Image of a baby pushing a toy ruck on top of the planet earth

04/15/2021

Life stinks without diapers

By Mike Lahoda

Image of a baby pushing a toy ruck on top of the planet earth

Image by Guangyi Li

Let’s talk about diapers.

Not being a father myself, I’ve never actually changed one.

But if you’re a new parent like several of our 2A staff members, you’re likely waking up at odd hours of the night to sounds of wailing and whining on the baby monitor that you now instinctively know translate to “change me.” Or maybe you can vividly recall how your once-tiny human laid on the changing table in front of your sleep-deprived eyes. And now you’re in awe at how much they’ve grown, and how much more they’ll continue to grow.

Thinking back, were you at all concerned about whether or not you could afford a fresh diaper to wrap your precious cargo with? Studies show that up to 36 percent of families struggle to afford diapers. This can lead to high rates of depressive symptoms among new moms, as diapers, unlike baby food and formula, are not covered by programs like WIC or SNAP.

You may be wondering why this B2B marketing company is blogging about diapers. While, yes, we are trying to contain a few messy projects right now, really this is a celebration of Evelyn, Lucy, Maren, Nolan, Oliver, Rowan, Ruth, Sophia, and the 2A babies we’ll soon welcome into the world.

We invite you to join our rapidly growing 2A family in supporting WestSide Baby—a Seattle nonprofit that provides essential items to children in need by collecting and distributing diapers, clothing, and equipment like car seats. We’re glowing with the pride of new parents to share 2A’s sponsorship of WestSide Baby’s annual Beyond the Basics event that enables the organization’s extraordinary impact in our community. In addition, our team donated a total of 5,930 diapers to help keep kids safe, warm, and dry.

Diaper need stinks. Change it.

A rallying cry for case studies

04/06/2021

A rallying cry for case studies

By Kelly Schermer

A rallying cry for case studies

Image by Brandon Conboy

At my house, pillow talk includes the future of driver-less cars and basic income,” says Tracey Whitten. In one quote, 2A’s program manager in charge of customer stories pretty well sums up her passion for technology and her activist approach to storytelling. It’s a rare combination that’s a serious boon for our clients when it comes to crafting the best story for case studies of all sizes and shapes. (And, trust us, each case study is its own special snowflake.)

Tracey’s got an unquenchable thirst for stories that started long ago. Even before joining 2A, she used interviews to broaden her understanding of those around her and the process of writing to sharpen and share her own ideas. From a journal to a blog, from classwork to her everyday job, Tracey relies on the basic tenets of storytelling to learn what makes others take action socially, politically, and financially—which is exactly what we need to get to the heart of every case study.

In college, Tracey earned a degree in organizational communications and a minor in legal studies. The plan at the time was to pursue employer law to help improve poor working conditions for underrepresented employees. But who needs law school to affect change when you’re as creative and engaged as Tracey?

In the years since she graduated, Tracey has built up communities and expanded her resume through positions that speak to her multifaceted talents. From organizing labor unions and communities for social change, to helping a tech startup get off the ground, to launching a civic engagement technology platform, there doesn’t seem to be a challenge Tracey can’t tackle. And through it all, she weaves her passion for understanding, honoring, and telling the stories of those around her. 

In her new role at 2A, Tracey heads up our case study practice. Considering the number of client requests for these stories keeps doubling, we couldn’t be more excited to have her join us! With her dogged commitment to ensuring all voices are heard and her technical drive to plan, organize, and execute against a deadline, Tracey’s our ace in the hole for turning out high-quality case studies that satisfy partners, customers, and solution providers alike.

Wondering who has the breadth, depth, and drive to get the most out of your story? Meet Tracey!

Image of an elevator with cacao beans, leopards, and exotic birds e

03/24/2021

Elevating Stories #7: A virtual tasting with CRU Chocolate

By Forsyth Alexander

Image of an elevator with cacao beans, leopards, and exotic birds e

Image by Thad Allen

It was Feb. 19, the day of our Elevating Stories and chocolate tasting with Karla McNeill-Rueda and Eddie Houston of CRU Chocolate, and my chocolate had not arrived. Knowing I was going to blog about this event, I wondered if I would be missing something elemental during this talk. As it turns out, the experience was as rich and rewarding as the chocolate I later received and enjoyed.

Caution: border crossing

Karla is from Honduras, a part of the Latin American world that is rich in oral storytelling. My partner has similar skills. He is descended from the pre-Aztec indigenous people who have lived beneath the volcanoes of Citlaltépetl, Iztaccíhuatl, and Popocatépetl in the state of Puebla, Mexico, for centuries, and who speak Nahuatl, an ancient language spoken by Mexicans and Central Americans. Everyone I’ve met from his village of San Miguel are amazing storytellers. My partner’s account of the harrowing trip he took to arrive in the U.S. is a beautiful tale of adventure, suspense, quick wits, and survival. As Karla kept us enraptured with the story of cacao, it dawned on me that it was about crossing borders, too.

