 60,000+ channel partners. Learn more about Vendasta and we can help your organization or learn more about Vendasta’s Affiliate Program and how our listeners (like yourself) are making up to $10,000 off referrals.
Are you an entrepreneur, salesperson, or marketer? Keep the learning going in the Conquer Local Academy.
Achieving Agency Success with Direct Mail
Jeff Tomlin: Welcome to the Conquer Local Podcast! Our show features successful sales leaders, marketers, thought leaders and entrepreneurs who will inspire you with their success stories. Each episode is packed with practical strategies, as our guests share their secrets to achieving their dreams. Listen in to learn highlights of their remarkable accomplishments and get tips to revamp, rework, and reimagine your business. Whether you’re a small business owner, a marketer, or aspiring entrepreneur, the Conquer Local Podcast is your ultimate guide to dominating your local market. Tune in now to take your business to the next level!
I’m Jeff Tomlin and on this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Brian Davidson. Brian is the President and Chief Marketing Officer of Light Switch Media. A marketing expert with over 20 years of experience, he excels in both traditional and digital marketing, creating integrated strategies that boost sales and customer loyalty. Witnessing a friend’s failure due to poor marketing inspired Brian to establish Light Switch Media, a visionary agency focused on empowering business owners with time-saving solutions to foster genuine, impactful relationships, growth and success.
Get ready Conquerors for Brian Davidson coming up next on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local Podcast.
Brian Davidson Transitioned from Direct Mail to Light Switch Media Amid the Pandemic
Jeff Tomlin: Alright, fellow marketer, coming all the way from Oshawa, Ontario, Canada, Chief Marketing Officer and President at Light Switch Media, Brian Davidson, how are you doing, man?
Brian Davidson: I’m good, yourself?
Jeff Tomlin: I’m doing good. Hey, thanks a lot for taking a few minutes to sit down with us and have a chat. Hey, I’m always interested in the beginnings, so tell me about your journey into the marketing world, where you started, and how you got to where you’re at.
Brian Davidson: Sounds good. I’ve been in the marketing game for 23 years now in various different forms, and I really cut my teeth in the direct mail or direct marketing world, so I ran a direct mail company for 20 years. And yeah, just helping, working with Canada’s largest banks and financial institutions, all the way down to local mom-and-pop restaurants, and kind of everything in between. And yeah, that’s kind off where I got my start.
Jeff Tomlin: Hey Brian, I love the name Light Switch Media, tell me a little bit about the origins on how you started the agency. And you guys had some challenges, as we went through Covid, so talk a little bit about that and how you went from there to booming.
Brian Davidson: So, I mean, Light Switch, the reason Light Switch came to be is we started getting, so we moved the direct mail company from Toronto to one of the suburbs east of the city, and as a direct result, we started working with some smaller clients. It wasn’t just the downtown big corporate companies, so we had these small companies that were looking to, they were already kind of doing their own social media, that kinda stuff, but they wanted to do direct mail, and they wanted to tie the two things together somehow, and they didn’t really know how to do that. So they started asking us if we could do that. “Can you help us with the social media to talk about this “and tie it in with the mail advertising “that we’re doing?” And so that’s kinda how we got started into that, and we didn’t really have anybody in-house to do that. So I took that on myself, and then it just kind of started to grow, and there were more and more customers coming on board asking for things, like websites and social media content management, and it got to the point where I was, I had an exit plan in place for leaving the mailing world and going into Light Switch full-time. And then Covid came along, so at the end of the plan was the end of 2020, right, I was going to leave the mailing company and go into Light Switch full-time. And March 17th was the day, it was St. Patrick’s Day. I was actually in Florida visiting my in-laws, and I got a call from the owner of the mailing company saying, “Either we got to lay you off, or we got to lay the staff off. “What do we do here?” So I said, “Keep the staff, because we needed them to keep running,” and it was March 17th, 2020, a week after the pandemic was named, I’m on my own, fully invested in Light Switch in the middle of a global pandemic.
Light Switch Media’s four Ts: Team, Time, Tech and Traffic Drive Success
Jeff Tomlin: You know, that’s amazing. Like, I love hearing these stories, and I can’t get enough of them, of how people navigated the change and the challenges that were presented then, because they say necessity breeds innovation, and there’s so many people that figured out how to make it work, and turned from scratching their head to thriving in some sort of way. That’s a great story.
