Starting A Business Ideas And Steps To Take

Join us in talking to Sarah Clark, poverty reduction advocate and founder of Dufferin Media and Dufferin Media Cares, where she helps entrepreneurs and nonprofits get their ideas off the ground. We will be learning how to take your idea from a concept to launch and beyond.

Sarah is also a strong supporter of web accessibility, and she will walk us through the changing landscape of how to make your new venture digitally more accessible. We will also address some specific scenarios that upcoming nonprofit founders might find helpful in launching their mission.

If you have been thinking it’s time to use your leadership and relationship skills to start something new, this is the conversation for you!

Starting A Business Ideas Conversation Transcript:

Brent: I have noticed a lot of people that are starting a new business, they may think a little too big. Maybe they just need to step back a little bit and need to find ways that they can start in a smaller scale with resources that’s available to them.

Sarah Clarke: If I say who’s your target audience? What are your goals? Let’s try and micro-niche that down because the tighter you can get your strategy. The more successful you will be. So it might be worthwhile to try and narrow that down to a smaller audience because you’ll have more effective marketing.

Brent: Welcome to the Lead With Relationship Podcast. Today, we are talking to Sarah Clark, poverty reduction advocate and founder of Dufferin Media and Dufferin Media Cares. She helps entrepreneurs and nonprofits get their ideas off the ground. If you are just joining us, our podcast is produced by BeFun BeKind Podcasts.

If you want to explore podcasting yourself check out to learn how to create impactful conversation through podcasting. That’s also where you can learn more about our mission and even partner with us on our journey. You can find us at We would also love if you would share this podcast with someone, you know, let’s get started.

Sarah Clark, all the way from Ontario, Canada, welcome to the show. It’s good to have you.

Sarah Clarke: Thank you. It’s a pleasure to be here.

Brent: You are all about social media and helping nonprofits and mission-based organizations understand how to start and grow a business. I know you have a couple really cool things that you guys have started to offer but I want to learn a little bit about your story first. How did you get started? How did this happen for you? What was your motivation in doing this?

Sarah Clarke: Okay, sure. I started in digital marketing in 2003. So previous to that, I was actually in accounting, which is totally giving through my digital marketing experiences.

They led me to social media. I started doing social media marketing in 2008. And then in 2012, we launched Dufferin Media. My brother and I launched the company with the observation that our locals, small business friends that we had. We knew that they could benefit from social media marketing, but they didn’t have the time or know how to get started on it.

So we created an outsource solution where they could rely on us to make sure that their social media content was updated and monitored on a regular basis. That’s how Dufferin Media was born. And then out of that, our clients, as they grew and our client base grew needed more services. So that’s how we expanded into website development, search engine optimization.

And now almost 10 years later, we’ve got a full service team that can tackle any area of digital marketing.

Starting A Business Steps To Take

Brent: That is awesome. I feel like one of the toughest things for people is going from that initial standpoint of, I have an idea to start a business. I have an idea to create a nonprofit. Now, what do I do with this?

What is that first next step? What do you say to that person? They’re ready to go they’re on the starting line, but they just don’t know what to do next. What’s the next thing that they should do?

Sarah Clarke: That is a great question. I love working with new business owners that have a dream and have an idea or a nonprofit.

And for me, when I like to help them do is to define that idea into a plan. So what I would generally do is help them define the business name, the branding with the logo and the visual identity, the story behind it. So that before they get too carried away, the way they get the foundations established first for their business name and brand and website and social media and develop a marketing plan so that they can clearly map out.

How they can make their dream become a reality step by step.

Brent: Yeah, no, that’s a good point at business plan. I feel like can be a daunting thing for a lot of people. And actually, I feel like when they hear that, I feel like a lot of people may step back into, oh, I don’t know how to do that, or that seems scary to me.

I don’t know how to write a business plan. I don’t know a lot of about business dynamics. Do you see a lot of pushback there when people hear that I need to create a business plan?

Sarah Clarke: Yeah business plans are daunting. I actually just had to go through the process of doing one for Dufferin Media for a grant application.

And it was extremely time-consuming and overwhelming. I did learn a lot from that, but I don’t think a new business owner necessarily needs to go to that extreme, just coming up with a short and sweet to the point branding and strategy document is going to help them get where they need to go faster.

