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Vaughan Rising Blog: Five Ways to Use Sponsorship to Help Your Business Grow

During Covid-19 many businesses have had to get creative on how to maximize their marketing dollars. Many are surprised to learn that even the smallest budget can be leveraged further through sponsorships than through many other marketing channels combined.

The City of Vaughan offers several sponsorship opportunities to local businesses. Cristina Prinzo, the City of Vaughan’s Acting Manager of Municipal Partnerships and Sponsorships, offers some tips on incorporating sponsorship to help your business grow.

1.   Find your fit

Define your brand’s core values and objectives for the upcoming year. Find a partner that shares the same values and is successful in reaching your target audience. The synergy will create a strong connection with prospects and customers when they see you walking the talk and identify with you through shared values.

Cristina recommends, “Talk candidly with any potential partners about what you hope to get out of the partnership prior to committing. Whether it’s increasing sales, driving traffic, launching a new product or attracting talent – let the sponsored partner know your objective so that you can work together to achieve your ultimate goals. Looking to promote your company’s corporate social responsibility mandate? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) and marketing sponsorships go hand-in-hand. Give back while growing your business; it’s a win-win!”

Case Study: The HUB Vaughan

The City of Vaughan is proud to be in a three-year partnership with The HUB Vaughan. Membership means family at this premium co-working and storage facility in the heart of the community and is a great fit with the City of Vaughan’s Starter Company Plus program. This sponsorship provides local entrepreneurs with discounted space to work, training and mentorship, and ultimately generates leads for the sponsor through targeted matchmaking.

2.   Stand out

Once you have found the right fit, raise your profile by thinking outside the box. Sponsoring an event or program means that your brand will be front and center on all marketing created by the partner, and exclusivity means you’re featured without the presence of your competition. Sponsorship not only builds awareness and exposure but also creates community goodwill – a great way to set small businesses apart from larger brands.

Cristina notes, “More so than placing an ad or handing out your business card, a sponsorship provides your business with a new way of marketing that (especially for smaller businesses) can familiarize your target audience with your brand. Creating brand affinity by partnering with a program or service that is well-liked in your community is an effective way to position or reposition your brand to stand out. Exposure on new and different channels will expand your audience exponentially.”

Case study: BMO and more

The Vaughan Business Expo is an annual event that attracts all sizes of businesses and brings them together for a day of learning and networking. In 2019, BMO was the presenting sponsor and five smaller businesses supported each Zone that related to their industry. Organizers were thrilled to welcome Millennial’s Choice, Mentor Works Inc. and more as sponsors. Each of them made numerous connections throughout the day and stood out from the crowd as leaders in their field.

3.   Bang for your buck

In times like these budgets are tight. Seek out cost effective, high-impact opportunities that will garner at least a 3:1 ROI. Not sure? Ask! Your sponsorship partners should be able to report back on your impact with data. Get complete details about what is included, and the anticipated return on your investment.

“Not all sponsorship opportunities are created equally, and you want to break through the clutter,” Cristina advises. “Find out if there are other sponsors already on board, how you will be recognized and what other opportunities are there to leverage your partnership. Whatever your objective, use those sponsorship dollars to their maximum potential and course correct along the way through open dialogue if needed.”

Case study: Grow with Vaughan

New in 2020, the Grow with Vaughan initiative offers a unique partnership opportunity to sponsor a city flower bed. The flower beds provide low-cost, high-impact marketing for local Vaughan businesses through highly visible signage in one of 50 high-traffic locations throughout the municipality. Sponsors will be featured on signage and online for 12 months out of the year with turn-key service allowing for prominent logo recognition and the opportunity to beautify the City in partnership with a beloved city service.

4.   Leverage the partnership

Seek out ways to cross-promote your involvement and build tactics that align with the partner to maximize visibility in your target market. Many sponsors put aside the exact amount of a sponsorship alone without considering the added costs to activate it. The absentee sponsor never reaches their objectives.

