In this podcast episode, we have the pleasure of speaking with Sheila Neisler, a marketing expert known for her innovative approach to customer relationships. Sheila has made a name for herself in the marketing world by helping businesses revolutionize their marketing strategies through effective customer interaction. Through our conversation, we will gain insights into her expertise and learn how her unique perspective can help businesses transform their marketing efforts and drive growth.
Listen to the podcast episode here!
So let’s start with Catalyst Tampa Bay. Okay. And just what is that? What do you do?
Catalyst Tampa Bay is a marketing strategy company that I help companies come up with good ideas, I usually use the tagline better ideas, better results. So most people, especially small business owners, or independent business owners, you know, they know how to make a widget, they may not know how to sell it or market it. So I get them kind of thinking about. They’re in the business of widget making, but I help them get into the business of widget selling. And I primarily work with small business owners, because that’s my background. That’s my pick my family’s background. Yeah. And just looking for novel ways to get your name out without breaking your bank for gosh sakes. I mean, that’s marketing can be expensive. But if it’s done, right, it’s a very good investment.
Marketing is interesting. And we’ll touch on that a little bit. But I want to go back to the beginning of this company. So you’ve had this company, you started 20 years ago, 20 years ago? Yes. So what did you do before that? How did you get started into marketing?
So basically, I’m St. Pete native, and then went to Florida State and got a degree in finance and management, and went to go work for what it was called Trust Company bank. It’s now true east as a financial analyst, so I was in their corporate headquarters, analyzing loans. Yeah. And so I love the numbers. And that’s where I started looking at marketing from a revenue generating thing than just an expense. And so got married, and moved to California. And I started graduate school at that, at that time, with a focus in finance.
And then we moved to Charleston, South Carolina. And there were no banking jobs available, except, retail, and I didn’t want to do retail, there were no corporate opportunities. And so I read about two women that did gift baskets, and in a Self magazine in, in New York, and I said, I flew up there. And I said, Tell me what you do. And I realized that people were doing gift baskets as thank you gifts, but in Charleston, which is tremendously driven by the travel industry. Yeah, it could be an extension of your marketing plan. Okay.
And so I started doing my research and realize that if you go to Baltimore, or Miami or Atlanta, you’re gonna get the same bottle of wine and cheese in the hotel room. Whereas if you’re selling short, Charleston, South Carolina, sell it have locally made foods. Yeah. And so I started that, and built it up to about 10 to 12,000 baskets a year. So that you are selling Yes, exactly. So. So a resort would say I need 50 baskets at $50 apiece, or I need 30 baskets at $30 apiece, that’s what my clientele was.
And so I started, I bought, I invest in in, like ribbon and imprinter. So that when you if you’re a Coca Cola executive, and you check into a hotel, it didn’t say the hotel welcomes you, it was Coca Cola welcomes you. So the salespeople realize that that was a great opportunity to reinforce their brand of focusing in on the customer. So I built it up.
And then I had a number of national associations call me and say, Could you speak at our annual conventions? Could you talk about marketing, and I went, Well, I don’t know anything about marketing, and they go well then just tell people how you grew from a little house to 12,000 baskets a year, and gifts a year. And so then my husband and I moved to Charlotte, and some of those big companies that were ordering gift baskets for all their annual meetings or Were there board meetings or whatever came to me and they said, We’d like your brains better than your baskets. Can you help us build our business so we can order more baskets, but we’d really like to build our business. And so that’s how I look at marketing. I normally there’s a difference. Some people are marketing people that happen to go in to business, okay, they work for an ad agency or something. I’m a business person that happens to do marketing.
So I look at the holistic, the business. And one of the things I was meeting with a gentleman today, and I said, you’re in a transportation company, I said, Let’s track your peaks and valleys, you’ve probably got some time, during the day where you and your drivers, which were nine drivers were slow. How can we drive revenue during those slower times? Because anybody can make money in the peaks? Yeah. How do you do it in the trough? Yeah. And so a normal marketing person would say, oh, let’s run some more ads, let’s do this, I’m going to do let’s have a residential loyalty program. So it’s a different way of looking at marketing from, I look at the top line and the bottom line, because marketing is not for somebody’s ego, or for their brand or awareness. It’s, have you created jobs, or have you created a good living for yourself.