And then if they do need to go for funding or financing, they are going to need to create a business plan. And at that point, if they’re really overwhelmed, there is actually freelancers that will help with business plans.

Brent: Yeah. And that’s a good point.

I think when we say business plan, I think a lot of people default to a multi-page document that has charts and graphs and all this crazy stuff. But to the point you just made. That really does not have to be the case, a business plan. If it’s just for you to get started, it can be a document that changes and you modify it as you go.

As you think of new ideas, you add to that document. It can really just be something to move you forward in your ideation process. And you mentioned a while ago, creating a logo and all of that can just be something to get started.

Sarah Clarke: Absolutely. But I think it’s important to think about it at the beginning, because I have seen businesses where they get a couple of stages ahead and they’re ready to do the next steps, but really their logo and their color scheme that they created as not suitable for what they’re trying to do with their brand.

Perhaps name their website or social media with a name that isn’t consistent with the rest of what they’re trying to do. So it’s great to define those things first and say, this is my business name. This is my logo. This is my color scheme. This is my font set. This is my tagline. So it’s just there.

Even if it’s written on a whiteboard in a room, like they can follow that and it will make everything flow so much easier.

What Target Audience Should I Choose?

Brent: I have noticed a lot of people that are starting a new business, they may think a little bit too big. And I don’t know. Feel free to correct me in this, but I have seen a lot of people think about how their idea applies to a large group of people. Maybe they want to roll this idea out on a national perspective.

They just need to step back a little bit and they need to find ways that they can start in a smaller scale with resources that’s available to them without necessarily having to go through the funding hurdles that would be involved in either getting a loan or the funding hurdles that might be involved in getting capital investments.

What would you say to that person? Or have you even seen that?

Sarah Clarke: Yes. I can relate to seeing clients like that, where they may come in. And if I say who’s your client, who’s your target audience? What are your goals? Oh, we just we’ll sell to everybody and anywhere. And we want to sell a million units this year.

That’s not necessarily reasonable, so let’s try and micro-niche that down because the tighter you can get your strategy. The more successful you will be. So it might be worthwhile to try and narrow that down to a smaller audience because you’ll have more effective marketing.

Brent: Yeah. A micro niche, explain that what is a micro niche?

Sarah Clarke: So some of the most successful businesses that I’ve seen, they only service a small portion. Of its certain demographic and being able to clearly identify that ideal client, they can make retarget to that person. And only that person and speak to that potential client on all of their platforms.

They’re going to be able to, instead of trying to market to everybody, they’re only marketing to the ideal client. They can tailor their messages exactly to that client’s pain points. Offer them a solution. And connect with them on a deeper level.

Brent: Okay. That makes sense. So maybe if we’re thinking through an example of a micro niche, it might be I don’t know, does something come to mind that would illustrate that well?

Sarah Clarke: Yeah, I’m just trying to think of as an example. So if somebody was a a copywriter for business and they decided only to focus on non-profit organizations that might be a micro niche, they could then market to, and they might even pick a specific nonprofit organizations that support animals or something like that. And that’s all really laser target their audience and be able to customize their marketing based on that.

Brent: That’s a good point. I think a lot of people would have looked at that and said the nonprofit sector might’ve been a micro niche, but you took it even a step further and said target someone specifically targeting animals or something very specific as a non-profit. Yeah, I think that’s a good illustration of a micro niche. Have you seen anyone go too narrow? Are there any repercussions of getting too small of an audience?

Sarah Clarke: I would say if you’re going too small with an audience that doesn’t necessarily have the budget or need your solution, then you’re going to definitely not be successful in that strategy.

So you’d want to make sure that there’s a market for it. And do some research on some market research first before you a hundred percent go into that. Another example that came to mind too is me as a digital marketer, I’ve seen other companies where they only will target certain types of businesses.

So for example, there’s digital marketing agencies that only work with dentists. So that makes sense. If I were looking into. Narrowing my business down, it would make sense because all dentists need, digital marketing and social media, they have the budget. To spend and it’s a very competitive market, so that would be the perfect client for me.

