Ontario’s $2,500 Digital Adoption Grant

The government of Canada has introduced a $2,500 digital adoption grant to help businesses with the cost of making their products and services more digital. It is meant for Canadian for-profit small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) registered for GST/HST, have been in existence since March 2020, and have generated less than $20 million in revenue in 2019. Businesses can apply for the digital conversion grant online.

The government of Canada has defined “digital” as “the application of technology to transform information into useful data.” this program aims to help businesses adapt to change by increasing digital sales and transitioning from traditional commerce to eCommerce. For example, you could use the digital conversion grant to make your business more digital by creating a website or eCommerce store, developing an app, improving your social media presence or building an online advertising campaign.

Businesses that receive the digital conversion grant can also be eligible for other beneficial programs like the Employer Health Tax exemption if they meet specific criteria, so it’s worth exploring these options.


What to do with the $2,500 Digital Adoption grant?

First of all, congratulations! Free money is always nice. It’s not much to write home about, but here are a few recommendations on what to do with the grant money based on where you are in the life of your business, use of online tools, and digital presence. Here are just a few recommendations.

Websites and Content
If you don’t have a website yet, this is the perfect time to set one up! A website will help you build credibility as a business and offer an online space for your customers to learn more about your products and services. Are you worried about maintenance and everything that goes with having a website? Keep it simple and straight to the point with evergreen content that local search engines love. Things like news, timely advice, menus, service updates etc., can continually be updated and promoted through your social media channels at little to no cost.

People make judgements about businesses based on their websites. Suppose yours isn’t promoting visitors to connect or is poorly designed. In that case, it can be challenging to convince them that you’re trustworthy or professional enough for them to do business with you. If you already have a website, but it’s pretty basic, this is an excellent chance to invest in a photoshoot or video and ensure you have the right content and forms to build your sales funnel.

Headless and Social eCommerce
If your website has everything it needs and then some, consider taking your eCommerce strategy even further by getting on social media platforms like Instagram or TikTok and setting up a simple cart to sell services and products directly through these channels. These techniques can be targeted and significantly boost sales over time if they’re done correctly. You’ll never know unless you try.

Payper Click Campaign
Creating a PPC message on Google Ads and focusing your keyword and target area can generate immediate traffic to your site. Especially for websites that don’t rank high, a drip campaign could be sustained over a period of time to make sure your ads are being served up on the first page of Google.

Give Back
Developing a brand is so much more than the bottom line. “Do the right things and the money will come,” “Build it and they will come,” “Pay it forward” While cliche, these expressions have merit (as long as things are planned and executed correctly). Why not take your grant money and get familiar with online crowdfunding for charities you believe in? Create a compelling online pitch with your grant money and connect with like-minded individuals in your community. Do good, feel good isn’t all that bad or self-serving. You have to stand for something, after all.

Making the most of it

Think about your business in the context of long-term goals and set a realistic budget to achieve what you need to drive results. $2,500 is a great start – but it only gets you so far. Knowing where to start is half the battle. We help our clients navigate these decisions daily as trusted advisors.

If you’re considering what your next steps are, get in touch and we’ll see what we can do to help.

What to consider in choosing the right branding agency

Selecting the right branding agency to work with is a process that typically happens before your project starts and is a crucial first step. For some clients, having everything under one roof is desirable but it’s quickly realized that it often comes with a price tag that can cause extreme sticker shock.

The traditional model

The days of genuine full-service design agencies are few and far between. A typical more prominent agency has a lot of top-heavy management that outsources work to smaller shops or contractors who do the job. So you end up paying for margins and overhead at that point. Or the big guys are buying up smaller companies or creating new branches to crush the competition. At that level, you’re often faced with many promises and the good old broken telephone, which can cause tension and politics that slows down any momentum.

Sure, you could try your luck on Fiverr or hire a freelancer. For many that go down this path, they quickly realize that to get the results desired, you have to make a wise decision and invest once into a verified leader in the industry. Because time is money and you don’t want to do the same thing 2 or 3 times before you get it right.