Brian Davidson: Yeah, there were definitely challenges along the way, right? Like, you’re all of a sudden, no income coming in, you’re full-time into this. And no one’s spending money, no one’s really spending any money on marketing at the time, because everyone was just terrified of where things were gonna go. And so we just, we had to, it was me, myself, and I at the time, just trying to figure out where to go, who to contact, what contacts from the mailing world do I leverage and try and work with? And then, we just slowly started building a stable of clients, as people started realizing, okay, things aren’t opening back up. We better be able to figure out how the hell to sell stuff online. And we got to that point, so it just started to grow from there. And it was a slow build, in particular in that first year, because Covid just, everyone was afraid to open up their pocketbooks, and probably rightly so, because you weren’t really sure where things were going. But yeah, and then it just, it just kept going from there.
Jeff Tomlin: So most successful people have a little formula that works for them or a recipe for success, so at Light Switch, you guys have the four Ts. So talk a little bit about that.
Brian Davidson: Yeah, what’s really worked was we started to figure out after those first few months of Covid and things sort of settled into whatever semblance of a routine there was, we kind of realized that people were, they needed to get online, they needed to make sure their digital marketing was working and driving business for them, but they didn’t have the expertise. So we built ourselves as a virtual marketing team, so hired someone back, later on in 2020 in the summer. And so we started building these four Ts, and the four Ts are team, time, tech, and traffic, right? So, the team is pretty self-explanatory. These are local businesses. They don’t have a budget necessarily to hire a marketing person, that’s just too much overhead for a small business or a local business to handle, so we took our expertise, my 20 years in the marketing world, I hired someone who was doing content marketing since Facebook started. So we had our experience, so we created a team for them without having to hire, without all the costs and the overhead associated with that. And the whole point is to drive, is to create time, because local business owners, as as we are as an agency, we never have enough time in the day. So we wanted to give them enough time to get back to doing what they started their business for. They wanted to become a baker or a plumber, they didn’t want to become a digital marketer. It’s just one of those things that has to be done to grow a business, so we gave them back some time. And we look at tech, which was really interesting when we started diving more into the technology that local businesses were using, it was all over the place, right? There was social media software over here. There was a CRM maybe over here, there was something else, and none of those things talked to each other. So we kind of figured, if we could get the tech tied together and easier to use for them, that’s going to help with the time, and it’s just going to make more sense, and then save them some money too because they were spending money all over the place. And then last, everything we do in digital marketing, in particular at Light Switch, what we do, everything has to drive traffic. It’s either gotta drive traffic to their website or if they have a physical storefront, it’s got to drive to the storefront. So again, putting that tech in place, giving them the back the time, having a team with expertise, and then all of that has to result in new business for them.
Direct Mail Success: Digital Fatigue, Perceived Value and Gen Z Engagement
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, all right, hey, so I’m gonna bridge with a story here to get to a topic that I’m really passionate about these days. So I was having a conversation, this is probably a couple of years ago, with a good buddy of mine, who’s got an agency down in New Orleans that focuses on SEO and content. And he’s one of the authorities down there, and he said, “Jeff, you’re never gonna believe what we’ve been experimenting with and having a lot of success with.” I said, “What?” He said, “Snail mail. We’re sending people mail.” And I said to him, “What are the conversion rates like?” He says, “Amazing.” And I said, “So, well, why do you think that is?” He said, “Well, maybe it’s people aren’t doing it, and what’s old becomes new again, but for whatever reason, it’s standing out and it’s blowing my mind.” And because he never really got into it. We live in a digital age, so case study time, so talk to us about how people can find success with direct mail in this digital world we live in now.