“Make sure to set aside some additional resources to promote your involvement with the program, whether that be staff time, product, or supporting marketing material. Don’t rely on your partner to get the word out alone, do your part in making the partnership a success!” advises Cristina.

Additional ways to leverage a sponsorship:

  • Donate a prize so that participants can use your product
  • Plan an online or in-person activation to build long-term emotional connections with customers such as a product demo, contest, activity or experience
  • Engage staff to network at events to generate leads
  • Survey event attendees to gain insight and data on who your audience is
  • Participate in programming as a speaker, mentor, moderator, or panelist
Case study: Saputo

Saputo owns a large manufacturing facility in Vaughan with hundreds of employees. As part of their commitment to the communities where they operate, they named the nearby tennis courts in Torii Park the “Saputo Tennis Courts” with the objective of building a lasting legacy. This partnership provided Saputo with an opportunity to reinforce the importance of a healthy lifestyle for families and contribute to the communities where their employees live, work and play. The partnership also kicked off with a ribbon-cutting ceremony complete with a tennis demonstration and product sampling, creating a legacy for many for years to come.

5.   No money, no problem!

Don’t count yourself out of the race if you don’t have cash to contribute right now. There are many other ways to get involved in sponsorships that can help you to achieve the same goals. Many companies offer in-kind professional services such as office hours, mentorship or consulting in lieu of a sponsorship fee for recognition. Others provide product in-kind or services such as media partners, tech support and the like.

Cristina emphasizes, “Partnerships come in all forms and sizes, each holding value for both parties involved. The main purpose in any sponsorship is to gather enough resources to make the program a success while delivering on the sponsor’s objectives.”

Case study: Custom partnerships

Whether it be Nature’s Emporium donating seeds and plants to Vaughan’s community gardens, or corporations donating to the RecAssist fee subsidy programs for low income families in Vaughan, the City has customized event and program partnerships available. There are options to fit any budget and the City works together with the business community to reach their ultimate goals.

Make sponsorship a priority in your business strategy

Sponsorship events are great places to meet key customers, connect with suppliers, and solidify business relationships. With shared values and honest communication you can create a partnership that will build your credibility and provide insight into your audience. Consider how much your business will benefit when you make sponsorship part of your long-term, sustainable business strategy.

To learn more about how the City of Vaughan partners with the local business community and ways to get involved visit www.vaughan.ca/corporatepartnerships.

 

The information presented in this article is provided solely for the purpose of bringing ideas to the attention of the business community, as a service to the businesses of the City of Vaughan.

The City of Vaughan does not, whether directly or indirectly, endorse, sponsor or sanction the opinions expressed in this article, nor any services or products that may be offered by the contributor/s in their normal course of business.  The City of Vaughan does not intend by this article to recommend the contributor/s nor to promote them as subject matter experts over any other business persons employed or engaged in similar lines of business.

Vaughan Rising Blog: Three Reasons Why Digital Marketing is Important

COVID-19 as the Catapult to Business Modernization & Resiliency

Digital marketing allows businesses to meet customers where they spend their time. This is especially important during COVID-19, as more people are spending time at home and in isolation, increasingly turning to their devices for work, communication, and entertainment.

The City of Vaughan’s Digital Boost small business resiliency program helps entrepreneurs and small business owners find new opportunities during COVID-19. Vaughan’s Economic and Cultural Development Department has collaborated with General Assembly, an education organization that teaches entrepreneurs and business professionals practical technology skills, to provide expert training and instruction to help program participants reach their business goals, as well as mentorship opportunities to bring their new digital marketing strategies to life.

As of March 2020, Canada had 25 million social media users (with more than 900 thousand added in the previous year) and 35.32 million internet users – both up year-on-year, according to the Digital 2020 Canada report. And those were the numbers at the beginning of the pandemic. Each of those users may be potential customers for your business.

What does this mean for small business owners in Vaughan?

To find out, the City of Vaughan spoke with two digital marketing experts.

