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Nathan Bailey is the Founder and CEO of We Are Ideation, a company renowned for its trailblazing promotional strategies. With a background in pharmaceutical sales, Nathan founded Ideation in 2009 and has grown it into a powerhouse that delivers impactful marketing and branding experiences for businesses through crafting unique promotional products. Having collaborated with industry giants like Intel and Oracle through Ideation, Nathan is an innovator reshaping the landscape of promotional marketing.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [3:46] The evolution of Ideation’s creative brand management
  • [8:57] Challenges Nathan faced while building his business and how he overcame them
  • [9:08] What are the implications of customer acquisition on business growth?
  • [23:22] How Ideation creates emotional connections through promotional products
  • [26:49] Mistakes to avoid when sending promotional products
  • [31:13] Why should you have quality control standards for your products and services?
  • [33:01] The importance of being prepared to scale your business when opportunities arise
  • [37:53] How to amplify brand visibility with influencer agency partnerships
  • [40:28] How core values and a clear mission impact business success

In this episode…

Innovative customer acquisition and brand promotional strategies impact business growth in powerful ways. They fuel business success by creating memorable and impactful brand experiences for customers, top-talent hires, and industry leaders. How so?

According to Nathan Bailey, a visionary in the marketing industry, customized branding material, such as gift packages, enables business success by enhancing your brand’s visibility and forging meaningful connections. In addition, executing your marketing strategies with technological expertise can boost lead generation and conversions, giving you a competitive edge. Nathan shares his journey from salesperson to CEO and offers insights on transforming entrepreneurial paths and elevating a brand.

In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast with Dr. Jeremy Weisz, he sits down with Nathan Bailey, CEO of We Are Ideation, to discuss the art of evolving a brand and the strategies that work to grow it. They explore Ideation’s transformation from a seedling concept to an industry juggernaut. Nathan highlights pioneering customer acquisition approaches, crafting unique gift experiences, and leveraging technology for market success.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Special Mention(s):

Related episode(s):

Quotable Moments:

  • “The hardest part of the journey when you start any business is customers, customer acquisition.”
  • “We’re not just order takers, we’re here to help businesses achieve their objectives.”
  • “Our mission is making our customers look like rock stars by solving their problems and removing their irritations.”

Sponsor for this episode

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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90xAtariEinstein BagelsMattelRx BarsYPOEOLending TreeFreshdesk, and many more.

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01  

You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.

Jeremy Weisz  0:22  

Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs and leaders today is no different. I’m with Nathan Bailey of Ideation, creative brand management. And Nathan before I formally introduce you, I always like to point out other episodes, people should check out of the podcast. This is by the way, one of my favorite topics I want to talk about with Nathan, his company, because combining giving awesome fun stuff to people with direct response, one of my favorite topics of all time, we’ll dig into it. But in other episodes, people can check out a fan favorite, Nathan, since this is part of the top agency series, Todd Taskey.

He has a second bite podcast, he pairs agencies with private equity and basically helps sell agencies. And sometimes the companies make more on the second bite than they do on the first because the private equity sells again. So that was cool, because he talks about valuation agencies and what he sees in the agency space. Also, another fan favorite is Kevin Hourigan, who runs Spinutech, Kevin has run an agency since 1995. So he talks about the evolution of the industry, the services they have, and a lot has changed. So he has some cool stories there. And we’re going to talk about SOPs and scaling on this and the one I do with a deep love for it.

She basically that’s what she does, actually, she goes into companies, she’s kind of like an easy button for people to create SOPs, and we geek out on our favorite productivity software’s that we should be that we use and other people we’ve seen use. So that’s one of my favorite episodes, people can check that out, and more uninspired. This episode is brought to you by Rise25 and at Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect to their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we actually help companies run their podcasts for an easy button for a company to launch and run a podcast we do the accountability, the strategy and the full execution.

Nathan and his company are kind of like the magic elves, that basically make sure everything happens in the background from making sure everyone feels special. Whether it’s a client, a potential client, a staff member, we’re kind of the magic elves that make the host and make it look easy for the host for their podcast. And so for me, you know, Nathan number one thing in my life is relationships. And I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. I’ve found, you know, an amazing ways over the past decade to profile the people in companies I most admire and share with the world. They’re working out on my podcast.

So if you’ve thought about podcasting, you should give questions go to rise 20 You know, I’m excited to introduce Nathan Bailey. He’s president founder of Ideation, creative brand management, their website is WWE, our You can check it out. And their company has been honored in the Inc 5000 list is one of the fastest growing private companies in America. And Nathan’s work, they’ve helped industry giants, such as Intel, Comcast, Oracle, Salesforce TechStars. And they basically help them further develop their brand recognition and give to people around them. And they help brands, you know, basically through corporate gifting and promotional product offerings. And Nathan, thanks for joining me. Thanks for having me. Appreciate you, me. So maybe expand on that a little bit. With Ideation, creative brand management and what you do.