Brian Davidson: Absolutely, so again, this is my history, this is where I come from, but it’s a simple answer of why does it work? Digital fatigue. People are just tired. Like, I don’t know what your phone looks like. I can only imagine what your phone looked like every day, hundreds of messages, phone, emails, DMs, whatever. There’s just so much of it there, and we’re constantly bombarded 24/7 on those things. And the pace at which things roll through is so fast, that those messages are gone, and the attention that they grab, because marketing’s an attention game, right, all we’re trying to do is grab attention for our customers. So the attention’s gone in seconds, maybe minutes if it’s really good, so digital fatigue is a real thing and it works. And the other reason it works is there’s a perceived value to direct mail versus an email. There’s a touch and feel, it’s real, right? There’s a tactile sensation to it, it’s paper, and people know that to create a postcard costs money. So maybe the message is more valuable because it’s been put on a piece of paper and then sent through the mail, and so it grabs attention. And funny story again, I’m based in Canada as well, working with Canada Post for all these years. They’ve got studies on it, and Gen Z and Millennials have huge adoption rates on direct mail because it’s so unique to them. It’s just not something that they’ve grown up with, whereas, maybe you and I, of a slightly different vintage, we’re used to seeing direct mail, right? That was my nice way of putting it.
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Calling us old bastards, are you?
Brian Davidson: Pretty much, yeah, yeah. But we’ve seen that, and it’s not necessarily unique, but it’s becoming unique again, because there’s not much in your mailbox anymore other than bills. So that perceived value, that uniqueness to it, the tactile feel, and then the lifespan, right? I have a great story from the direct mail world, about five years ago. A client, they did a promo and it was a direct mail piece, and it went out and someone took that. They weren’t ready to buy whatever the service was at the time. They put it in a drawer where they put such things. Six months later they called in, and they made a sale off it. You’re never gonna get that out of a digital marketing piece, it doesn’t live six months. So all of those things make it unique and different, and there’s lots of different ways you can make sure that it stands out in the mailbox that’s there. The most important thing is that it’s, the message has gotta be targeted and it’s gotta be timely, so you’ve gotta make sure you know what you’re putting on the piece and make sure that it’s being delivered at a time that makes the most sense. So, if you get the targeting right, that piece is gonna yield some great results. So you want a case study, I’ve got a great set of numbers if you wanna hear them.
Jeff Tomlin: I wanna hear ’em, I wanna hear ’em.
Brian Davidson: So, this is a micro campaign, like a really small little campaign. It’s actually a case study that we did. These are actual real numbers that we have achieved. I wish I could achieve these results with all my campaigns, but we’ve done other ones, so we targeted local, independent restaurants in my town of Oshawa. We identified 20 of them that had been established and met the criteria that we were looking for. We did a letter, a letter campaign, so a number 10 envelope, a standard envelope that you get in there. We had our logo on it. There was a tagline across the top in colour to make sure that it, to entice them to open the letter. Inside was just a simple sales letter and a brochure. So we sent out, we spent $20 on the postage, and sent it out to 20 businesses. We had four responses, and two booked sales. Revenue generated from that $20 spend was $4,500. That’s a 22,400% return on investment.
Jeff Tomlin: Wow. Holy smokes. Wow, yeah, so.
Brian Davidson: And it’s repeatable.
Direct mail with Digital Integration, QR codes, and Targeted Ads
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, there’s not too many people that can get that type of return on a digital campaign.
Brian Davidson: And it is a micro campaign, so it’s not, but we have, I’ve seen 10 times return on investment is very, very common, very, if the targeting’s right, it’s easy to achieve. So a 10-time return on your investment, if you spend $1,000 and you can generate 10 grand in revenue, I’ll take that every single day.
Jeff Tomlin: Every single day. And so, you also have some strategies on how to integrate the direct mail with your digital campaigns as well, and so you wanna talk about a couple of strategies so that you can leave listeners with this amazing to-do list that they’re going to walk away with here because you’ve already got them motivated. Those are some big numbers, Brian.