Whereas I might have a harder time if I picked solopreneurs that are, for example crafters, because they’re not going to have big budgets. They’re small businesses running out of their home. They’re not going to have the budgets to be able to afford my services necessarily. So that would be a poor choice.

of a specific niche to focus on.

How To Do Business Research

Brent: Yeah. No, that makes sense. What would be a good place to do research or what are some systems you have seen work well for people in researching either their idea or how to get started?

Sarah Clarke: I use Google as my first go-to when I’m doing research. So I had to do a lot of research when I was creating our division called Duffer Media Cares, which is our division that focuses solely on non-profit organizations. And I Googled questions such as how many nonprofit organizations are there in Canada.

How many nonprofits are there in the United States? Even though getting those questions. Answered for me, it’s a really good high level. And to take it one step further, you could also start searching on social media because each of the platforms has its own search function too. So you may find some very valuable information on Facebook if you just search for specific questions too.

So there’s lots of stuff on the internet that you can get for statistics revenue, numbers, there’s all kinds of information. That’s where I would be starting as Google.

Brent: Yeah. And I think that brings up another really good point about just understanding your competition. So if you’re looking through Google and there are zero other people doing what you’re doing, correct me if I’m wrong, but that might be a good indication that, Hey, there’s not a market for this, or maybe on the other side of that, you would get an idea of, wow, this market is already way too crowded.

Sarah Clarke: Yes. I think the second point would be very valid is if the marketplace is already too crowded, then you might want to think twice. Or for example, real estate agents. I don’t know how the real estate market works, where you are, but here. In my small town, I think that there’s about 500 registered real estate professionals, which is way too many for the inventory that we have.

So if I were thinking about getting into the real estate market and I took a look and saw, wow, there’s 500 registered. I’d either decide not to do that business or to super market to really have a strong marketing strategy to differentiate myself from all those other 500. So that would be one train of thought.

And if I searched for a type of business that there really wasn’t any body else doing, I might wonder why is there nobody doing this already? Maybe it’s a great idea and nobody’s jumped on it yet. So it would be a good business, but maybe it’s because people have tried it, then it just wasn’t right.

Brent: I would imagine if you are doing a search and you’re not seeing anyone there, number one, to your point, it just hasn’t been invented yet, or no one else is doing it. But if that is the case, it seems like it might be hard to create a brand new business model. If you’re the first one in to something you’re not able to learn from other people. I guess if I was going into that and there is no body else doing what I was looking to do, I think I might rethink a little bit because I like to look at other people to pattern after and see what other people have done wrong and what’s been successful.

That’s just how I think about it.

Sarah Clarke: Yeah. And I know that a lot of the stuff that we do is competition analysis. So it’s really hard to do competition analysis to improve your own business and your own marketing, if there’s no competition in to analyze.

So that makes sense.

Brent: No, that’s a good point.

Competition analysis, dive into that a little bit. What does that look like?

Sarah Clarke: The most common thing that we look at with competition analysis would be for search engine optimization. Most SEO programs will take a look at the target keywords that you’re trying to rank for and compare them and compare where you’re ranking for, to your competition.

And that’s a good indicator of where there might be opportunity for you to improve your search engine rankings. Or where there’s opportunity to do some work about content, that sort of thing. So that’s one way that competition analysis comes into play a search engine optimization, but we also do competitive analysis on social media, which to me is way more fun.

Cause I live on social media. And what I love to look at is. One company versus another that are in the same space and compare all the analysis that are available to us like am or followers, how often they’re posting what’s their engagement rate and to try and figure out how to maximize and improve the social media so that the company that we’re dealing with can exceed their competition.

And then one other point that comes to mind with competition analysis too, is even as a small business owner or nonprofit organization, you can actually use Google alerts. So if you’ve never set up a Google alert before it’s free, you just go to and you can set up alerts to coming to your email when something is mentioned on the internet.

So with competitive analysis, what you can do is you can put in your comp competition’s business name. And Google email you, anytime they’re mentioned on the internet, so you can be informed about what they might be up to.

What Search Engine Optimization Really Is

Brent: Nice. Okay. I think a lot of people have a love, hate relationship with SEO.