When you when you started in the gift basket business, did you Is that something you always wanted to do was was be a business owner? Or was that like, what was that process? Like of like, I like starting?
Yeah, I think that was it, because my dad started his own company, okay. And he was a very successful swimming pool builder. And my brother started his own company. So I think we came from a line of scrappy people that said, we’re not meant for the corporate world. Yeah, how to a wonderful run with, with in banking, but again, I was the type of person to say, my job doesn’t end I love what I do. So if it’s on the weekends, I look for creative things to help my clients, it’s not like, okay, let’s turn it off. It’s, so it’s risk reward. But I think that’s, it was in my DNA, literally,
I grew up around that.
And so do you think your, your approach to like your business now to marketing was is enhanced by your background and finance like that? That perspective?
Absolutely. And because I think it’s really important that, in this is where people get frustrated with marketing, because it depends on I usually say, if you’re, if you’re a hammer, everything’s a nail, if you’re, if you’re selling social media, you’re looking at impressions, I’m gonna step back and say, What’s your revenue? Like from that? What’s your ROI? And having that finance background, I can ask those kinds of questions and say this is great. But at the end of the day, did you put money in the bank? Did you have a transaction?
Because that’s the whole point of, of marketing.
How you define marketing?
Marketing is just a conversation with a client or with a prospect. It’s a conversation, the average sale takes between five and 12 contacts. And that’s old data, somebody says, exactly gotten up to 13 that 19. But how do you have that conversation? Other than Do you want to buy now? You know, what can you do? To kind of engage that conversation and keep it going? There’s a wonderful woman, Shellu Lazarus, with Ogilvy and Mather.
And she created basically coined the word 360 Marketing, And how she kind of learned this is she rose through the ranks, and she called on Ford. And think about calling on Ford in the 60s. So you walk into a boardroom, they’re all men with white shirts on and pocket protectors, and they’re probably all smoking. And you know, and they’re all engineers. Yeah. And so she did this song and dance. And they said, Lady, your background is selling hair dye and bras because she worked for Playtex. And she worked for Clairol in Chicago. And what do you know about our engine? What do you know about our mileage? What do you know about our bucket seats? What do you know about our colors?
And she said, You know what, I’ve got a question for you. You spend at that point, he was spending, $20 million a year on marketing, advertising. And they said so I see what You do in, television, and I see your direct mail and I see your radio and I see this wonderful, sales show and stuff like that. The only time it matters is when someone walks into your showroom. Why are you spending all this money telling everybody you’re different with your cars and your your engine and stuff like that, and the customer experience is the same one that they get at Nissan at Chrysler and Chevrolet, you haven’t differentiated yourself? Why are you spending all this money when you’re not different? Yeah. And there was this huge pause. And the next words were Yes. You’ve got the business. Yeah. Because she was looking at that before. Yeah, she was looking at the business from the customer’s perspective. They were busy selling a car. She was trying to sell it. What does what does the customer want?
I mean, and that’s what you know, and I love when, like Fitzgerald just down the street, they have an amazing experience. When you go in there, they’re creating that brand, that they respect you they trust you. And they’re you’re creating, like a solidifying a buying habit. With that customer experience.
Yeah. Where do you think a lot of businesses go wrong and marketing, right? Because there’s, there’s so many different ways to market now, especially with technology and ads, and digital ads, and all that kind of stuff. Where do you where do you see like a lot of businesses like making mistakes?
It’s the same mistake I made. same mistake. I sat there. There was one, two years in a row. I was on the cover of Charles Charleston magazine. Okay. During December, I mean, okay, I sell gift baskets. That’s a pretty big time. Okay, so I just sat down and said, Look, my public relations, my PR, is going to drive sales. It didn’t, it really didn’t. And then I was in Charlotte, I was on the Business Journal. And it still didn’t. So I automatically assumed that something someone outside of me was going to drive my revenue.