The alternative

Enter the agile, ‘anti-agency’ that can fulfil your needs with thoughtful planning, strategy and handpicked team members who are specialists in their own right. Refreshing transparency and reasonable budgets to get the same, if not better quality of work complete.

Qualifying an agency is no different from an agency qualifying a client. It’s a relationship like any other and you’re going to be working with each other for the duration of the project and, ideally, well beyond that, so you want to make sure it’s a good fit.

We happily categorize Jackson Wynne as this option.

Things to look for

How they work

You’ll notice a lot of overlap and similarities in processes between branding agencies, depending on what you’re looking for. Having a process in place ensures that a project runs smoothly and it’s not their first rodeo. This provides structure and a formula that can be followed for consistent results. Some agencies get a little carried away, branding and trademarking this and that, which gets to be a bit much – but it speaks to packaging something up that feels more like an exclusive, secret formula. It’s a bit market-y and cheesy, but someone is buying into it. Of course, you need to go off-script for something new or different.

Services offered

Does the agency offer what you need? Often there is some wiggle room if you require something more specific. Things can be accommodated and brokered or project managed, but make sure the core services offered align with your needs. Occasionally, you are not sure what you need, so that’s where consultation and planning phases help map out insights that are useful to do the work properly.

Track record

There are too many “fly by night” companies who won’t be around next year. You want to make sure you hire someone with a well-balanced, seasoned portfolio with specific examples of work via a portfolio or case study format.

Having some experience in your industry is beneficial. Sometimes taking a calculated risk is fine because transferable skills and related projects can apply. Enter the catch-22 – how does one get experience if they are never hired for it?

Testimonials

This is a standard. Most work will speak for itself, but it helps to verify things by a client who worked with the agency. Ask for references if needed.

Things to be cautious of

Companies claiming they can “do it all.”

There are a lot of inexperienced companies that claim to be able to do it all. I would be very suspicious of that claim since diluting your core service offering means you’re spread thin and become a jack-of-all-trades; yes man, “we can do that for you.” But you just have to wonder if they really can do it and how well they can do it, if at all in most instances.

Too trendy

Flash in the pan agencies who are one-trick ponies fill a niche, but you want to be careful about those young companies still figuring things out. The allure of hype and PR only takes you so far. Buying into excitement is fine, but you need to consider your short-term *and* your long-term needs.

Trying too hard

I’ve seen smaller agencies try to look bigger than they are by doing some pretty weird stuff like Photoshopping the same employee 4 or 5 times into a photo to make it seem like there are more people in the office. Overcompensating for lack of warm bodies is embarrassing at best and just comical to see. If the end product you produce speaks for itself, you shouldn’t need to throw smoke and mirrors at clients to feel like a legitimate service provider.

Lots of buzz words

I cannot stress enough how important it is to understand and see through this veil. If the rep you’re talking to throws around many big words, they’re selling hard and don’t know what they’re talking about. Little do they realize that they are probably scaring you off unless they’re speaking your language, then it could be music to your ears?

Things to consider

Localization

With the internet, working with companies abroad is becoming standard. Figuring out time zone differences can be tricky to work around but very doable. There is something to be said about face-to-face that is a challenging element you want to try and have if possible but work with what you have.

Starting small

Building trust and rapport is essential to make sure both sides are committed. Starting on a large project may not be an excellent first step. Perhaps you want to try a smaller project first to test the waters and develop a working relationship before you dive in. That is more than fair.

There are many providers out there that offer similar services. They all have very similar processes and approaches, use the same technologies, etc. Ultimately, develop a relationship with people you think you would enjoy working with! What makes these companies different? It all boils down to that.

Talk to them, meet them, get to know them and trust them to do the job!

The importance of Brand Continuity

Launching a brand is exciting and sometimes anti-climatic. Your hard work has paid off over the last few months and everything has come together according to plan. All too often we find ourselves in a rewarding position to be in. The project was successful, everyone is happy launching product all can be proud of and things are on the up and up.