I think it’s such a complex thing and. Actually, it’s probably relatively simple, but it seems complex to a lot of people and it has changed a decent amount over the years. The internet has changed a decent amount. And so the way that you would go about SEO, my guess is, has changed quite a bit.

Not that the dynamics and the basics of what make it work has changed, but. Do you see people just getting really confused by what SEO means and how to be successful at SEO?

Sarah Clarke: Yeah, honestly, I get confused by SEO. So search engine optimization is the ongoing marketing task of your business to try and rank higher in Google ranking.

It’s never said and done. It has to be ongoing. It’s a program. It’s a process because Google is constantly changing its algorithms on the way that it ranks content. And there are over 200 known factors that we know about the Google uses to rank content on the internet. 200 factors. It there’s so much, it is very common.

But that being said, there are simple things that business owners can do if they’re smaller and don’t have big search engine budgets or PaperClick budgets to start working towards getting those rankings. And what I love now, Is to me, social media and SEO go hand in hand. So if a client, if a business has a goal that they want to rank on Google for certain keywords, then we can use not just their website in their SEO optimization on their website, but we can also use social media.

Strategies and tactics to get them ranked so that when people search for that search term, their website hopefully will come up, but they also might be found through their Google, my business profile or their Facebook profile or their Twitter profile, because all of those social media profiles and content are indexed by Google.

So there’s ways that we can strategically use social media to help with SEO rankings, which I think is it’s really fun.

Yeah, no, I can imagine it being pretty fun. Once you get into the deeper aspects of SEO, is everything just Google though, we always say Google as almost a generic term, but are there other things we should be considering from a search perspective?

Google has over 90%. Of all searches on the internet. So that’s why everybody talks about Google though. I do believe that there’s not quite 10% that are on Bing, and there’s a small percentage of searches on Yahoo. So potentially those might be ones that you would look at, but the reason everybody talks about Google’s because it literally is the king of internet searches.

So that’s why all efforts usually go to looking at Google, rankings.

Brent: Wow. 90%. Searches come through Google, talk about a hold on the marketplace.

Sarah Clarke: And that’s why businesses and nonprofit organizations will benefit if they pay attention to search engine optimization.

When it comes to Google and setting up their Google, my business profile and using any of the free tools that are available through Google, because there’s quite a few.

Brent: I was actually just about to ask you about that, if you have a local business, how important is that? And what is the difference in that versus the SEO?

Sarah Clarke: So the importance of a brick and mortar business, having a Google my business account, like on a scale of one to 10 to me would be an 11.

Brent: Wow that important.

Sarah Clarke: So everybody searches, they search on Google, they search on their phones, they do voice search through research, Google, where are the Chinese restaurants near me, or, what’s the closest Walmart. So whatever the searches are, they’re being done. On Google and Google my business results show up first.

So when you look at a search result page, usually what you see first for the ads, which actually show you about 70%, just skip over because they know that. Those pay-per-click ads. Most people then will look at the Google, my business results, which is the map with the listings underneath and the higher that you can get on those rankings with my business.

The more chances are your to get clicked. So Google my business is extremely important. Ways that you can maximize your Google, my business and get more traffic to it is by first of all, optimizing your listing. So making sure that you have as much information on there as possible, you’ve added multiple categories, you’ve included your keywords.

You’ve added photos of your business, your team, your products, anything think of. And then one of the least used features of Google. My business, in my opinion, is posts. Google has, if you go to your dashboard and Google my business, there’s a place called posts and you can post there weekly. You have to do it manually, put a picture image, text, even linked to your website.

And it actually shows that post in Google search results. And those posts get a lot of views and a lot of clicks. So I’m surprised not more people are using them to take that. Even one step further. I work with businesses that actually write content for their Google, my business posts with a copywriter specifically for SEO.

So there’s some really cool strategies that you can use.

Brent: That is neat. I actually did not know about the posting. Is that a relatively new thing?

Sarah Clarke: I think it goes back a couple of years now.

Brent: Okay. Now I did know they had. What was it Google plus, where you could do that. You could post information.

Maybe it was a hold over for that. And I just didn’t realize, cause I knew that they did away with Google plus. Yes. So maybe

Sarah Clarke: Plus went away and then Google my business replaced everything and they had hosts and I think so businesses could update content right on Google.