And the key is, get out in the community, build your brand, most people unless you’re an E commerce business, but the number one most trusted form of advertising, and Nielsen that ratings people Yeah. 89% Trust referrals from people they know. So it’s still that personal touch the the digital and in advertising and radio and stuff like that. That’s a lot of noise. But the more people and if you present yourself well, and you’re a trusted adviser or whatever, and you’re putting the customer first, that is going to be the best thing. And most people think, oh, I’ll just buy some digital. I’ll buy some Facebook ads. I’ll post every day on on Instagram, but I’m encouraging people to get out from behind the keyboard. Yeah. And in front of key people.
Yeah. So it’s just it’s building the relationship. Absolutely. And it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter if you’re selling a service or a product, right to Samsung, that same concept. It’s people to people. Yeah. Yeah. Which is interesting. I remember having this thought, probably a couple years ago, or it’s, like realizing this in real estate. It’s just, it’s, it’s all relationships, it’s the people you know, and it’s the same thing with any any business, right? It’s just all comes down to relationships Exactly. With people. So how do you do that? How do you do that? With your business? Right is like the marketing, like the ads, and like, I mean, I think that stuff is necessary,
Well, there’s still there’s 41 different channels for marketing 41 different 41.
So is are some more effective than the others or just depends on the product and the customer, the target market?
Because there’s lots of ways that small business owners can get their name out. I met you at a Palm Harbor Chamber of Commerce. That’s one of the most effective tools you get your name out. You come across professional you come across wanting to help others. Yeah, that creates, you’re not just another real estate agent, and I think I think you know, your Donnie, and I think that’s the thing that small business owners don’t realize that their best customers are probably right down the street. I mean, there’s one case barefoot whines there’s a great story about barefoot wise, and they They were trying to get their name out and they were live. They literally started in their laundry room. And they ended up at the boardroom Ernest and Julio Gallo bought them at the peak, they were the number one private number one brand in the world. Why? Wow. And they didn’t spend any money on traditional advertising?
Well, what they did was they called it worthy cause marketing, so that they went to a community in Chinatown in San Francisco, and they wanted to rebuild the playground for the children. And so they asked them, would you give us free wine? And they, so they showed up, and they said, not only will we do the free wine will pour, it will explain it. Our growers will talk to the people. And it was kind of that building that relationship to say, and aligning with a cost that they believed in helping children. And it was very funny, because that was like on a Saturday, on the following Tuesday, they couldn’t sell their wine anywhere the following Tuesday, all of the local grocery stores ran out of wine. For a beer for that. Why? Because people said these people care about us. Yeah, so it was a cause marketing thing, which is one of the main channels that I use is how do you align with a cause that fits your brand and fits who you are? And you’re helping others. But you’re also making yourself stand out from your competition?
Do you think a lot of businesses struggle with identifying who they are? Like, what their mess?
Absolutely. And I think a lot of it is I’ve seen people like go to chamber events, and what’s your wife? Well, here’s my wife, they show up their family, their family, that’s my, my kids. No, no, why are you in your specific business? Yeah. You know, why am I in my specific business is that I saw how hard my parents worked. And they didn’t know anything about marketing, and how hard it is. My dad was really good at it. He developed relationships. And that’s where it referral marketing as a swimming pool company, he developed that kind of business.
So he would, he would meet with home builders, who needed pools, or condo builders. And so he built that kind of relationship. So any ads that he ran, didn’t weren’t working, but I want to help other people that are working so hard. Be more successful. Yeah. Because their heart is in it. Yeah. You know, and so that’s my why. That’s pretty cool. Oh, yeah, it is. It feels good. When somebody calls me and says, My sales are up 80% over two years ago.
What do you what do you enjoy about being was kind of what you just touched on? But what do you enjoy about being a business owner? Versus like, the employee?
I guess. Two things, the freedom, okay, I have more freedom. But that means I have more freedom to work, whichever 60 hours a week I want to work. But also that the possibilities, I get to see that I get to choose my career. Yeah, versus having somebody it’s always good to have mentors. But if you’re going to be in a corporate world, it’s very institutionalized. And one of the things middle managers are good at is making sure everybody steps in line and, and follows the process that does not that culture doesn’t allow for change and evolution.
