341: Forcing Function for Digital Transformation, with Marty Fisher

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If you are ready or not, the pandemic is a Forcing Function for Digital Transformation that local businesses need to adopt.

Marty Fisher, President of Sherpa Marketing, is our guest this week; Marty started Sherpa Marketing in 1996. Since the global pandemic hit local businesses hard he started an initiative called Adopt a Business. He has a passion for local businesses, and when he saw the effects the pandemic would on the economy he knew Sherpa Marketing needed to step in. George and Marty discuss how the pandemic has been a forcing function for a digital transformation, they explain that now more than ever the importance of e-commerce on a website and being able to update their online listings in an instant.

Owning and managing Sherpa Marketing since 1996, Marty brings “Big Idea” thinking, marketing intelligence, and business acumen to every customer interaction. Providing solutions that deliver value is not an objective that can be met without a strong commitment from the leadership of a company. By encouraging the team to embrace this philosophy he ensures that all customers receive the full benefit of Sherpa’s capabilities. He tries to prove repeatedly that his breadth of knowledge and expertise affect positive outcomes for his clients. His experience with all types of technology allows him to offer the most current solutions to his client’s challenges. His belief in technology “as the great equalizer” means he is hard-wired to always think of ways to integrate marketing tactics. A commitment to uncovering the most effective and measurable communication strategies is one of Marty’s passions. He is not content to “phone it in”, He challenges himself and the Sherpa team to do more and find incremental value. Clients receive the benefit of this drive – successful projects with tangible and measurable results.

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George: Well the global pandemic known as COVID-19, probably giving it more airtime on this podcast than I would like, but I do wanna talk about something that’s near and dear to my heart and I’m sure near and dear to our listeners, if you are in the local space, which is what the title of the podcast is all about, conquering local, you know that some of the customers that you’ve been dealing with, you probably won’t be dealing with moving forward and that is the real piece that is just ripping us apart, is that our local economies are gonna look a lot different. And I’ve been talking a lot about the glass being half full and that there’s an opportunity in every challenge, and there are more people that feel that way. And I found a gentleman through various channels, give a lot of credit to a young gentleman named Logan that’s on our team, and of course, producer Colleen for doing some work in getting Marty Fisher for the podcast today. Marty is the President of Sherpa Marketing, which is a marketing agency. It’s been in business since 1996, located in a beautiful city in Canada called Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, a city of about half a million people. Marty is very committed to the local business community and when he saw this challenge, he saw this impact that COVID-19 and the fallout it was having on local businesses, he put together a program called the Adopt a Business Challenge. We’re gonna learn all about this initiative. We’re gonna find out what was the impetus for moving into this thing; it’s great, we at Vendasta are contributing to it by giving out Local Business Online Toolkits to help Marty and this initiative. I’m not gonna steal the thunder, it’s an enormous thing that he is doing for local businesses in his community. We bring him here as a thought leader so that you might be able to take this concept and replicate it into your communities to protect that precious resource of the local businesses that we need to be supporting because that is the lifeblood of our economy. Marty Fisher, the President of Sherpa Marketing is coming up in a moment, right here on the Conquer Local Podcast.

George: Marty Fisher joining us, President of Sherpa Marketing, and Marty is in the beautiful city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada and Marty I wanna talk about the Adopt a Business Challenge, but first, tell us a little bit about your career and Sherpa Marketing, we’d love to get a little background from you.

Marty: Sure, thanks George. Sherpa is a National Agency. We think of ourselves as a group of full-stack marketers and developers. We have clients throughout North America and we really like to think about marketing in a very integrated way, we’re very strong at digital, but we also believe that traditional media, like print and radio, and television still has a role to play in marketing. So, that full stack really does paint a pretty good picture of what we’re able to do. We’re a team of generalists and everybody has their own specialty within those general areas.


Adopt a Business Challenge: Helping Local Businesses Amplify Their Online Presence

George: So the reason that you and I are meeting here on the Conquer Local Podcast, I was made aware of your organization and an initiative that you’ve started through one of my colleagues, who’s been speaking to you and I was, when speaking to Logan, I’m like, “We need to get Marty on the podcast.” Because you share a passion that we have on the Conquer Local Podcast for local business. And unfortunately, due to recent events, our local business community, I don’t care where you’re listening to the sound of my voice, is under attack and you have come up with an amazing initiative to help those local businesses.

Marty: Yeah, we were sitting around trying to figure out what to do with all of our spare time that was, unfortunately, a consequence of all these businesses being forced to stay home and we decided, you know what, we’ve got some available time, let’s try and put some good karma back out into the world. And so Sherpa decided to start something called the Adopt a Business Challenge. And so we staked $50,000 worth of marketing services, and said, to any small businesses, please apply to receive these services. And then I turned around and said to some other agency and marketing group owners that I knew, “Hey, I’m doing this, can I sort of tag you in?” And say, “Hey, Doug Darling at Tripwire, are you in?” And so, we actually had the idea, even before the U.S. started that All In Challenge, we were already soliciting other agency owners to offer their services to small businesses who needed it. And so, it’s really got a bit of a life of its own now, we’ve got over 11 partners and we’ve raised over $200,000 in free marketing services for small businesses and helping them take some of those, either, first baby steps digitally or helping them become more savvy marketers in social or taking advantage of Google’s favoring of hyper-local search results.