Brian Davidson: Yeah, and like I said, we’ve repeated those, never to that level again, but consistently, 10 times ROI or higher. But yeah, some of the strategies, I mean, there’s some basic things, so, in the direct mail piece that’s going out, you gotta make sure you utilize the things that are available to you today. QR codes, I know, if you’ve been in the game long enough, we know that QR codes were the big thing, probably five, 10 years ago, but it never really got the adoption rates, because it was, you had to download an app, and the app was kinda wonky, and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. Well, with today’s smartphones, it’s just, point your camera at it, and boom, the website opens up. It’s just so, so simple so that seamless connection. So the adoption rates for QR codes are that much higher, so when we send out a direct mail piece, we’re working on another campaign for ourselves. We have a box in there with a QR code line driving to a landing page. That means the camera’s just going to quickly scan and go to that, so making sure your landing page is mobile-friendly is super, super critical. But when we do the integrating with, we’ll do Facebook. We’re going to be doing Facebook-targeted ads to the geography that we’re going to with that, so you make sure that you’re telling them in those ads, “Hey, keep an eye out in your mailbox, because there’s a postcard with details coming soon.” So, you’re sending the message out in a multitude of ways, so that they get it, and they see that when it comes into the mailbox, and now they understand what it is. And from a direct mail perspective, and really with any marketing, but in particular direct, it’s not a one-and-done. Don’t send one thing because that might just get missed, a gatekeeper might get a hold of that and not get to the person you’re trying to get to. Do a series of three, four, or five different pieces. Make sure there’s always that QR code. Make sure your landing page is mobile optimized, and it’s easy to fill out forms, whatever it is you’re looking for. Putting Snapshot form, the acquisition widget kinda thing on there so people can get the information that they’re looking for on that landing page, but you’re driving all that stuff to there. And then, on the digital part of it, so that we’ve got the direct mail piece. We’ve talked about how to use the Facebook ads and Facebook posts to, hey, let people know stuff’s coming, but we just make sure that the digital foundations are in place. So when we talk to our clients, we kinda do a four-phase approach with it. So yeah, we’re gonna do a direct mail campaign, but we gotta make sure that your foundations are, your website’s right, your SEO is kind of, the basics are in place. We wanna make sure your social media content is doing the things that it needs to do to inform people about what’s going on, then we’re gonna use the direct mail for that targeted lead gen, but maybe a LinkedIn Sales Navigator type campaign in there as well. And then finally, we run the digital ads to the mix, so now, we’ve got them sort of, let’s get the backend, that conversion point that we talk about in the Vendasta world. Make sure that the conversion point’s right in the customer journey, and then make sure that all the rest of the pieces are in place so that when you do the direct mail piece and then the digital ads, everything’s gonna click the way you want it to.
Webinars with Educational Value Lead to Successful Prospecting for Services
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, so you’ve got a great process for doing your own prospecting with webinars, and so talk a little bit about that process because that’s a super interesting funnel as well.
Brian Davidson: Yeah, so we’ve really found a niche that works for us with online communities, like the owners of those communities that are offering services to businesses that are complimentary to what we’re doing, and the two best examples are two different types of coaches. So we actually have a coach to professional organizers, so this individual built a professional organizing business in the States, and now they’re coaching other professional organizers on how to create a strong business foundation in that space. And then the other is a coach to coaches, so they built a successful coaching practice, and now they’re teaching others how to do the same. So they’re coaching people on how to build those businesses, but they don’t have, they didn’t have marketing services built into that. It was telling them you needed to do SEO, but they didn’t have a vehicle to provide the SEO services. So we went in and prospected and networked and met with people, and built rapport. Often, what we did with them is we would go in and offer some complimentary services as a proof of concept to what it was, so we would show them what an SEO campaign would look like, and we wouldn’t necessarily charge for that because we knew where the backend of that could look like. So it was a bit of a calculated risk on that side, so once we did that, we got in, and they were all on board. Now we’ve got a person who has a community of 500, 700, 1,000, and 2,000 business owners in a space, and they’re talking to them, and they’re promoting marketing services that we provide as part of their team. What really works for us is webinars, so what we do, is they host these free webinars for the community, and we talk about topics that are important. So some of the ones we’ve done, we did an SEO campaign, because there’s a lot of questions about, well, what is SEO, why is it important? Why don’t I just do my Google business profile? Isn’t that good enough? So we had a webinar explaining the difference between the two and what it is and how you can do it on your own. We’ve done the Google Analytics switch over to GA4, different, what does a good website look like? Those types of things, but really, what we come at it from is that it’s, we’re trying to add value, we’re trying to add value to those communities. So we’re not selling, we’re educating, and we’re telling them how they could do something on their own, if they wanted to do that on their own. And really, we’re just trying to help, if we, and coming across as, hey, you need to do this in your business, so here’s how you can do it, and we teach them how. And there, we’ve shown videos, and we’ve done walkthroughs of things, and then at the end, it’s, “Hey, if you don’t have the time, you don’t have the inclination, you just don’t wanna deal with this, then we’re here to help.” And so that value add without the hard sales pitch, without the, download this form, but if you need help, we’re here for you. That message seems to have resonated, and we have yet to do a webinar where we haven’t walked away with a new client.