It’s only when if the system’s broke with the look for other things, because they want Hey, we’re walking along. If you own your own business, you get to create your own future. Yeah. Yeah. And it’s very powerful. And it’s very, you’re in the same business as I am. We’re both entrepreneurs. Yeah, we get to create our own future
It’s so exciting, but it’s also like challenging at the same time, which I think kind of makes it part of that excitement, right? Because it’s just like, oh, my gosh you know, it’s really funny because I had a very successful business in the Carolinas and even though I grew up in St. Petersburg, I came back down to, to, to take care of my mother. And one of the things happened was how I got most of my business was public speaking. I was helping others and so I got my name out and people said I want what she’s got, I want I want some of that and so getting that out there and say sometimes I don’t want to do speaking or I don’t want to go to a chamber event I realize that’s what is driving my success was that kind of like your transition period but but was with the gift basket business into marketing was like public speaking like so you did some public speaking about marketing you
I did, I did some public speaking. And a lot of it was It wasn’t necessarily about marketing. It was just, this is how I succeeded. And I would tell people like with, with corporate, obviously, from a banking background, I would get in an elevator in Charlotte. And the only way you knew I wasn’t a banker is I had a little gift basket with me. So I dress like I work for them. And that would help me, in essence work for them. Yeah. And so getting people to think about, and I also realized the basket coming at it from a business standpoint, nobody really cared about what the bow look like. Okay. And I looked at, I looked at the gift basket as a marketing vehicle, again, you’ve got five to 12 touches or whatever, a gift baskets just one time one touch. Yeah, I just want to make it the best touch, obviously, so that when you call and schedule their appointment, oh, thank you for the chocolate. So thank you for the for the gifts thank you for, whatever. And it created again, that conversation with your customer.
So any tips for new business owners. Like if you had to give one tip someone’s thinking about starting a business today. Like, what’s what’s one tip for them to kind of get started and kind of find and fine tune their messaging.
Really, it’s we’re lucky to be in Florida for one point. Tampa, St. Petersburg was the number one place in America for a woman to start a business. Oh, wow. That’s pretty powerful. Yeah. The resources that are available for small business owners just starting Yeah, are unbelievable. You have got score, you’ve got SBDC, to help you get alone, you’ve got an SBDCs are almost an art in every county, you have got the green house in St. Petersburg, that always has workshops, these are all free to attend. And in Tampa, it’s the ECC the entrepreneurial, collaborative, all free classes. I mean, in so there’s opportunity to learn, yeah, it will not replace hard work, and rolling up your sleeves to do it, because you got to do it.
But there’s so many places that you can go to get to have access to if you don’t have the knowledge, if you know how to make a widget, but you don’t know how to sell it, you’ve got tons of resources. And the best thing that happened was good things did come out of COVID was obviously score is an older demographic of people that have been successful business owners. Well, obviously, when they went online, because everybody did it, you can actually go to score.org and type in your business or whatever your profession is, I’m a hair Weaver or something. Yeah. And you have access to a nationwide group of mentors, who probably one person is probably has been in that same business. Wow. Yeah. So it’s not like you’re starting a cosmetic company. And you end up being paired with a banker. You could say, I’m starting a cosmetic company, there’s probably a retired executive that worked for a major cosmetic company. Yeah, that you can use as a mentor. Yeah. So the access, you just got to raise your hand. Roll up your sleeves. Yeah.
I kind of just learned about score a little bit. I just had Kurt Forster from SBDC. Yeah, he was just on and so I just learned about like, some of the resources they have. I didn’t I didn’t realize all this stuff was available, right. And it’s and you’ve put on events and stuff like that before it was score. So it’s, yeah, you’re right like that. Those are great resources, for better free.
Listen to the podcast episode with Kurt Forster here:
Exactly. But again, at the end of the day, you got to do the doing. Yeah. And that’s where everybody runs into it, because they’ll, they’ll have all this excitement. And then it dies. You’ve got this, you’ve got this entrepreneurial Hi, and I’m going okay, let’s create a process to get you in. And the other thing that I do is actually teach goal setting classes that have been very successful. I was in Asheville and a banker, a bank called me, I was handling their mark marketing for their some of their clients. And they said, we’ve got some clients that are interested loan interest only or their loans that hadn’t been paid. And so I started meeting with him one on one and went, No, let’s bring everybody together, and each set their own goals.