Brent: Yeah. Okay. I did not know that.

The stories that you see on Instagram and Facebook, you know what I’m talking about. Yeah. Yeah. Have you seen or heard Google implementing anything like that?

Sarah Clarke: As I said earlier, things changed so often. Sometimes I miss all of the news until it becomes free.

Brent: Yeah. I feel like if they do that, they would be making a pretty hard run into the social media space. Again, I feel like, cause that’s very social media oriented.

Sarah Clarke: Yeah. I don’t see anybody actually following other people on Google.

Brent: Yeah. Maybe on YouTube, they could do something like that on YouTube, a lot easier than on search.

I’m actually surprised that they have not tried to turn YouTube into more of a social networking social media is I feel like it gets a lot closer gap to fill than moving search like they did with Google plus into a social networking site.

Sarah Clarke: Yeah, I think it might be closer to a social media because you can subscribe to channels and you can comment on people’s videos.

So that piece of it is a little bit social and I can see the reason that including YouTube in your stream, if you include YouTube in your strategy, it’s actually really good for search engine optimization because all YouTube channels and videos are indexed by Google as well, obviously, because they own it.

Brent: Yeah. Do you recommend people get into YouTube or do you recommend people wait on that? Because there can be a lot involved in video.

Sarah Clarke: Yeah. It’s a lot of work. I would say it would depend on your goals if that should be part of your strategy. So that’s something that I would really think hard about because you want to make sure that you’re going to be doing it strategically.

Where To Start In Business Creation

Brent: Yeah. No, that makes sense. So what would be like the absolute first place to start from a marketing standpoint, like you’ve moved past the phase of getting your idea down. You’ve got just a real rough goal typed out on your one page business plan that we talked about and you’re ready to start getting the word out there.

What would be the first thing you would recommend people to do out of the things that we’ve talked about so far?

Sarah Clarke: So the next step would be to get a website created. And as part of naming your business or your nonprofit profit organization, hopefully you’ve already done the research to make sure that your domain is available or your website, and maybe even ordered it already.

So I would never name a business without making sure that the domain that I want is available. I would literally change the name of the business to make sure that I have the right. So I do that as part of the research. But yeah, a website first, because the website is the digital asset that you own and control 100%.

And that’s where you want all of your roads to lead to is your website. You want to collect people’s email, get traffic to your website and get that search engine optimization, traffic going, and then step number two would then be social media. A lot of companies. Now, a lot of startups they’re starting on social media and thinking I don’t need a website yet, but that’s actually.

Dangerous in my opinion, because you’re only really renting space on social media. You don’t actually have full ownership or control of those counts. So it’s common for Facebook and Instagram and other social media accounts to be compromised or closed down or hacked. And then you lose your business. So start with a website, then move over to social media and essentially at the same time, but that would, those would be the places to start.

Brent: Yeah. I think a lot of people don’t know that or maybe they know it and they’ve just never thought through it, but you do not technically own the information that you are putting out there on Facebook or any of these social media sites. If they decide to stop showing your content to the audience that you want to be putting that out to, then you don’t reach your audience anymore, or to your point, if they decide to take some of your information down, then you lose your audience versus your website.

You pay for that. You own that. That is all you. That is a really good point that I would agree. Probably not. A lot of people completely understand. What about email marketing? Is that one of the first things that you would implement after the website?

Sarah Clarke: Yeah, it would make sure that it’s at least in my strategy plan.

So it’s not like month one. It’s going to be in there somewhere. And to have ways to gain emails for potential clients some people have a newsletter sign up. Some people have a free offer that they do a free ebook or for report or just to enter for something gathered the emails. Because your email list again, is an asset that you own.

And it is very valuable because email marketing has proven to be very effective. So I think keeping that in your plan for the first year is important to make sure that you’re implementing inventing some sort of email marketing.

Brent: Okay. So obviously creating the website, but initially you would be okay with people starting social media and pointing people to a general website at first.

And then maybe a little bit down the road, implementing an email strategy.

Sarah Clarke: Yeah, because that’s more work like developing a proper email plan can be more time consuming and overwhelming. So small business owners. So I usually work with them to get like a lead magnet in place after everything. Already established.

