Client Spotlight – TWT Group

There is something a little different about TWT Group. They are an IT company with values that contrast with what comes to mind when considering the stereotyped IT business. Freedom, relationships and happiness are a few of the words founder and CEO Shawn Freeman chose to represent his company, and those values are clearly articulated when speaking with the entrepreneur. With an obvious passion for relationship-building and customer service, Freeman has believed in the power of communications and marketing since before TWT’s conception in 2011. Read on to find out how the young entrepreneur solves the challenges of marketing a business that is often unfamiliar territory to clients, and why he spends so much time on social media.

Tell us about TWT. What are the key words that come to mind when you are considering TWT’s brand essence?

TWT began as a one-man show about 5 years ago, and really took off about two years ago. Some of the TWT values we identified during our brand development with you guys were freedom, relationships, doing what’s right, innovation, and happiness. The ones that stand out most to me are doing what’s right, relationships, and freedom.

What led you down the path of entrepreneurship?

Well, the number one reason was that I felt as though I had gotten as far as I could in IT. I also felt there was a kind of mediocrity in the industry that I really believed I could change, so I decided to start my own thing.

When did TWT really take off, and has Calgary’s downturn economy led you to be weary starting your business?

Like I said, TWT started about 5 years ago when everything was still on the up and up. I ran it by myself for a couple years, until I had to start hiring and delegating and doing all those things they say you’re supposed to do. So yeah, timing was actually pretty good for me.

IT is an area that can be extremely foreign to the average person. What are some difficulties you have faced due to this?

I think the number one difficulty, for sure, is explaining to people what we are doing on a day-to-day basis. People really like to actually see you working when they are paying you. Even though we aren’t physically there, we are doing a lot in the background. In reality, if you don’t have to see your IT people, that means everything is going as it should. So to combat this, I try and keep in contact and touch base fairly often, build the relationships and remind clients that we are here, doing work, providing value.

Do you think the foreign nature of the content makes marketing TWT more challenging, and if so, why?

I think that is an assumption that people make, but no, not really. Like anything, you just need to get your name and brand out there. Clients don’t seem to care much about the details about what we do, they just want a solution. They want options and a competitive price, and marketing that isn’t challenging.

Innovation is a huge buzzword right now. What makes TWT  “innovative” and stand out from the pack?

In this industry, things are constantly moving a changing… there is always a new drop box, new email provider and so on…  You have to always be on top of this, so we are constantly trying news things and testing. I think some IT companies tend to keep the same old technology to keep things billable, but what sets us apart is we want to stay true to our values and do what’s right.

What were your marketing goals coming in to the partnership with William Joseph?

Our main goal was to grow our brand and get the word out.

As a business owner, did you recognize right off the bat the importance of marketing your business?

Yeah I for sure did. Three years ago, as we were getting busier, we got our brand together and developed our website… word of mouth only goes so far. A great brand gives you credibility, which you have to have. Especially in the beginning stages, a company needs to look bigger and more successful than they are and marketing helps to achieve that.

Which marketing campaigns have most inspired you, personally?

I am really inspired by campaigns that actually show people what to do. I can’t think of a particular one off the top of my head, but campaigns that connect people.

TWT is clearly big in to social media. How powerful do you think it can be for businesses, and why?

I think social media is a huge piece and has definitely helped me grow my business. The thing is, everyone knows now that they are supposed to do social media – everyone is on there, but not very many are using it to its full potential. We have gotten so many clients simply because I had developed a relationship with them over social media. They knew me, trusted me, and then when they needed help with IT, that relationship translated into a natural and easy sale.

Are there any marketing tactics that you are weary of, or plan to steer clear of?

I’m not the hugest fan of direct marketing, cold messaging, that kind of things. I would much rather someone say, “Hey, we are connected on Instagram, let’s grab a coffee sometime!” And then go from there, It’s kind of a quality versus quantity. Yes it takes time to meet people, build relationships and all that, and you won’t technically reach as many people, but your impact will be far greater.

Having just opened an office in Vancouver, it is clear that big things are coming for TWT. What are your next marketing steps?

I know I’ve talked about it a lot, but just relationship building, networking, meeting new people. Stuff like Small Business Week, we want to do more seminars, like Lunch and Learns, things like that.

Where do you see yourself taking TWT in the next five years?

So we slowly want to grow out west, but it’s so hard to say. Opportunities, like the Vancouver office, just kind of come up. The focus for me is just going to be on our customers, providing the best service we can, that will hopefully lead to more breaks for TWT.

Client Spotlight – Lotus Cleaning Services

When entrepreneur Atish Gadiyar needed an agency to launch and brand his new cleaning company based on hypoallergenic, soap-free, Green Seal certified products, that are safe for people, pets and the environment, he reached out to William Joseph.  After completing a comprehensive marketing plan and brand creation, campaigns were launched into market and his cleaning vans were decked out with the new creative. WJ sat down with the start-up owner of Lotus Cleaning Services to pick his brain on topics ranging from marketing vanilla businesses to the scary parts of starting a business in a downturn economy.

What led down you the path of entrepreneurship?

I was always surrounded by it. My dad was an entrepreneur, so growing up, I was always excited to build something of my own. When you’re little you know, you have Lego, you are curious and want to see how this works and that works. When I began university, I initially began in engineering, but switched to business because it was much more exciting. I’m a generalist, if you know what I mean, I like the idea of knowing a little bit about a lot of things. I am a bit of gambler, I like the idea of putting it all on red, but the fact is that 90% of businesses fail in the first three years. Knowing that just makes me think, like let’s figure this out… let’s figure out why some things have worked and why others didn’t and let’s prepare ourselves. If you know the forecast, you’re going to bring an umbrella, you’re going to be prepared.