Joshua Doner – Marketing Manager, General Assembly Canada

Joshua is a Remote Marketer and Livestream host with General Assembly. He loves connecting with communities about the future of work, tech trends and marketing. His team at GA helps people find rewarding careers at the most innovative companies investing in great User Experiences, Data Science and building amazing Software products.

Connor Taras, Regional Director, General Assembly Canada

Connor started with General Assembly over four years ago because he recognized an opportunity to help shape the future workforce and provide our community with the skills needed to build for our digital economy.  Connor currently makes operational decisions and manages the team on the Toronto campus. He also executes on Canadian expansion opportunities for General Assembly in Canada as Regional Director. Prior to joining the team at GA, along with working at several small start ups, he was a member of the Canadian Olympic National Team in Sprint Kayak.

Here are three ways digital marketing can work for your small business:

1. Invest in e-commerce to better serve your customers (and learn more about them)

One of the greatest opportunities that have been presented to small businesses due to COVID-19 is connecting with customers online. Joshua notes, “Businesses that are successfully adapting during COVID-19 are continuing to connect with their customers virtually. If you are a yoga studio, dentist, restaurant and/or business owner who can embrace new techniques for engaging customers online, you will have a business that is resilient and can scale into the future.”

Connor adds, “As part of the Digital Boost program, General Assembly has made high quality digital skills training available for free. The access to these new skills and tools are a great opportunity to transform your business to optimize operations for an online customer experience.”

The City of Vaughan provides a training and mentorship program, Digital Boost, to support local small business owners in finding new opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. This program helps entrepreneurs scale their marketing efforts, strengthen their online presence and deliver compelling content that helps them keep in touch with their current customers and connects them with new business opportunities.

“It is important to meet customers where they spend their time. Through digital marketing tactics, a local business, in the city of Vaughan, can win both locally and on a global scale. This is an amazing opportunity,” says Joshua.

There is a lot that is possible for a small business through e-commerce that isn’t possible with in-person shopping. Connor explains, “Selling your product or service through e-commerce gives you far greater ability to connect with your customers in a targeted way. The power of data allows you to understand what the buyer is looking for, by understanding what products they may be looking at in your online store, how many products they may have in their shopping cart or maybe even understanding how long they are spending on your site. These are metrics that are very difficult to measure with an in-person shopping experience. The power of e-commerce allows you to make data-driven decisions, explore and optimize the customer journey and target an optimized and larger audience through digital marketing techniques. All helping you grow your business much quicker than may be possible with in-person shopping.”

For a bricks-and-mortar business that is reluctant to invest in e-commerce and digital marketing, Joshua has this advice, “If you are mission-driven to serve your customers, it should be a part of your organizational DNA to meet them where they are: online. If you are unsure of HOW to achieve success online or WHO can help you with that, get in contact with the Vaughan Small Business and Entrepreneurship team at ecd@vaughan.ca. You can also join a General Assembly learntogether.biz workshop and the instructor will walk you through how to be successful!” Find the support system that can guide you in making the right choices for your business.

2. Take advantage of free and subsidized tools and services

There are many types of software or tools that are available to support a small business with limited people, time and money. Now is a great time to take advantage of the many digital marketing tools and services that are free or subsidized during COVID-19.

To make the transition to a digital storefront easier and more cost-efficient than ever before, Joshua has the following suggestions:

  • Shopify has a 90 day free trial, up from 14 days. This is long enough to launch a store with their easy user experience and gain support from their team of Shopify Gurus.
  • Other great alternatives are Wix and Squarespace. Within these e-commerce platforms there are amazing apps that can help you automate many of the different processes and help transform the services you would offer with your in-person shopping experience into your digital experience.
  • A couple great local (GTA) apps are:
    • Zapiet – For curbside pick ups, local delivery and inventory management
    • You Can Book Me – Calendar integration to help your customer seamlessly book in-person visits or service appointments
    • DigiSmoothie – Increase conversions on purchases and upsell your customer
    • WebFlow – No code apps that will help you automate your process

He adds, “There is also a wealth of knowledge on Reddit, YouTube and of course, General Assembly can help you with hands-on workshops to guide you through that journey. Your only blocker is starting!”

