An Interview with Dorothy Brown, Owner of
AKB Small Business Marketing
by Grace Nasralla, OSBN
Q: Dorothy, you are known as a good marketer. Is there anything in
your upbringing that has contributed to that?
A: First, thanks for the vote of confidence. I am quite humbled by your
kind words. Each day I show up to work I am driven to provide the best
value for my clients. My mission is to help them win so they can achieve
the marketing payoff they need in their business.
As it relates to my upbringing, my innate strength is my ability to connect
and communicate with people. This was fostered and honed throughout
the various stages of my life. I believe the ability to connect and
communicate has served me well in marketing.
In this Issue:
An Interview with Dorothy
Vernon Brown, Marketing
AKB Small Business
Q: How did you start your professional journey as a marketer?
A: Upon reflection, my parents definitely had an entrepreneurial spirit
but I believe my biggest influence was the incredible experience I gained
working for a start-up financial institution after leaving
university. Founded by a brilliant woman named Joan Duncan, this
company was 20 years ahead of its time. We lived and breathed the
customer experience; we were genuine and deliberate in building
authentic relationships. The culture was about being exceptional –
mediocrity was not tolerated. We had a lot of fun though. We worked
hard and we played hard. To this day, they attract the best and
brightest – graduates aspire to work there. They are the 800lb gorilla in
the financial services industry in the Caribbean. This was a stand-out
experience and the fundamental marketing lessons learned, I still use
Making the Most of Your
Owner and Founder of
GNR8 Online Solutions
The Hashtag Myth and How
to Get More Engagement on
An Interview with Dorothy Brown,
Owner of AKB Small Business Marketing (cont’d)
Q: What obstacles did you face and how did it affect your professional journey?
A: As a young marketer, you always had to prove yourself. I worked hard and stayed hungry. These habits have never
Q: In your opinion, what is the key marketing trend that will shift the marketing paradigm in 2017 - 2018?
A: There are several key trends that are happening that we need to pay attention to as small business owners.
‣ ‘Micro-moments’ which is the impulse to reach for our mobile phones to find reliable answers when we – need to
know, need to go, need to do or need to buy. Why is this important as marketers and small business owners?
Because, brands and companies who understand how customers and prospects consume information and then
respond with an appropriate strategy will win. Consider this: 96% of users reach for their smartphones to conduct
research at the very moment they ‘need to know, need to go, need to do or need to buy’. (Source: Google
Purchased Digital Diary, May 2016)
‣ Big Data. Predictive Analytics in which companies and business owners can use data to predict customer
behaviour and/or improve sales, conversions, traffic etc. This is a great opportunity for small businesses to
become granular with their data and respond with an appropriate marketing strategy.
‣ Marketing Automation (includes behavioural email and web personalization.) Another severely underutilized
strategy for small business owners. Contrary to popular belief, email marketing is NOT dead. Done right it can
help to turbo charge sales and conversion. What it does for example, is to help to lead score a prospect or help
you deliver appropriate content along the customer journey. It’s a great lead generation and nurturing system.
Small business owners have a significant opportunity here.
Q: What advice do you leave the startup marketer with?
1. Narrowly define your audience, your sweet spot. You cannot be all
things to all people.
2. Focus on your customers and deliver exceptional value. Make it
about them. All the time.
3. Focus on the core marketing tools and strategies that will help you
and your clients win. You can’t master everything, choose wisely
and choose what makes sense for you. Focus and execute –
consistently -each and every day.
Dorothy Vernon-Brown is a marketing strategist and coach. She helps to
equip small business owners with modern marketing strategies and tools to
set them up for success and end their struggle to find profitable customers.
Making the Most of your Digital Marketing
by Mandeep Kalsi, Elixirimc
Digital Marketing has always been tricky. This is a one domain where I have seen
Businesses generating great ROI with limited budget and some businesses not
getting enough results despite of spending huge budget.
Though it comes with the ease of setting up campaigns from your computer and
setting up a payment method to put your ads online, it’s important to understand
and evaluate a few points before diving into Digital Marketing.
‣ Understand your WHY
Many businesses fail in digital marketing because they don’t define the WHY
clearly. Why you are choosing Facebook Marketing or going for Google AdWords?
