Legendary Leader Tony Chapman’s Key Takeaways For Small Business: What Marketers Can Learn

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If you’re looking for inspiration to boost your top or bottom line, then look no further than Tony Chapman’s 6-part video series, “Small Business Matters,” presented by RBC. Tony is one of the youngest individuals ever inducted into Canada’s Marketing Hall of Legends and served on this year’s selection committee. 

In each video, Tony sums up key points made, then leaves you with a concise wrap-up at the end. A skilled interviewer, Tony quickly gets to the essence of each subject matter expert. He has a gift for asking the right questions, almost as if he’s reading your mind.

As we head into the all-important holiday shopping season and the call to buy local, the emphasis on small business is significant now. And there are nuggets of advice for all brand marketers – both big and small. We’ve rounded up the “best advice” from each speaker and a “parting thought” for you to noodle.


“Stand For” to Stand Out

Canada’s Joe Mimran is best-known for creating a succession of visionary brands and retail concepts, including Club Monaco, Caban and most recently, Joe Fresh. Inducted into Canada’s Hall of Legends in 2015, Joe is one of Canada’s most successful entrepreneurs, product innovators and marketers. Joe provides fresh thinking on what makes a successful entrepreneur and what it takes to stand out in a crowded marketplace.

On Club Monaco, Joe says, “We invested a lot of money into the marketing, but we also put a tremendous amount of energy into the product, the offering and the branding.” It was a big risk, one that paid off. “You need to have a vision for your business that inspires you.”

“You need to sell stories, not just products. It’s all about storytelling. You might have a great product, but what story are you telling me?”

  Joe Mimran, Fashion Designer and Entrepreneur

With products being so easy to source worldwide through eCommerce, Joe places great importance on the physical store. On storefronts, he likes to see a fresh point of view and looks for uniqueness, a point of view, and engagement. According to Joe, it’s all in the visual presentation and the clarity of the offer.

“When I go into your retail environment, am I being wowed? I was so taken by our brand essence (at Club Monaco) that I wanted it to be like a play on Broadway. Everything had to come together. The music, the people, the way you entered the store.”

Best advice: “Ask yourself, are you offering something that the consumer truly wants? Or are you offering something that you personally like and think is the next great thing? Hitting that seam in the market is critical for success.”

Parting thought: What unmet needs can you serve?


Winning Cultures Begin with You

Angela Donnelly, the founder of consultancy Corethentic, shares her thoughts on leadership and its pivotal role in establishing and fostering culture. “It’s really about the why of the organization and getting employees to understand and buy into that. When leaders can do that, they can unlock meaning and purpose for their employees and the work they do.”

 Best advice: Leaders should be the talent magnet of the business. Traditionally, leaders see employees as a means to get the job done. But leaders need to see the job as an opportunity to develop exceptional talent. That shift in mindset, from getting something from their employees to giving something, creates great leadership.

 “We want to close the gap between the brand promise and the customer experience. The employee gets to close that gap.”

  Angela Donnelly, Corethentic

 Parting thought: How can you unlock meaning and purpose for your employees in what they do?


 Stay in Step with Your Customers

Ujwal Arkalgud, co-founder of Motivbase, shares his thoughts on how your customer thinks, feels, and behaves – differently and the same – because of the Pandemic. As a Cultural Anthropologist, Ujwal studies the structure of language to understand its pointers

and uncover implicit meanings around trends. This helps us shape and drive strategy.

 Ujwal sees the restrictions that COVID-19 has placed on consumers as being permanent in many ways.  But some of these changes can open doors to incredible new opportunities. Ujwal believes that the pandemic has made people take a step back and consider how they choose to live their lives.

 Best advice: Listen and really understand what the customer is saying and how things are changing. By understanding where we’re different, we can focus on the things that matter most.

 “The more focus a small business brings, the more stragglers they will get from word of mouth and being known for their expertise.” 

  Ujwal Arkalgud, co-founder of Motivbase

 Parting thought: How can you drive new energy and thinking into your business?


 Put Your Best Click Forward

Chris Barrett is the CEO of the digital agency Operatic. Chris shares his thoughts on what every small business must do to transform their business and put their best click forward to drive traffic, extend your physical brick and mortar presence online and how to convert that into sales.

 True digitization is about fully engulfing digital capabilities, rather than just taking something like a training manual and putting it online. A digital firm can understand your customers’ behaviour online. Look for agencies that can help you within your budget. Work with someone you trust. When something works, invest in it.

 First, you need to understand what you’re building before they come. Otherwise you’ll end up creating a billboard in a jungle or a website that isn’t found. Treat your web presence as the 24/7 sales person it should be, not as an afterthought or an expense. Digital can and should inform operations.

  Best advice: Don’t skip by the basics and jump into AR/VR or some other new shiny thing. First, get the foundation right. Then let those properly percolate and turn your investment into real dollars to fund the rest of your digital transformation.

 “Digital transformation is about understanding how your customers are behaving online, what they’re searching for, what their needs and expectations are, and how you meet them.”

  Chris Barrett, Operatic

 Parting thought: Are you getting into the weeds and with the analytics to make your advertising work better?


  Kick-up Your Online Marketing

Christian Dion heads up programmatic solutions marketing for Broadsign. Christian shares his passion and expertise in using digital out-of-home (OOH) media to drive traffic and sales.

 It’s no secret that online advertising is a crowded space. That’s why many are turning to digital OOH for its self-serving platform, where you can set up a campaign on as many screens as you want. The advancement in technology offers advanced targeting capabilities and creative options. It’s also cost-effective compared to online advertising.

 “Digital out-of-home gets you there with credibility that was previously reserved for big brands.”

 But like any advertising medium, it depends on your objective, where you are in your development stage and your understanding of your customer.  Only then can you nail down the message with some good creative input.

 “You can start small and then scale when you see results. Digital OOH is flexible and lets you pause or invest when you need to…Don’t overlook that small businesses have great stories to tell.”

 Best advice: The digital board is a creative canvas. Use it to your best advantage.

 Parting thought: How can you tell your story with the right messaging and call to action?


 Bank on These Words of Wisdom

Lori Darlington, VP of Small Business Strategy at RBC, shares her thoughts on what it takes for a small business owner to compete in today’s marketplace. Lori was instrumental in RBC’s “Canada United,” a nationwide initiative with 65 partners designed to inspire Canadians to buy locally.

 Best advice: Canadian retailers should prepare for the shopping season earlier than usual. Consumers are buying sooner in fear that they won’t be able to find what they need.

 “We’re not seeing as many customers in-store. It’s important to think about your in-store execution and conversion.”

  Lori Darlington, RBC

 Parting thought: How can you increase the average basket size per customer?

 So there you have our round-up of the video series. We’ll leave you with one last inspiration.


Tony’s take:

 “It’s important to put your best foot forward. You can do it with your windows and your storefront. But you can also do it by taking advantage of marketing at the speed of life.

The most important thing is, when you have that point of view, when you have something signature to say, don’t be afraid to say it.”  Tony Chapman, Legendary Leader.


Wendy Greenwood is a Toronto-based marketing consultant, part-time Professor and AMA Toronto Board Member.

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