Seamless take three explores the social media strategy and career risks with Dannie Fountain, a self-defined “marketing expert, business strategist, author, educator, digital nomad and whip-smart whiskey drinker.”
In this episode, Burgundy Fox intern Nicole Fallert speaks with Dannie about how she turned a side hustle into a full-time job and still finds time for wanderlust.
Hey! It’s Nicole and welcome back to Seamless.
In this episode, we’re talking hustle. That’s the word Dannie Fountain uses to describe her work as a marketing strategist, writer and teacher. She’s traveled the world, worked in the corporate sector and now she’s an entrepreneur helping other business owners build their brand, seamlessly.
Here’s my conversation with Dannie.
Nicole Fallert: Can you just tell me what you do?
Dannie Fountain: I am a marketing strategist, author and educator. I work with corporate clients and small businesses to get their house in order and come up with a marketing plan that’s going to really move the needle for them
NF: Can you tell me what you mean by strategy? On your website and your content, I feel like the word strategy is used a lot. That can really run the gamut, so what does strategy meant to you?
DF: Strategy is thinking about a direction that you want to go in. It can be a micro-direction like launching something or macro-direction like pivoting your entire business and essentially coming up with the entire game plan that you’re going to need to work through to get there.
If it’s something micro, you may think what needs to happen so people know about the launch so that it goes well. If it a macro change, you’re thinking through everything that needs to happen so the pivot is successful, be that raising awareness or making sure the brand voice from the old branding to the new brand carries over so the whole transition is seamless. It’s really more than just posting on social media.
NF: I like that you used the word seamless! I want to ask you how you get that transition to be well-layered when working with a business you may not be familiar with or content you’ve never approached. How do you jump in cold turkey and know what’s wrong or what needs to change
DF: The first step of any project I always do is an audit. The client goes through a document and lets me know what they think their business is doing in terms of marketing, PR and social media and the message their business is sending. I’m able to go through and check the reality against what they think and identify the gaps.
NF: Do people have conceptions of their successes and failures are when they self-evaluate?
DF: Folks undervalue themselves! They don’t see that a part of their business is really powerful and people are resonating with it or they think that a piece that’s actually performing well is a waste of time.
NF: What kind of businesses and organizations do you like to work with?
DF: The most fun that I have is in projects where a business is trying to turn an industry on its head. They’re in an industry where the conversation, the way the industry sells and the products have been the same for a really long time and they’re looking to challenge the pre-defined norms through messaging.
NF: How does your background and personal life inform your professional life?
DF: It’s seamless hand in hand. For better or for worse. there isn’t really a separation. I’m a big traveler and I think my wanderlust and desire to find the hidden treasures helps when performing audits and finding ideas that are fresh and new. It’s about the diamonds in the rough in the business world.
In my corporate time, I worked for Whirlpool company, which was a103-year- company old trying to innovate the market while competing solely on price. Flipping that industry so that price wasn’t even a question was a huge learning lesson and there were a lot of takeaways for me.
NF: Leaving that corporate structure and going into your own business was a risk. Was there a point when you said, “I’m doing the right thing.”
DF: My skip from corporate to full-time entrepreneur was an accident. I had been side hustling all along and then in 2016, I got laid off twice in three months. For me, it was a case of, “If the corporate world doesn’t trust me, why don’t I try trusting myself?”
NF: What did it feel like to trust yourself?
DF: I went from having a steady corporate income and a reliable side hustle income to just my side hustle income overnight. It was believing in the the hustle before I believed in myself.
I had to find value in the hustle so I could find value in making the leap.
NF: Okay, so what does “side hustle” mean?
Google defines hustle as busy movement and activity. But what does the word mean in the context of business?
I’ve heard the term “hustle” or “side hustle” more often than not lately, and this may be due to the fact that 44 million American adults have a source of income other than their day job, according to a July 2017 report by Bankrate.
This fact stems from the idea that extra cash means paying off student loans and capital investment for your future. With one quarter of millennials with side hustles making $500 dollars a month, according to Bankrate, why not take on another job?
There’s evening side hustle nation.com, an online source dedicated to the creation of your side hustle. It’s a complete guide to creating a part-time business that’s passion-driven and most importantly, paid.
Now I’m thinking about my own side-hustle possibilities. I have always been good at posting that perfect Instagram…Now, back to Dannie
NF: One thing I’ve noticed on your website is that you’re a really good writer. You have a very strong voice, and I want to know how writing has informed your work. Do you find your voice is changing as you’ve developed your business?
DF: In the beginning, I wrote very safely. I educated, but I educated in a way that would not turn anyone off. The longer I’ve been here, the more willing I am to infuse my personality in my writing, which is interesting. The more I’ve infused my personality in my writing, the better it’s gotten. I was almost doing myself a disservice in the beginning. I would say that trusting my voice has helped my business, and the reason I decided to rebrand from an agency name to my name.
NF: What’s your advice for someone who is considering skipping out of a corporate job structure but doesn’t feel ready to take that leap?
DF: There is no one-way to go from the corporate world an entrepreneur.
It’s one-third guts, one-third planning and having a process and one-third trusting yourself.
The gut piece being, “Do I know I can actually sit down and get work done, because if I need the pressure of something else in my life to perform, don’t do it.”
The planning piece is, “Do I know where I want my risk to go long-term?” If you don’t have an answer,stay in your corporate job.
The third piece, that’s the hardest, but that’s the piece that connects it all
NF: What’s something that you’re most proud of?
DF: Being willing to be myself in business. To dance the line between corporate and entrepreneur, while owning the fact I side hustled for so long and being an entrepreneur was never really the goal. It used to be something I did to travel.
NF: One thing I’ve noticed a lot is even just my behaviors in my purchasing and my absorbtion of social media are reflected in the advertisements I see on my laptop screen. I’d like to know your perspective on social media advertising.
DF: I was having a conversation about this recently. Take an influencer for example. People are not upset if they partner with a brand. They get upset when this influencer don’t disclose that it was a partnership. I think we’ll see a movement towards honest advertising. We’re going to see brands that can be unafraid to share the painful parts. These will be the brands that do really well.
NF: Let’s say I’m your average Instagram user with a pretty good presence. What would be your advice if that user wanted to build his or her brand and collaborate with actual products?
DF: Be consistent. As you build what you’re working on, you want to be an evangelist. Be the person known for one thing. Even though I’m an entrepreneur, an author…I this, I that, when you ask someone on Instagram what they know me, for it’s my whiskey. I’m always talking about whiskey.
That is the way to build engagement. People come back to see what I’ve tried recently, or if i found something new that I liked. That’s how you build consistent recurring engagement. Virality is good, that’s what gives you hundreds of followers, but it’s not sustainable. It’s not what gives you recurring following.
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