George: Well, I applaud you in this initiative and that’s why we wanted to have you on the podcast was to learn some more about what are you hearing as we take a pulse with local business owners? What are you hearing from local businesses? And was it one particular meeting that you had? Or was it, you don’t strike me as the type of person who would have a lot of free time on your hands, but there had to be some sort of impetus that was like, “We need to do this, we need to help.”

Marty: Yeah, I mean, it really wasn’t anything specific in terms of a place that we consumed, so much as many of the local businesses, whether they’re are restaurants or small boutiques that my staff consumes their products and services, and they’re like, “Oh my gosh, like this place could go out of business, what can we do? They don’t have a good website; they don’t have a good social media presence. Is there anything that we can do to kind of help them?” And we’re like, “Yeah, let’s get on this.” And so, we basically created these custom landing pages with applications, then we’ve had something like 50 businesses now apply for us to assist them, and us and our partners to assist them with marketing. And so, the thing that we kind of… looked at, at Sherpa was, we can’t save lives. I mean, we’re not in the business of saving lives, but with our skills and know-how we might be able to help save a livelihood, and so that was really where things came from. And as a Canadian and in particular a Western Canadian, we haven’t necessarily been affected by the pandemic, as brutally as people in places like Spain, France, Toronto, and New York City. We’re just, our geographic isolation, in some ways actually played to our favor, but it didn’t change the fact that the economic impact of this is in some ways, at least in our geography, greater than the actual physical pole, so that’s part of the motivation for us as well.


How Does COVID-19 Impact the Economy and Online Marketing?

George: Well, that’s the issue, is we have this disease, which is a bad thing, for sure but then we also have this economic impact, which is a bad thing for sure, because it’s impacting people’s livelihoods. I had somebody say to me one time, a business owner, that’s how they feed their kids. And when you look at it that way, that’s a whole different way of looking at it. You’re like, “It’s a business owner, and they’re making all this money, and they drive a nice vehicle and live in a nice house.” No, they’re paying for groceries and they’re hoarding toilet paper, and they’re doing all the things that they need to do to support their family, and it has a greater impact than just that one door that we’re looking at. So I applaud you, and we share the same passion; the initiative that we undertook as an organization was to protect local. So we have this idea of conquering local, helping businesses conquer this marketing thing, which is a beast and we’re gonna get into that in a moment, but then how do we protect our local economy? How do we protect the coach of our kids’ soccer team who happens to own the bike shop down the street? That’s really who you’re looking to help with this initiative and you get immense kudos for me on that. Now, let’s talk about marketing. It’s always interesting to me to talk to a marketing expert like yourself, someone who’s been in the business for a long time. Someone told me the other day that COVID-19 is a forcing function for digital transformation, do you believe that to be true?

Marty: Yes, that is 100% aligned with our experience. We started our business in 1996 and always took a digital-first mentality. And so, Sherpa Marketing actually made its first website in cold fusion in 1998. And we did our first AdWords campaign in 2002. And so, we’ve always been well-positioned and a little bit out in front of the digital world and it feels like if anything, the pandemic has forced people to kind of catch up to where we were, we always kind of felt like we were in the future and so while some of our more traditional services, were not very busy or not busy at all, to call a spade a spade, our digital marketing team and software developing group is really, really busy and this has forced, let’s call it for lack of a better term, the digital laggards to really make that investment and take those steps into making sure that they have a decent digital presence.

George: So the ability to conduct business online, I’m using that as a catch-all because I think depending upon the type of business that it is, e-commerce is exploding and that again, is this forcing function. I think what’s happened is anyone that was able to conduct business online during this event is now being held up as a poster child in the various communities, the word of mouth is spreading, and they’re telling stories of, no, we were actually able to keep a revenue line, we had fewer expenses because, whatever it might have been government subsidy or God forbid, but a layoff or furlough of some staff, so they kept the cost down, so they were able to continue business. But it’s not always about a shopping cart and having inventory online, there’s more than that when it comes to conducting business online. Can we talk about some other verticals, and how those other verticals could adopt digital solutions to continue to be able to operate if they have to lock the door, and put a, we’re shut down for a couple of days type sign up there because I think the thing lurking in the background is this could happen again.

Marty: Yeah, absolutely, and you made a really good point. It isn’t necessarily about the ability to do e-commerce, it might be simply the ability to be agile and edit a page that says your hours of operation, or that you have curbside pickup or how you’re responding to the safety protocols for welcoming people back to your store. So there’s something that I’ve really kept close to my chest and something whenever I’ve done keynotes is a very simple stat, over 90% of purchase intent is informed through an internet search. So, think about it, when was the last time any of us made any sort of a consequential purchase without grabbing our phone or grabbing our tablet, computer, whatever, and getting at a Google search and typing something in? It’s not just, what can I buy from you? It’s, when are you open? Where are your locations? Like I said, what is your protocol? And the ability to be agile in making those updates is really actually what’s probably more important than anything, is just keeping your information up-to-date.