And your goal is different from mine. Yeah, but we would meet every week and we would talk about what our successes were, and our resets or our setbacks, and what we learned from it. So it was group learning. When you count your oasis Yeah, it was the accountability. And when you run your own, it’s the loneliest job in the world. Yeah, you go home to your spouse and go, I had a great day and the spouse is gonna go, Okay, fine. But if you’re in a group of other other entrepreneurs to say, Okay, I made 100 calls this week, and no one returned my phone call they been there done that. This is how I got out of it. Right? You know how I got out of my slump? Yeah. And having that. And the data, again, from being the banker, the data says that if you have an accountability group, you’ve got 77% chance of actually achieving your goals.
It doesn’t matter if the accountability group is within the same business, or just that can be different businesses. And I actually encourage different businesses, because first of all, you it’s not a sales group. It’s not a leads group. But you can build referrals. And it was really funny because we, we did our own measurement, obviously, for our accountability. And we had 30 people in the group and Asheville and it was great. The one person that had the worst experience was she was selling mobile phones, or whatever. And she said, I didn’t make a single sale. And I said, the reason you didn’t make a single sale was we put at the very beginning. This is not a leads club, this is not a place that you sell. We’re here to support each other, because it’s you versus you. Yes, not you competing with somebody else. Right. And I said, you totally have the wrong perspective. And that’s why you didn’t sell anything. You know, you always like the country music, you were looking for sales and all the wrong places. Looking for love in all the wrong places. You’re looking for sales. Yeah,
I love that. Well, one thing I want to wrap up with is being a St. Pete native. If you when you’re not working, we’re not helping other small business. What is one thing that she likes to do on her downtime? Like if you go into a restaurant going to a park? The water like what is it? Where are you going?
I’m actually going to New York. No, no, this is what I do. I mean, if you if you listen, if you follow Steve Jobs, yeah, Steve Jobs got all his ideas. Not in his office. The Genius Bar is he got that from the Four Seasons Hotel in San San Diego. So it’s having different experiences. Yeah. Kind of fuels creativity. Yeah, it feels energy. I mean, so I love going to museums, I love walking outside. I love reading, I just having different experiences, kind of bolsters me and gets my creative juices thinking.
I love that because I think about that when like traveling, right? When we go on vacation or whatever, it’s kind of the same thing. Like it just opens up, especially going abroad or out of the country. It’s a totally different experience. Totally different world. And you’re like, oh, wow, it just opens up your mind. Like tomorrow.
I try to go to New York around four times a year, but I say, what, what are you doing up there? I said it recalibrates me. It absolutely. Does. That’s your spot. Yeah. So So I would look for business organizations during the week. Okay, so I go to Chamber of Commerce meeting, or I’d go score meeting or I go to a rotary meeting, just to have a different perspective.
Very cool. I like that. Well, how can people learn more about about you what you do, maybe go to one of your, your classes that you’re teaching?
Absolutely, the best place to go is you can go to my website, catalyst gets results, not calm, because again, my focus is results. So catalyst gets results.com. I do have two upcoming workshops, on the 25th. I’m doing something at the greenhouse. Now many of these, because they’re coming through score are also hybrid. So you can learn in your pajamas. And so I’ve got I’ve got an event, an evening event on the 25th in, in St. Petersburg, but again, online. And then on the 29th, I have another workshop called the missing pieces of marketing. And that’s going to be at the Tarpon Springs library. Oh, cool. And again, hybrid, so you can get that information. And, and also, if you go to the St. Pete greenhouse, they have got a whole catalogue of prior workshops. Yeah, that you can you can just go, you know, you put in whatever, finance or manufacturing or marketing or social media, they’ll have a whole library of recorded webinars.
CONNECT WITH SHEILA:
- Website: catalystgetresults.com
- LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/betterideasbetterresults
- Instagram: instagram.com/sheilaneisler/
CONNECT WITH DONNIE:
- Follow Donnie: @donnie.hathaway
- Follow Palm Harbor Local: @PalmHarborLocal
- For more real estate information – www.thehathaway.group
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