Receivable/Accounts - Information for Credit and Collection Issues

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Marketing 101 - Being Your Own Storyteller

I got a call today from a colleague who works at another company in my field, asking for an opinion on hiring a marketing company to promote their business.

I think it's a terrible, terrible idea.

First of all, a quick search revealed that the company had a 3.6 rating on Glassdoor by 3 current or former employees, a quick Manta search shows they only have 5 employees and have been in business 5 years.  A search for their Google business reviews only revealed 1 review (given by a current employee of the company!).  That does not inspire confidence in a social media company – no one can attest to the good work they’ve done?  

Secondly, you are offering to pay money to someone to promote your company – and they know nothing about you.  The time it will take to educate them on your services, your team, your clientele, and your way of doing business, would be far better spent doing the marketing yourself.

When I first started with Kingston Data and Credit in 2010, I saw Jesse Hirsch speak at the first Receivables Management Association of Canada’s national conference, and he said ‘companies need to tell their story’.  I didn’t understand it then, but I think I do now.

People want to do business with people they trust, people with similar goals and thought processes, people who are honest and can share what they know, and what they don’t know.  How can you pay someone to tell your story that would be better than you?

People like hearing an honest voice -- if you haven't read up on this, check out Eddie the Southern Rail Kid.  Your story can be about challenges, successes, or promoting a produce or service that has helped you.  You live your business life 8 hours a day -- certainly there are stories you can share here and there.

Content, Content, Content!

It’s a balancing act – you don’t want to be a sideshow barker saying ‘step this way, gaze upon the best collection agency to ever walk the earth!’  That’s arrogant.  You also don’t want to just blatantly promote yourself (I know a competitor who posts on Twitter at least 10 times a week … ‘Need a good collection agency?  Call us!’   What you want is to be honest, fair, and share your knowledge and experiences.  You need to be a bit humble, and you need to know who your audience is.

When I started this blog, my target audience was (and still is) credit management professionals, collection staff, and consumers.  I’ve written articles for each group, and I’ve had feedback from each group.

What to write has been an evolution – I post nowadays about once a month, and I try to post something of value.  So today, I’m going to share some links – people I admire that I think have a lot to say about social media and marketing, and I strongly recommend them. – Scott Stratten is the author of Unmarketing, The Book of Business Awesome, and more.  He’s a no-nonsense, black t-shirt wearing professional who knows when something is done well, and something is done poorly, and he’s not afraid to call it out on his blog, or in one of his books.  In Unmarketing, he talked about bridging the trust gap by sharing knowledge, and speaks specifically about the pros and cons of different social media platforms. – Daniel Pink wrote the book To Sell Is Human, and he talks in his book how the world has shifted from the door to door Fuller Brush salesman to a guy with a laptop working in his living room running a multi-million dollar company.  He clearly lays out how the business world is changing, and how people have and will respond favourably to individuals making connections and helping solve problems. – Paul Nazareth spoke at an early conference I attended, and spoke highly of the above two sources, discussed Business Karma (much like social karma), and I have been fortunate to hear him speak a number of times.  He gets that to build a business, you have to give, either knowledge or time or help others when they need helping.  He works in the non-profit world these days, but a lot of his advice I’ve applied to the credit and collections world, and it’s worked out surprisingly well.

But That Sounds Like Work!

Why would you hire a marketing company?  You can launch a blog for free or almost free in minutes, acquire a domain name for a few dollars, and then tell your story – oh, right, that’s going to take time.   Well, you’ll end up spending it any way.

When we started, I was putting in 4-8 hours a week on marketing – reading, blogging, researching how search engines worked, reading my competitors content, asking questions on Linkedin, more blogging, wrestling with Twitter (which I still don’t get), dealing with Linkedin evolving and changing, and refining my message for my audience.

My first few blogs were horrible -- dry and safe and boring.  They sounded nothing like me.  With practice, I was able to get some of my speaking voice into my writing, which isn't easy.  I will be honest for a moment, some times I will rant about a subject (like paying a social media marketing company?  Are you crazy?), and in my head, I fear I may sound a little like the comedian Lewis Black.  But Lewis is grumpy, and opinionated ... and smart and funny.  Maybe sounding a little like Lewis isn't a horrible thing. 

I think a lot of business practices in our industry are outdated, soul-crushing, and wrong -- but I'm willing to share what I think works, rather than put someone else down.  It takes a lot of work to write and rewrite and article knowing your competitors, clients, and consumers you deal with might all read the same blog and take away something different.  You have to practice being honest while also being kind to all audiences.

These days, I spend about 2-4 hours a week – not so much blogging as responding to people who have read my blogs seeking me out, trying to stay on top of search engine changes, focusing on getting consumers to review us on Google Business, reading, and offering advice to other companies who want to get into social media – they should!  There’s a lot of noise and garbage on the internet, and anyone who can share their knowledge will be welcomed with open arms.


For the first four years of our company’s existence, we had zero sales staff – just me and my blog.  And we grew and attracted clients in that time, and built our company’s brand reputation 500 to 1500 words at a time, ideally every week right here at  When we started, I had no idea that this would have a direct result in clients calling us -- it wasn't over night, and it wasn't easy, but I'm honeslty surprised how effective it would be – and it’s been trial and error and a bit of luck that has gotten us here.  I would not have been able to figure this out without the knowledge, advice, and experience of Scott Stratten, Daniel Pink, Jesse Hirsh, Tim Paulsen, John Nemo, Renee Wilson, Lewis Black, and Paul Nazareth. 

I’ve been approached by several marketing companies over the years offering to tell my story – but then it wouldn’t be my story would it?

I’m only speaking from personal experience – if you have had experiences good or bad with ghost written blogs, marketing companies, social media automation, or anything in between, feel free to reach out we can grab a coffee, talk on the phone, or tell each other our stories.


Blair DeMarco-Wettlaufer
KINGSTON Data & Credit
Cambridge, Ontario

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