Why not go for email marketing only? Why Online Marketing will be better than any
other Offline Marketing activity to achieve your marketing goal?
‣ Define your Goals
If you are a small business and working with Facebook Ads and Google AdWords
with a limited budget, then it will be beneficial to be very clear about your campaign
goal. You cannot achieve everything with a single campaign. Clearly define the
goal. Write it down. For example, your goal can be “driving students aged 18-23
years old in Waterloo to visit your Online Store”. This will help you in choosing the
right online marketing platform and location targeting for your campaign.
‣ Define Campaign Success Parameters
What will make your campaign successful? Set realistic goals and parameters. If
your campaign objective is to drive sales, then how many sales in a month with your
set budget will make you breakeven and make you profitable?
‣ Measuring Results
How will you measure campaign results? Will you be using analytics of ad platforms
or will be using some third-party integrations? While deciding the right analytics tool,
keep your campaign goal in mind.
Once you are clear about your online campaigns, then use the right expertise to
launch it and don’t forget to evaluate the results in regular Intervals.
If you have any questions in setting up your online campaigns, you can email me at:
The Hashtag Myth and How to Get More
Engagement on Instagram
by Blake Wyatt, Owner and Founder of GNR8 Online Solutions
First, let me share some apps that are helping people choose hashtags
based on popularity in their niche. A few of these that come to mind are:
‣ FocalMark (My Top Recommendation)
‣ Tags For Likes
‣ HashTags for Instagram
‣ Top Tags for Instagram
Now, let me tell you why I wrote this article.
I recently read two articles from top magazines (which I will not name) that
recommended using the most popular tags and using apps that let you
auto-copy the top 30 tags in your niche on your photos to increase
engagement. I am sick of seeing bad advice so I am going to help you for
being kind enough to read my article.
Start at the Right Level of your Niche
These are the problems that lie within using these apps to try and boost
your Instagram posts:
The Instagram algorithm will knock you off the charts if you start
hashtagging your posts on Instagram with the most popular hashtags if
your page is too small. If you only have 500 followers, you have to scale
your hashtags to the size of your own page.
The Instagram algorithm is built to favour pages and people that have a
larger following where there will be more engagement and activity from
Use ink361.com to do Hashtag Research
Make a free account on www.ink361.com, and get to work. By typing in
keywords for your niche you will see where you have gone wrong, and
where you need to go. Type the word you’re looking for in the search bar,
and then make sure you click on hashtags to see how many posts there
are for that hashtag. Start with something vague. For example, if you are
in the fitness industry type in the hashtag “gym”. There are currently 89.8
MILLION posts using the hashtag #gym.
If you only have a small following and you use that same hashtag as other
pages with thousands, hundreds of thousands, or over a million
followers…you will never be seen in the noise. It is just the way it works,
and trust me because I used to do this until I knew better.
Here is how to get around that problem:
Scroll down the page and take a look at
some hashtags that are not as popular, for
example #gymswag only has 276.7K posts
Now it is much easier to stand out in a
smaller channel. As your page grows, you
can start scaling up with more popular
hashtags as your Instagram Page will be
much more reputable.
If you are a larger page, then simply apply
the proper hashtags to your niche.
Regardless of your current standings, you
can use an analytics tool such as
Iconosquare to monitor your keyword
selection and performance.
Do not use too many hashtags. Try using
10–15 hashtags that are niche specific, and
then use 1 hashtag that is branded. I often
see 30 hashtags spammed like crazy, or I
see way too many branded or local
hashtags that are not relevant.
The reason why you want to avoid
spamming hashtags is because the
Instagram algorithm frowns upon hashtag
spamming, and rewards the posts that are
more specific. Alternatively, the reason why
you only want to stick to one branded
hashtag is because you want to build your
brand over time with one hashtag. If you
use 5 branded hashtags, you’ve now
watered down your tag list with nonsense
that no one will ever see.
The Hashtag Myth (cont’d)
What to Avoid
‣ Do not get so specific with your hashtags that no one will ever see it. I never told you to go to the bottom of the
list! Be reasonable, and meet in the middle or lower end of the tag popularity.