Nathan Bailey  3:46  

Yeah, so, you know, the business has evolved a ton over the last four years because of COVID and kind of how business change. But it originally was set out as a promotional marketing agency, we came alongside our clients as an extension of their marketing departments, and helping them with really most of their physical marketing materials. A lot of what we did was drop shipping products with for them to eat at our offices or trade shows. And then after COVID, it really evolved into kind of who we are now, which is, you know, really specific, high end gifts or gifts packages, where we bring multiple pieces of product into our warehouse, and then we make it look pretty using custom boxes and shred and all that kind of stuff.

And then drop shipping across the country for our customers either to their employees or to their customers. And so like we now have this kind of unique hybrid role where we do a lot of things We do a lot of stuff that is the dropship of like, hey, we need, you know, 500 backpacks, or, but we also do things like holiday gifts. We do lead generation for one of our big clients. And we also are the swag closet. So we have stuff here and fulfill it for new hire kits. And so we kind of do almost anything that is related to branding, on merchandise, awards, trade show displays, and, and do multiple different things around that to deliver them for customers.

Jeremy Weisz  5:40  

So how did you get into this?

Nathan Bailey  5:44  

Yeah, so that’s an interesting story. Because most anybody you talk to, in an agency like this, that sells promo sells swag, most people like didn’t go to college thinking like, I’m going to start a business in this world, right? I mean, it’s like, I didn’t even know it existed. But what had happened was, I was in pharmaceutical sales and was rapidly kind of moving up the chain there with a family, young family. And the higher up the chain, you got in pharmaceutical sales, the bigger your territory became began, and the more you’re away from home, and I had an I did not want a life that was only home, you know, on the weekends. And so I exited out of that business.

And my father actually knew somebody who was doing Import Export work. And he did private label merchandise. And so I went to go work for him as an account manager for him really bringing in container loads of stuff from across the ocean, which was very difficult because you got to find like, you know, a retail partner or some sort of event that wants private label and my neighbor, who is an Aflac, rep said, You should meet this guy who does this promo thing he might be able to use you for, you know, your services. And so we met and he essentially told me like you’re doing this all, you know, they’re doing this the hard way, told me all about this industry that I’m in now. And so I started working for him for a little bit and then eventually left that and started my my own agency in 2009.

Jeremy Weisz  7:12  

Was that a difficult decision, when you decide to start your own?

Nathan Bailey  7:18  

It was a difficult decision, because I enjoyed where I was the problem that I had, at the time as most agencies that do it, we were a little bit different, but most agencies that do what we do, it’s all commission and I quite honestly had a baby and a non working wife taking care of that baby, who, and I just didn’t sell enough to be quite honest with you, in those first early years to live off of the income that the commission was paying me.

So I did it out of necessity that just to say keeping 100% of what I made was better than keeping part of what I made. And I just didn’t have the, I didn’t have the time horizon to be able to allow it to mature fast enough to like, stay somewhere. And so I really started Ideation a necessity to just be kind of a one man show selling. And that’s, of course, now evolved after 14 years into 22 employees and 7000 square feet of warehouse space and kind of a little bit different than I originally envisioned in 2009.

Jeremy Weisz  8:18  

A lot more moving parts and logistics.

Nathan Bailey  8:21  

A lot more, you know, from a guy that some very high creative kind of add, sales guy, you know, that is really good at sales, I’ve really had to evolve myself over the last three or four years into kind of a CEO leader. And that’s been a fun process as well, but not what i Not at all, I didn’t set out to build a huge company, or even a medium size, small company. When I started it, I really just thought I would you know, be a one man show and try and have a book of business to manage and just kind of live that way. And it just kind of kept evolving and turned into something different.

Jeremy Weisz  8:57  

Yeah. So Nathan, we’ll talk about kind of the evolution of hiring. But talk about early on or, you know, some of the tough parts about the journey.

Nathan Bailey  9:08  

I mean, the hardest part of the journey when you start as any business is customers, customer acquisition. You know, the nice thing about what I do is I’ve gotten to hundreds of 1000s of products. The downside is it’s commoditized it’s a commodity and so it takes a real skill set to be able to talk about what makes you different than either or anybody else that does what you do and it’s really surrounded surrounded around reliability, community communication, and you know, the fact that you make their life easier, but that’s hard to do.

And it’s the hardest part about it, especially when you first start with no reputation is getting a meeting. I always said once I got a meeting I was pretty confident that I would at least get an opportunity but you know, when you are selling what I’m selling with, you know Buying demographic of marketers and typically HR people, they get bombarded by agencies like ours all day, every day. And so that was the hardest part of getting going. And I was very slow, whether it was because of a lack of skill and talent, or with it was just the nature of the business. But you know, it’s like 80,000 120,000 125,000 140,000, it wasn’t this meteoric rise that I had to success.

And so it’s just like, I think building any business, that is a service based business that has a product much like insurance or, or financial planning, and just that that’s the hardest part about it. Obviously, I didn’t have in 2009, all the technologies, you know, I had a baby, maybe a baby version of LinkedIn, that you kind of use, but I didn’t have, you know, all the things that most salespeople that we hire now have access to, to lead gen and start conversations. And so we’re kind of on that coming out of an analog old school sales mentality to the news kind of way we sell now. And so that was, that was that was kind of the most difficult part of it.