And then, it comes time to see the brand through. Creating a brand is dare we say the “fun part”. Ensuring the brand is phased in across everything is where the real test comes into play. That next step of your brand is maintaining a consistent voice for all touch points be it in advertising, online or in-person.

Life after launch

What happens after a brand is created or redesigned? Enter the brand execution phase. This is where you implement the brand assets and direction across all of your channels. If it’s a new company, it would be introducing your product or service to the world. If it’s an add-on to what you have, you’re making sure your existing customers know about it and you’re reaching new ones. If it’s a rebrand, remind people you’re there and reintroduce yourself.

Businesses hire design firms because they provide specialised services they are unable to produce otherwise in-house. The design company you hire ideally becomes an extension of your business. An agile, bootstrapped team ready to fill in where you might typically fall short.

The hand-off

Perhaps you have a capable in-house team who can take the brand assets and maintain the integrity of the original vision. More often, though, this is not an option – because you hired a third party to consult in the first place to make sure the work was on point.

So the work gets delivered. But between the hand-off and the execution, if there is no follow through there is a major disconnect.

Brand as a Guide

When you think of the phrase Brand Guide the word ‘Guide’ can be a little misleading. If it were worded more strongly, it would seem a little strict or overbearing. What was the point of going through a brand exercise if the content is ignored or abandoned, or the staff implementing the work is incapable of participating at the level of quality needed to see things through? This, of course, all comes down to budget, delegation and resources available. But it’s a shame and happens much too often across all industries: lack of resources to see it through.

I’m all for breaking the rules when you need to. Brand extensions, short-lived promotional tie-ins, collaborations, one-offs. There are all sorts of situations where you might need to push the limit of what your brand looks like to some extent. But this is the exception and not the rule.

Consistency is king

Forget content for a minute. Being consistent is mission critical. If your identity is beautiful, but your website doesn’t match, you have a problem. Rolling out work and phasing things in is one part. But stopping half way or ignoring platforms altogether can cause issues and create confusion at best.

It’s not just what you look like; it’s what you say. The type of content you’re putting out there. Does it fit within the framework or your brand? Or are you just going off script and thinking about each piece as you go in an isolated effort. This is where strategy comes into play to ensure you’re sticking to a script.

It’s not personal; it’s business

When we talk about brand continuity, one can quickly consider parallel’s in other worlds. In movies, usually, there is a team member who makes sure from scene to scene there are cohesive shots that flow from one to the next. Details like wearing a hat in one shot to the next are thought about. This is so that the viewer can enjoy the movie without being put-off or scrutinising over the details that were overlooked or missed. Hopefully, you have a good script, cast and the story is enjoyable too. Oh, and the director is important, paramount even.

Franchises are another excellent example. Business owners buy into a system that works because it has processes, sales material, marketing, promotions in place that can be followed. Franchisees pay a premium to be a part of that system, so you know they will make sure they are following that plan as closely as possible for a return on their investment.

Everywhere and Beyond

Say for example your logo is great, your print material is perfect, your website is not terrible, too. But you kind of half-baked your content and your social media accounts are inconsistent. That’s a confusing thing for your customers. They’ll wonder what is going on or is this even the same company?

Did your marketing department take over but didn’t follow or ‘get’ the new brand? Maybe someone on the team has their own agenda or has gone rogue. Are there additional resources required, training, hires to can add to the team or certain portions to can hire for? With turnover and new promotions, it can go sideways quickly. Getting everybody on board and buying in is necessary to having everything work together towards a goal.

After a project is launched, staying on as a brand advisor for continuity may be the solution. A general maintenance contract or retainer should fit the bill to ensure things stay on track. Breaking things up into phases can help. All in-house departments and any external service providers need to *stay* on the same page.

A little love and attention is always required. Do as I say, not as I do. What you say you are, what you think you are and what you do should be the same thing.

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