Small business owners with limited resources may wonder where to put their time and money to get the best results from digital marketing.

Here’s Connor’s advice: “As mentioned above, most services and products are offering free trials that will help you get the process started. Make sure your product can be accessed by your customer and most importantly, purchased by your customer. After you’re comfortable with an MVP (minimal viable product) of your online store, remember it doesn’t have to be perfect, start experimenting with some digital marketing techniques like social media. Tell your customers you’re open for business. This can all be done with minimum, if zero, investment upfront!”

3. Double down on your digital marketing

Consumer habits have definitely changed due to COVID-19. As the economy reopens, digital marketing should remain at the forefront of your small business marketing and communications strategy.

“‘COVID pulled the future forward’ is the quote that says it all,” Joshua observes. “From a corporate perspective, we have seen this affect organizations like BMO, Pinterest, Shopify, etc. Most of them have even recognized that they have to adapt quickly and re-align for the future COVID-19 has created, creating a remote-first culture.”

With respect to small businesses, he notes, “While these large organizations do not fully represent Mainstreet, we do believe they set the tone for a digital-first economy and more importantly a digital-first consumer mindset. That said, as the economy re-opens we will see physical spaces become areas that complement an online experience that is the first touchpoint for your business.”

Joshua provides some tangible examples of this trend:

  • Curbside pickup
  • More 1-on-1 scheduled appointments for services like the gym and health and wellness that used to have majority walk-in traffic
  • Food delivery
  • Virtual consultations, job interviews and meetings

Digital marketing tactics haven’t really changed during COVID-19. If anything, they’ve intensified.

Joshua explains, “What has changed is the desire for customers to feel safe, this has led to people avoiding public spaces, waiting in lineups, hanging out in coffee shops, etc. That means more people are looking for things online, using Google, eCommerce functionality, delivery apps and Zoom for appointments. Consumers are more receptive to virtual versions of the services and products they once used and importantly are willing to pay for them. While most Digital Marketing tactics have remained the same before and after, their importance to a small business has gone up 10-fold, and so has the opportunity.”

Here are some successful tactics that Joshua has seen work for small businesses:

  • Leverage your email lists: Promote COVID unique specials. You can use services like Mailchimp that are free up to the first 2,000 emails.
  • Focus on Google Search Ads: Pay Per Click ads put your business search result at the top of the list when a customer does a search.
  • Use Facebook, Instagram, YouTube video: The best performing video creative is short (15 seconds) and works to capture the user’s attention, drawing them in quickly.
  • Engage on LinkedIn: The “business social network” has seen a rise in engagement in the last couple of years. Posts about self improvement, personal life and sharing your story all do really well on LinkedIn. It is no longer just a B2B platform.
  • Sell Gift Cards: Ask your customers for support by promoting gift cards now during COVID for future gifts, birthdays and work related anniversaries.
  • Use data and customer feedback: Promote your Google Reviews page to your customers. Respond to all reviews either addressing a bad review or thanking someone for a good one. Look at search trends in Google’s search trends tool for new product or business ideas.

He notes, “Shopify’s eCommerce sales increased 10X during COVID and that is because customers are sitting at home bored looking for things and products to purchase. So while the tactics have not changed, their importance to a business has dramatically increased.”

Digital Marketing Training and Innovation Success Stories

To find out how small business owners feel about digital marketing strategies, the City of Vaughan examined responses to a Digital Boost workshop survey.

One business owner commented, “It literally is a digital boost. Gave me a better understanding of the digital world and opportunities to optimize my business.”

Another observed, “I am learning a lot and making great connections with other local business owners. This is a huge help in developing my online presence, content and marketing strategies.”

A third entrepreneur shared, “I’m trying to start new at the tender age of 64. All my work so far has been by word of mouth, something that just doesn’t work in 2020.”

Tania Das, a General Assembly Alumni, said, “The [Vaughan Digital Boost] initiative gave us an opportunity to collaborate with a wonderful business owner who was friendly, supportive, and open to changes on his site. As new designers, working with such a helpful client was a valuable experience that allowed us to draw from our skills set to help boost a business that positively impacts the community.”