Jeremy Weisz  11:07  

How are you getting meetings that? I mean, right now you help companies get meetings? Right? So

Nathan Bailey  11:13  

yeah, so I know. And so, you know, and I mean, I, we do some of the same things that we, you know, we do for our customers now. I mean, just what we do for our customers now is so much more advanced and, and then I was doing just with this with a budget that I had, but like it was about being creative. You know, a lot of it was, I mean, I started in 2008 2009. So obviously, we were in kind of deep into a recession anyway. So I would look in the news, the Portland Business Journal, because I live in Oregon, and see like, at that time, who was doing good business, a lot of government contracts are being issued because of the war on terror.

And so my first big customer was FLIR Systems in 2009, now owned by telent. Design. And they’re still customers today. But they had an announcement in the appointments journal that they signed a huge contract. So I figured they, you know, they got some money. So I went to LinkedIn, I found a contact, that contact happened to have mutual connections of people that I knew from high school she went to college with. So you know, I messenger, cold, called her and so she potentially wrote me back on LinkedIn and said, like, you know, like, I appreciate the thought and effort behind it.

And I got to meet him that way. We also worked with a company called Accu med in the early days. And I’ve had to use a context name, which I think is probably the most important thing to have a contact there. And I actually on St. Patrick’s Day, send her a branded water bottle of her with a document logo on it, and a St. Patty’s Day Limerick that I had written out, I don’t have it, I wish I still did, because I’d love to hang it on my wall in my office now. But she wrote back and said, that’s the most creative, like, you know, way that anybody’s ever tried to solicit.

And because you put some thought and some effort into it outside of being, you know, the normal cold call, like, I’ll meet with you. And so that’s how that started. So just things like that, trying to be creative, trying to send half of an item and say, like, Let’s have a meeting. And I’ll provide the other half of the item, you know, kind of thing. And so those were kind of the early days of the Legion using branded merch, you know, like sending one branded sock and then tell them, you’ll give them the other sock or whatever the case may be. And now it’s much more much more advanced now. You know, I think it’s on our website is one of our pieces. Now we’re sending fully custom boxes with custom inserts. For Comcast business, we just did a Nike shoe box and it looks like a Nike shoe box, it’s got it has a gift card in it, it’s got Goomba socks with a custom wrapper around it.

And so then the when you open the lid, the inside has a commercial video that they made about their services and what they’re trying to do. And it’s essentially allowing you to custom pick and choose the products you want with them. It’s not just, you know, like, you can choose this, this or this. It’s like yeah, you can pick and choose whatever you want. And so we did a Nike ID gift card to represent that they could go pick shoes that they wanted, and then design a way that they wanted. So we’re kind of playing off the you design what you want kind of vibe and so, you know, that’s much more sophisticated than me just sending half a sock, you know, one of two socks and telling them that I’ll bring them the other sock if they meet with me. So

Jeremy Weisz  14:40  

it’s a budget thing though, Nathan, I mean, you’re starting out you said

Nathan Bailey  14:44  

yeah, their budget was 100 times greater than my budget was on this and so but it’s just that I mean, I see evolution right. The same trick works the same marijuana clinic but the same concept worked to lead gen two appointments to do all those kinds of things. It’s just, you know, we’re now $1 spent in sophistication, and a technology advancement that allows us to do more with what we were doing kind of quote unquote, what I call the old school days. So I want to talk

Jeremy Weisz  15:13  

about use cases like in that use case, are they sending those? They tend to send them to current clients or potential clients?

Nathan Bailey  15:23  

Yeah, they send them to both. So like, we bring all that product in house, and we kid it, and then we store them, and they send us a list, basically, to where they want it to go. And so that’s how kind of that works. And we sent it in, and then they set appointments, and, you know, go from there. So yeah, I mean, it’s very much a piece to a brand aware of awareness to like, you can pick and choose this product. So they sent it, they sent it to both prospects. And yeah,

Jeremy Weisz  15:52  

I mean, it beats getting a postcard in the mail. And I mean, I mean, yeah, I mean,

Nathan Bailey  15:55  

it’s definitely I mean, it’s, I mean, it was, I mean, it’s, it’s a valuable piece, and I and, and, like you, and that’s one instance of it, but we do stuff with very inexpensive items that ship flatly that have a call to action and do the same thing. You know, one of the big things that we talked about it Ideation in terms of not just being order takers, but like, if you have a minimal budget at a show, and you’re going to show and you’re a startup, or you’re, you know, like like me trying to, you know, in 2009 trying to build a business. Like you can create a ton of engagement around your trade show table with a mystery lip balm game, where you’re handing out lip balm that cost less than $1.

Don’t tell him the flavor, give away an iPad, for them to try the lip balm with, you know, custom branded with your logo contact information, they try to lip balm, and guess what the flavor is you take all the correct guesses, put them in a hat and then pull one in that person gets a I mean, we’ve had people like sharing lipo this before, people like sharing lip balm to be like, try this, do you? What do you think this flavor is, and so like, you’re just creating a ton of engagement and less than, you know, call it two bucks, lip balm, and that the life of lip balm is really, really long.