George: It seems to me, and I’m sure to some of our listeners to the podcast that have been around for the last three years that we’ve been having the privilege of speaking every week to this listener base, are like, “But we’ve been talking about this for a long time.” And we have digital marketers that were out in front of the curve have been saying, on Facebook, you should be talking about your products and services, not only buy my stuff, but about what your mission is and your vision and talking about the staff members and their resume, and what they bring to the table. So it is a lot more than just the ability to take a bike and put it into a shopping cart, I’m using a bike analogy because I bought a bike online, but it’s more than that, it’s around, imagine if your customer base was nervous about getting into a confined space with extra people. You know what, that is a thing that we need to be aware of because consumers are concerned about that. So to your point, I think it’s a very good one, having that panel on the website or on the social media profile or wherever the consumer is finding that business, I don’t know if a lot of businesses would be thinking about that messaging. And I’m glad that you brought it up because, for our listener base, their kids are being fed by servicing those local businesses and helping them by being the trusted local experts. So it’s more than just being able to conduct business online. It’s being able to conduct business at your physical location and the first question is, are you even open? And I’m even asking that question for some things I’m thinking about buying later on today. I’m wondering

Marty: There you go.

George: I’ve gotta go to this one store; do I drive across the city? Or do I try phoning them to see if they’re even open? 



George: I get beat up sometimes because I’m always the glass is half full, but what I see this as, we’ve been preaching the gospel of online marketing for a number of years, now we have this thing that’s happened and the business owner may be ready to buy now, like they buy when they’re ready and the need has now met the demand, has now met the solution that can be provided, it’s a bit of a perfect storm and are you hearing that as well from your clients and from the people in your circle?

Marty: Yeah, it is the perfect storm, that’s a great analogy. It’s the confluence of all these things happening and everyone needing to respond in kind and while I certainly, my comments seem very focused on website, I would also give equal importance to having an effective social media presence as well. I just saw a stat, not that many months ago from a really reputable source, the GlobalWebIndex and I was absolutely stunned to see that more than 50% of the search for products is now actually done in social channels, I was absolutely blown away.

George: Some incredible stats.

Marty: Yeah, it is. And so, so now, as a small business you really should be thinking about all the swimming lanes that you need to be in, probably occupy the whole pool, you can’t just swim in one swimming lane, you gotta jump in and swim in all of them.

George: Well, Marty, I’m sure that you and I could talk marketing for hours and hours. The purpose of having you on the podcast was number one, to applaud your efforts, number two, to talk about the Adopt a Business initiative. If there are organizations that are listening that would like to learn more about this and happen to be in the geographical area, or maybe we have some listeners in other countries that are thinking about, “That’s a great idea. Could I get a hold of Marty and learn more about what he’s been doing?” How would folks get a hold of you?

Marty: Well, there’s a couple of ways. Number one, you can just go to Sherpamarketing.ca and in our masthead rotators, there’s a link to the Adopt a Business Challenge landing pages, but also feel free to drop me a line either connect with me on LinkedIn or email me at Marty@sherpamarketing.ca. I take great pride in returning phone calls and emails, so if you reach out to me, I guarantee you that I’ll get back to you.

George: Marty, we really appreciate you, having you on the broadcast today. Congratulations on this amazing initiative. Thank you for doing your part to help protect local during this time, and we appreciate the insights today here on the Conquer Local Podcast.

Marty: Thanks so much George.

George: We always like having guests that put their money where their mouth is. Marty stepped up to the table, put $50,000 worth of services out there for local businesses to use, to help them survive and thrive on the back-end of what will be, it’s called “the new normal,” there’s air quotes for you, of COVID-19. Some really interesting feedback there where we’re basically looking at protecting that local economy. We came up with the phrase, protect local as something that our partners could use to go out and help those local businesses. Marty is really putting his money where his mouth is and working with those local enterprises, to help them to survive and then to create that path for what business will look like as we come out of this thing ⁠— 11 partners putting up over $200,000 in marketing services for SMBs, it’s a great initiative. And imagine, if we could take the listeners of this podcast and each one of us were to go out and put that sort of initiative out there to help local businesses in our community, we’re not able to save lives, I love this line. He said, “We’re not able to save lives, but we might be able to save a livelihood.” And it really brings home what we’ve been doing every single day in the world of conquering local, we’re helping local businesses conquer that local marketing and local sales, so that they can help feed their kids. I love having that mission, and love being able to bring a guest like Marty Fisher with that vision that he had, and how he’s making it come true to help local businesses. Thanks for joining us this week on the Conquer Local Podcast, my name is George Leith. I’ll see you when I see you.

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