Brent: Yeah, that makes sense. So I did want to circle back through and talk about something specific we mentioned at the beginning, and that was accessibility solutions. I know that is something that you guys have really started offering. And it’s something that a lot of people, a lot of companies are actually required to do.

And if you’re not required to do. I know it can still be a good idea. And so I want to talk through just for a second, what accessibility solutions are, because it was something that I didn’t completely know a lot about. So just tell us a little bit about what that is and maybe why it’s important to have

Sarah Clarke: Absolutely.

So web accessibility is the process of making sure that your internet and digital content is fully accessible to anybody with. Any disability or whether it be temporary or permanent. So there’s lots of examples of that. And probably the most obvious that people think of is if somebody is visually impaired, are they able to consume the content on your website using a screen reader or another assistive device?

So the reality is that there’s about 20% of the population in the world have some sort of disability. So are you excluded. Those potential clients. One of the most there’s so many examples that I go through, but one of the ones that came out in the news during the last six months was a lot of the forms that were created as part of the vaccination roll-outs that were put on whatever websites were not accessible.

They were not built with accessibility in mind. So a lot of seniors, people with low cognitive abilities had a lot of problems registering for vaccines because the way the forums were created. So that’s one example of accessibility. Social media is another place where you can work towards making your business or nonprofit accessible.

So some examples would be on video if you’re creating video to always have post captions. And that’s important, not just for accessibility, but I don’t. This is a millennial thing, I think, or younger generation thing. My kids, when they’re watching video on anything, whether it’s YouTube or they always turn the captions on.

So I think that’s something to consider is that if somebody is prefers watching it with the captions on it, that’s important as well as if somebody’s in like an internet cafe. And they have video on, so there’s so many different points of accessibility that I think that there’s not enough people talking about what’s happening in the big world and the bigger businesses is there’s laws.

There’s laws in place in many jurisdictions that say your business, your website has to have website web accessibility compliance on it. Those businesses are aware of that. And they’ve worked towards that. So Ontario, we have a law that came out this year that said any businesses with 40 or 50 employees, or more must be compliant with web accessibility guidelines, or they will face fines in the states what’s happening.

And you can look this up in somewhere. In some of the news searches is companies are getting sued and there are thousands of lawsuits right now, because if somebody cannot access the content on your website and they’re actually being excluded against. Being able to access that business. So there’s lawsuits being won by people that are assuming businesses that don’t have web accessibility on their website.

So lots to do with that topic. I personally believe that we should make the internet and accessible place for everyone. And I am trying to raise awareness. For web accessibility with smaller business owners and non-profit organizations, because I think it’s just the right thing to do, even if it’s not required by law.

And it’s a really smart business decision because all of a sudden you’ve just opened up to potentially 20% more. If you make your website accessible.

Brent: Yeah. Wow. I think a lot of people don’t know that, 20%, I didn’t know the number was that big. I felt like I realized that it was a decent size number, but not 20%.

Wow. Yeah. That is a huge argument for, or just implementing that. So where can people learn more about accessibility solutions, or just some of the other stuff that you offer, where is the place for them to connect with you or learn more about that?

Sarah Clarke: We have information available on our website. So And I have information available on my personal blog, And we’ve got blog articles that we’ve been publishing about that on both sites. And we also have a free web accessibility audit. So if any business or nonprofit is wondering how accessible their website might be, they can reach out on any of our channels or just email me and I’d be happy to arrange a free web accessibility on it for them.

Brent: Oh, that’s awesome. Very generous. Thank you everyone go do that. Yup. That’s awesome, Sarah. I know we are actually going to do behind the scenes aspect of what you do and maybe dive a little bit deeper into some tools that people can get into and use. And. A little bit more of a deep dive into digital marketing, but this has been really helpful.

I know a lot of the people listening to this are either starting a business, starting a nonprofit, or really looking for a way to just enhance their career a little bit. This is a great way to do it. Getting a website and having a presence on social media. If you’re, even if you’re just wanting to enhance your career a little bit amazing place to do that.

So everyone go check out the website and definitely have Sarah help you out. Sarah, it’s been a pleasure. Thanks so much for coming.

Starting A Business Ideas And Steps To Take

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