‣ Be wary of spelling errors in the keywords you are researching. A lot of times, you will see a seemingly perfect
amount of hashtag usage, and will want to apply this to your page. Let’s say you are doing some research on
#interiordesign, and you scroll down and see an alternative or extension of that tag with 50K posts. This seems
perfect for your smaller page. However, a lot of people have simple grammar mistakes, and the tag turns out to
be #interierdesigntips. Keep an eye out for things like this because people will likely not continually search
something with bad spelling (I hope).
‣ Not diversifying your search. You want to make sure that if you are targeting #luxury, that you are thinking
outside that tiny box. What else can you search for that is related? Here are some examples: #watch #car
#property #mansion #suit #tailor #shoes. There are lots more, get into your niche’s mindset and what they are
looking for. Do not just type in #luxuryhouse #luxurycar #luxurywatch #luxurymansion #luxurylife. Diversify to
reach a bigger audience more effectively!
Be Specific, Be Seen
Now, this seems counter-intuitive to what I just said, but let’s carry on. The algorithm works in a way that it rewards those
who are specific in their posts. I quickly touched on this in the Bonus Tip that I mentioned above (take a look if you have
Let’s take a look at this in an example. Two different Instagram pages with 1,000 followers post a picture about a hairstyle
(for the sake of the example, let’s say it is the same photo, posted at the same time, hashtags entered at the same time,
all factors are the same). The major difference is this:
‣ Page Owner #1 Posts: #hair #hairstyle #curlyhair #longhairdontcare #curlyhairdontcare #salon #haircolor
#hairstyles #hairdresser #hairfashion #salonlife #salonmodel #model #cool #instagood #photooftheday
#instadaily #awesome #post #like4like #followme #beauty #beautyblog #beautycare #beautyful #beautiful #girl
(you get the point I hope)
‣ Page Owner #2 Posts: #hairstyle #hair #hairfashion
Guess who’s going to show up in the search results easier? DING DING DING, Page Owner #2. The algorithm sees that
Page Owner #2 has posted something that is more specific and set to a certain niche or just a few pages (i.e. not
spamming like a Hasher…it’s a thing. Click the word if you do not believe me). Page Owner #2 is rewarded by showing
up in those select hashtags much easier and is likely to be more engaged with fans that are searching for cool hairstyles
The Hashtag Myth (cont’d)
Grow your Page to Scale your Hashtags
The bottom line is, if you want to use the top hashtags…then you need to increase your popularity on Instagram to show
that your account belongs with the big leagues. One of the best ways to grow your page, your tribe, and your followers is
to engage with visitors. This has to be one of the biggest problems I see across all social platforms, but Instagram is no
exception. People are always responding and feeding into the haters. Talk to EVERYONE! Tell the haters that you
appreciate their criticism, tell fans that you love them, follow THEIR page, comment on THEIR posts. It is NOT about you,
whether you like it or not.
Another thing that you are going to want to ask yourself before you post anything is: ”What is the value here, and would
this post stop me if I was scrolling through this niche?” If the answer is no, then you need to rethink your post. Make sure
that you are honest with yourself. Posting valuable content is vital to the survival and momentum of your account. Make
sure that the photo is attention-grabbing, and provides something of value. If you have a fitness page, give a tip. If you
have a foodie blog page, give a recipe. It is not that hard to provide value, and when you are not providing value, you
‣ Sparking a conversation
‣ Promoting a call to action (not selling something though)
‣ Asking fans engaging questions
‣ Following and liking other pages in your niche
You have to make sure that you remain consistent with your account and posting. If you do a post with all of the advice
mentioned in this article and then say, “Hey Blake, you screwed me over man. I did what you said and nothing changed!”
To that, I must reply: “Are you kidding me? One post? Post every day, sometimes twice a day, sometimes three times a
day if the mood is right. Instagram carries with it a momentum when you pay your dues.
By using these tips and some other strategies, I successfully DOUBLED one of my practice accounts in 3 DAYS!
I will give out some other cool tips in the future if you guys found this helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to hit me
up on Facebook or Twitter: Blake Wyatt
An Ontario small business network that
provides business owners and service
providers with marketing tools &
opportunities that increase their business
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