Sounds like a win-win for everyone as the Vaughan community comes together to keep our small businesses rising and provide them with the digital marketing tools they need to pivot, innovate, and do what it takes to get through to the other side.

Although Digital Boost is in the midst of their final cohort, the City of Vaughan is always available to support our local small businesses. We look forward to hearing from you!

 

The information presented in this article is provided solely for the purpose of bringing ideas to the attention of the business community, as a service to the businesses of the City of Vaughan.

The City of Vaughan does not, whether directly or indirectly, endorse, sponsor or sanction the opinions expressed in this article, nor any services or products that may be offered by the contributor/s in their normal course of business.  The City of Vaughan does not intend by this article to recommend the contributor/s nor to promote them as subject matter experts over any other business persons employed or engaged in similar lines of business.

 

Vaughan Small Business Week 2020

Celebrating the contributions and resiliency of our small business owners and entrepreneurs

October 20 - 22, 2020

The beginning of October marks the beginning of Small Business Month, dedicated to celebrating the contributions of entrepreneurs and small business owners to our local communities and economies. In Vaughan, 87% of our more than 19,000 businesses are small business.

This year, we recognize the courage, resiliency and adaptability of the small business owners and entrepreneurs who help make Vaughan a vibrant community. Vaughan Small Business Week 2020 features five events to help Vaughan’s talented entrepreneurs and small business owners have real conversations, leverage local resources and connections, and learn from industry experts to help your business grow and adapt to a changing landscape in uncertain times.

Celebrate and get connected with your local business community! Space is limited.


Calendar of Events

Tuesday, October 20

Small Business Week Launch: Fireside Chat & Virtual Networking with the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Join us as we kick-off Vaughan Small Business Week 2020 in partnership with the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce. Hear from Summer Company 2020 alumnus and inspiring local teenage entrepreneur Ananya Vishwanath, CEO of VQueues in a fireside chat with Brian Shifman, President & CEO of Vaughan Chamber of Commerce on finding opportunity during uncertain times and adapting to a changing environment as a young entrepreneur. Afterwards, build new connections in interactive virtual networking. This event will feature a virtual address from Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua.

This event is presented in partnership with the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce.

Learn more and register

Wednesday, October 21

Five Healthcare Marketing Secrets
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Receive practical, hands-on advice that will help you attract buyers and accelerate your sales. The workshop will cover:

  • The one characteristic that must permeate all your marketing materials
  • Who you need to cultivate in order to win deals more quickly
  • The one thing healthcare buyers appreciate the most
  • What digital health has in common with a refrigerator

This workshop is presented in partnership with ventureLAB. It is also a part of programming for Activate!Vaughan Innovation Challenge

Learn more and register

How to Create Consumer Products that Sell
3 to 4 p.m.

This workshop helps innovators evaluate opportunities, build unique food business concepts and develop food products people want to buy and retailers want to carry. Exercises and concrete examples will be used to demonstrate how to create solid value propositions and identify high value market positions. This workshop will change the way food entrepreneurs, business strategists and product developers think about R&D.

This workshop is presented in partnership with Yspace and their York Region Food Accelerator. Learn more about other food and beverage programming for Vaughan entrepreneurs taking place in October.

Learn more and register

Thursday, October 22

Getting Started as a Young Entrepreneur
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Ready to turn your business idea into a reality? Ask burning questions about how to develop your business successfully and explore services and programs available to launch your business.  Join Faaria Wali, Business Development Manager at Futurpreneur Canada as she walks you through the tools and programs offered to help aspiring young entrepreneurs (aged 18-39) turn great ideas into thriving businesses.

This workshop is presented in partnership with Futurpreneur Canada.

Learn more and register

Hiring Incentives for Employers
2 to 4 p.m.

Your company’s success is tied to your employees – get valuable insights into hiring in Vaughan and learn how to make get the most of your next hire. COSTI Vaughan Employment Services will walk local businesses through available funding that will help them to hire their next employees.