Jeff Tomlin: True inbound.
Brian Davidson: Or at least a booked sale or maybe.
Key Takeaways: Try Direct Mail, Add Value, Find Good Partners and Be Authentic
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, I love it, a true inbound marketer. And the people that are really finding the most success right now are leading with education, because most people don’t want to be hard sold these days, right? I love the approach, and I love the hard takeaways with the different formulas that you have. So, if we’re gonna leave people with some key takeaways, so enumerate some of those for the people listening today.
Brian Davidson: So, try direct mail. I mean, there’s number one, give it a whirl. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed if you get the messaging and the target right. If you know what you’re looking for, you know who you’re trying to get to, there are, in Canada Post or the USPS, there are ways to get to that business or that individual through that channel. Give it a shot. There’s lots of local businesses that are out there that can help you with that. Small print shops often will do direct mail services for you. Find someone who can help you with that. And I think you’ll see, in particular in Canada, that sort of avoid anti-spam legislation, direct mail’s a really interesting way to prospect because you don’t have to worry about that side of it. Another take, add value, just add value. Just be there coming from a place of wanting to help, and that’s what’s worked best for me. So if you’re there, and you’re kind of giving away content or helping and showing them how to do it for themselves when they get to the point where they’re either, they can’t take it any further, they’re going to remember that this person helped me and they got me to a point, and now that it’s time for me to spend some money on it, they’re gonna come back and talk to you. So that would be that. Find some good partners, find partners that work well with you, or that just sort of share the same values. And then probably the biggest one is just to be yourself. It’s kind of funny, I was talking to my wife before coming on today to the podcast. I’m like, “Should I put a nice shirt on? “What should I do?” This is me, this is who I am. I’m wearing a pink hoodie, and so I think it’s pink, I’m colourblind. But it’s be yourself, because people buy from people.
Key Advice: Be patient, and No Need to Reinvent the Wheel.
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, I love that takeaway, and I was gonna ask you what advice you’d have for marketers, but I couldn’t think of some better ones than to be yourself and add value along the way. Anything else you’d add to that?
Brian Davidson: Maybe just two things, be patient, it takes time. I mean, there are overnight successes and good for them, and high fives to them, but it takes time, and it’s not a straight line. So just have some patience, and you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There’s again, people buy from people. There’s lots of business out there. There’s an abundance of things that are available and an abundance of services that people need. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You don’t have to create something new for yourself. Find yourself a great partner, like Vendasta, and off you go.
Jeff Tomlin: Geez, we live in an on-demand world, and I also couldn’t think of some better advice than to be patient. People don’t really have patience when it comes to success and all things growth-related in this day and age. Last question, if somebody wanted to get a hold of you and continue the conversation, how do they get a hold of you, Brian?
Connect with Brian Davidson
Jeff Tomlin: Brian Davidson, amazing bunch of takeaways for us. Light Switch Media. Thanks for taking some time out of your very busy schedule to join us in the Conquer Local podcast.
Brian Davidson: Thanks very much for havin’ me, it’s been fun.
Jeff Tomlin: Good luck to you, sir, and we look forward to havin’ a follow-up chat sometime down the road here.
Brian Davidson: Sounds good, thanks Jeff.
Jeff Tomlin: I really enjoyed our conversation with Brian. Direct mail marketing can still be highly effective in today’s digital world due to digital fatigue. Providing targeted and valuable content through direct mail can grab the attention of customers, especially when combined with digital strategies like integrating QR codes and Facebook-targeted ads.
Building a successful marketing agency requires patience and perseverance. Offering complementary services and valuable educational content through webinars can help establish rapport and attract clients. And lastly, finding a niche and forming partnerships can also contribute to long-term success in the marketing industry.
If you’ve enjoyed Brian Davidson’s episode on discussing The Power of Direct Mail in the Digital Age revisit some of our older episodes from the archives, check out Episode 622, The Art of Traditional and Digital Marketing Strategies with Darren Anderson or Episode 619: Empowering Communities and Driving Economic Prosperity with Heather Thomson.
Until next time, I’m Jeff Tomlin. Get out there and be awesome!