Tell us about Lotus Cleaning. What are the words you would like to come to mind when someone thinks of your company?

You know, our homes are our sacred space, and we want to keep that sacred space clean. Of course, we try to do that ourselves, but over time oil, dirt and pets take a toll. You have to take great care of your home, so I wanted Lotus to be that provider. I want people to think immaculate, reliable, eco-friendly and honest about expectations…  I want people to think that our pricing is fair, and worth it. We are conscious of chemicals, we are organic cleaners and we are Green Seal certified. I want us to be known for not just one thing, but a few good things. Combine all those qualities and you will have Lotus Cleaning.

Did Calgary’s downturn economy lead you to be weary when starting your business?

It does play a big role, 25,000 to 45,000 jobs have been lost, and so that has an impact. But, cleaning is a fairly consistent industry… stuff gets dirty, you have to clean it – it’s fairly recession resistant. You just have to think in terms of systems and find the best kinds of systems that work for your business. With Lotus, everything is the best on the market, in terms of scheduling, machinery…. It makes things more efficient.

What was your biggest challenge in securing your first client?

Without a doubt, getting your name out there is the biggest challenge, having people recognize your business in a credible context is a huge challenge. In a tougher economy, people are more price conscious, so it’s even more important to get your name out there and get some good reviews. You garner good reviews, you have good reviews on Yelp or wherever, it translates into more bookings. On the website, there is the link to Yelp, so I try to be pretty transparent. When I finish the job, I’m like “Hey, would you mind posting a review?” I don’t ask for a good review or anything like that, I just hope that at end of the job, people are satisfied.

Innovation is a huge buzzword right now. What makes Lotus “innovative” and stand out from the pack?

Cleaning is fairly vanilla, it’s been around for a long time and lots of people have cleaning businesses.  Clever marketing definitely helps. Cleaning in 2016 though, there are so many key differences. We are an insta-generation, we want price right away, results right away, assurance right away. New technology helps with this. Lotus Cleaning has mobile payment options, paperless invoicing, electronic scheduling, along with its top-of-the-line cleaning machinery. Service is essential, absolutely, but technology is just as important, if not more so.

What were your marketing goals coming in to the partnership with William Joseph?

I knew from the start that I had to establish a positive, trustworthy brand. Cleaning is intimate— you are going to people’s homes, into their private areas. The Lotus brand needed to embody all those values, to make our customers feel comfortable.

As a business owner, did you recognize right off the bat the importance of marketing your business?

Yes.  First impressions are everything, especially as a new business. Having a trustworthy brand adds so much value and I have always known that.

What is one thing that surprised you when you went through the Insights/Branding/Tactical plan exercise?

The level of detail the plan went into was fantastic. Not many people realize how much work goes into making sure that the end product is impressionable/desirable to consumers.

So far, you have collaborated with WJ on a number of tactics, including truck wraps, magnet designs, a brochure and a digital ad campaign. What tactic do you believe has had the biggest impact thus far?

The logo looks crisp and clients seem to think so, since it has a kind of zen vibe to the whole thing. It’s hard to point at a single thing which has had a big impact. The truck wrap is what clients first see when we pull up in front of their homes and makes a great first impression. The flyers and brochures we worked on are absolutely stellar as well and will have a phenomenal impact in spreading brand awareness.

Which marketing campaigns have most inspired you?

Oh, Red Bull! I think they have the best marketing in the world. Every crazy, high adrenaline activity is linked to Red Bull in some way… I mean, come on, years ago NASA put people on the moon, now Red Bull does that. I`m not even in to energy drinks, I don’t really drink them but that`s just it. That marketing is crazy.

Are you more drawn to emotional branding or reasonable branding?

I think we are just not rational beings, as people. Facts don’t really always matter. It has to appeal to the emotional side. Like, Apple really seems to connect with people, while Samsung just seems to be a soulless electronics company. And who is the more successful one there?

 Are there any marketing tactics that you are weary of or plan to steer clear of?

You know what, I just want to keep it real with people. There are so many dishonest businesses out there. When I quote people, I tend to give them the higher end of the price, so they are not surprised in the end. I’m not in to the bait and switch, you have to know when to push and when to be giving. So yeah, just honest, clever marketing.

 Sometimes it is hard to distinguish where leads are generated from. How important is measurement to you?

Measurement is definitely important, but it can be hard to do. You just want to do a good job, every job matters, and every review matters. What is most important is the 3 R’s:  reviews, referrals and repeat customers. You have to filter out the noise though, the bigger goal isn’t measurement, it’s building this business.

You hit the marketing ground running with Lotus. What are you next marketing steps?

I guess I hit the ground running from an outsider’s perspective, but a lot of thought went into Lotus. I initially thought I would buy into some kind of franchise, but a mentor suggested I was maybe better off to do my own thing, start something completely new. I went to Virginia Beach, where this guy has an extremely successful cleaning business, with state-of-the-art equipment and systems and I just observed him. I asked questions, I took notes, worked closely in a hands-on way, figured out how his vans were configured… I learned a lot, and brought it back.

But next marketing steps? I want to just continue to grow my consumer foot print. I want to find new ways to tell stories, so people can see the value we bring and connect with us. I want to tell those stories through different and emerging mediums. For example, it’s Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram right now, but that will continue to evolves. Digital mediums are the future, so I want to continue to pursue that.

Where do you see yourself taking Lotus Cleaning in the next five years?

Ideally, I would like to see Lotus Cleaning with five vehicles, increasing one or two offerings, maybe become natural flooring specialists… nothing too crazy, but I expect to have a nice, well-functioning business. Actually, you know, if you had asked me five years ago, what was more important, time or money, I would have said money, for sure. Now it is time, without question. I want to grow the business to be efficient and just well-running, which will free up my time to pursue other things, do other things, enjoy life.