This workshop is presented in partnership with COSTI Vaughan Employment Services.

Learn more and register

 

Digital Boost

Vaughan Small Business Resiliency Program

Are you a local small business owner with a brick-and-mortar location? Gain access to training and mentorship to help move your business forward by growing your online presence.

Digital Boost supports local small business owners in finding new opportunities during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. Scale your marketing efforts, strengthen your online presence and deliver compelling content that helps you keep in touch with your current customers and connects you with new business opportunities.

Participants will receive tailored training and mentorship in areas such as:

  • Digital marketing skills and strategies
  • Launching or improving an e-commerce store
  • Developing new product lines or services
  • Developing new revenue models, such as curbside pick-up or drop-shipping
  • Using data to drive new business opportunities
  • Developing financial resiliency

What you can expect to receive:

  • Training tailored to help you adapt your business
  • Access to free business advisory services
  • Access to mentorship from a community of local small business owners
  • Tools and resources to help improve your business’ digital presence
  • Opportunity to apply for a grant of up to $5,000 in provincial and regional funding to implement your new business strategies


Vaughan’s
 Economic and Cultural Development Department has partnered with General Assembly, an internationally recognized provider of award-winning education specializing in today’s most in-demand skills, to provide expert training and instruction to help program participants reach their business goals, as well as mentorship opportunities to bring their new digital marketing strategies to life. 

Digital Boost Vaughan Small Business Resiliency Program is powered by the Starter Company Plus program, which is funded by the Province of Ontario, along with an additional contribution from the Regional Municipality of York’s Innovation Investment Reserve Fund. We thank the Province of Ontario, York Region, program sponsor The Hub, General Assembly, and the Vaughan Chamber of Commerce for their support. 

The Hub is an exclusive, shared office space in Vaughan where entrepreneurs and independent or mobile professionals work in an inspiring and productive co-working atmosphere. All Digital Boost program participants will receive the following offers from The Hub:

  • 50% off storage for three months*
  • 75% off showroom space for existing customers*
  • free mailbox rental for one year when you become a customer at The Hub*
  • Two weeks of free co-working for grant recipients

*terms and conditions may apply

Registration for the first cohort of Digital Boost is now open! Once your registration has been received, staff will get in touch to provide you with important program details, including dates for training and workshops. For more information on the Digital Boost Business Resiliency Program, please contact us at ecd@vaughan.ca. Registration closes on Friday, September 25th, 2020.

 

Register here

 

This program is powered by Starter Company Plus and the City of Vaughan. 

**Please note: Not all program participants will receive a provincial grant, but all are eligible to participate in training.

Grant Eligibility Criteria

Eligible entrepreneurs will have the opportunity to apply for up to $5,000 in micro-grant funding to support the execution of their updated marketing and adaptation strategies.

Eligibility Criteria

Eligible businesses must:

  • be located in and operate in Vaughan
  • As of March 2020, have operated out of a commercial storefront or office space at a location other than the applicant’s principal residence
  • have been in full operation as of March 2020
  • have access to at least 3 months working capital as of February 1, 2020 (either cash savings or access to credit)
  • have not previously received a Starter Company or Starter Company Plus grant
  • be an independent business and operate at arm’s length from family business ventures
  • have less than 10 full-time employees (or equivalents as of March 1, 2020)

Businesses not eligible to receive funding include:

  • Businesses that are home-based or operate strictly online
  • Entrepreneurs who have previously received a Starter Company or Starter Company Plus grant
  • Distributorships
  • Franchises
  • Incorporated businesses that are controlled directly or indirectly by a person who would not be eligible for a Starter Company Plus Award
  • Commissioned sales
  • Not-for-profit or charitable enterprises
  • Multi-level marketing ventures

To read the complete grant eligibility criteria, and to learn more about the application process and program requirements, please refer to the program outline.

 

READ THE PROGRAM OUTLINE

 

City of Vaughan Corporate Partnerships (External Website)