We learned that cacao originated in the upper Amazon basin in the Andes; however, it didn’t stay there for long. Just as ancient Andeans left the area that is now Peru to move northward and as ancient people also made their way to the Andes, so did cacao. It was grown and adopted by ancient peoples from Mexico, Venezuela, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Puerto Rico, Honduras, and other Latin American countries. Karla explained that, over time, cacao and the drinks they made with it came to have special meaning to the indigenous people. For some it was ceremonial; for others, it was a way to share a treat with friends and family.

So how did cacao and chocolate get to the U.S. and Canada? Karla said that the conquistadors fell in love with cacao while ravaging and pillaging Mesoamerica, so they took it back to Spain with them. Spain is where they began adding sugar to cacao to make it sweeter, and that was the predecessor for cocoa and, eventually, bar chocolate. When Spanish settlers traveled from Spain to their settlements in the U.S. and Canada, they brought their beloved chocolate.

As I watched everyone on the call try the drinks, I had an epiphany. The story of chocolate is the story of the Americas—one of crossing borders and sharing. Most interesting of all, however, is that the story hasn’t ended.

Coming full circle

I live outside of Clinton, N.C. (population 8,600), a place that for centuries has been dominated by a white, Anglo-Saxon, Christian, tobacco-growing culture. Once perceived as dying, it is now thriving, thanks to Latin American wanderers. On our rural road dotted with family farms, our neighbors on one side are Puerto Rican, and our neighbors on the other side are El Salvadoran.

If you visit El Mercadito Hispano in Clinton, you’ll meet shoppers from Honduras and the Dominican Republic who came here under protected status to work and raise their families. The doctor who performed life-saving surgery on my partner in 2015 is part of a growing Venezuelan community. My partner’s masonry apprentices are Guatemalan. Mexicans from Chiapas and Michoacán work in construction and in the sweet potato fields. They have enriched this area with new traditions and new attitudes.

We are all chocolate

I think more people should get to know the story of cacao. It’s a great example of how our expanding cultural diversity is not a threat but a promise. It’s our nature to wander, no matter our origins, and chocolate reflects that. Think what would have happened if no one had migrated in and out of the Andes. We never would have gotten to experience the joy, wonder, and deliciousness that is chocolate. So, let’s hear it for the wanderers—past and present—who have given so much to this world, and for CRU Chocolate, which uses the history of cacao to shape our experience with chocolate. 

Image of Mike in a neon blue and yellow suit next to a license play that says

03/18/2021

Mike—the fresh prince of marketing

By Katy Nally

Image of Mike in a neon blue and yellow suit next to a license play that says

Image by Thad Allen

I always feel a certain kinship with a fellow East Coaster. And beyond that, Mike Lahoda and I both arrived in Seattle—sight unseen—after cultivating an appreciation for the West Coast mostly through pop culture and 90s TV shows. So, in the spirit of our childhood understanding of the sunnier side of the country, I bring you this employee spotlight about Mike, our newest consultant, entirely based off the theme song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. (Many thanks to Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff for this 1992 track.)

Now this is a story, all about how
Mike came to Seattle and made us say “wow”
I’d like to take a minute, so sit right there
I’ll tell you how he became a marketing ace—it’s rare!

In southern New Jersey, born and raised
In the suburbs is where he spent most of his days
Chillin out, biking, walkin to school
While chasin his friends, and actin real cool
When he got an idea, “Let’s do some good”
He started planning ways to help his neighborhood
He studied philosophy and got his bike in gear
Then he moved to Seattle to start tutoring for City Year

The mountains were calling, and when they came near
Mike was ready to climb—he had no fear
If anything they proved he could take on a dare
And he thought, “What’s next—nonprofits? You got it, I’m there”

Mike climbed up through the ranks at a homebuilding biz
His MBA classes made him a marketing whiz
But he still wanted more—to grow with a team
So he joined 2A
now he’s living the dream

4 business villains every marketer should fight

03/10/2021

4 business villains every marketer should fight

By Abby Breckenridge

4 business villains every marketer should fight

Image by Thad Allen

“But what happened that was bad?” my 5-year-old asked after I wrapped up an improvised bedtime story about a boy named Chugapie who likes to eat a lot of pies. And while his question was certainly a stall tactic, and he was probably just hoping for a sword fight instead of a child-driven, problem-solving narrative, he did have a point.

A good story needs some tension—or something “that was bad.”

As students of business-to-business marketing, we’re well versed in the tensions that compel decision makers to act. Fear is a tested marketing lever, but the business audience has a unique set of worries. As we support our B2B marketing clients to create stories that resonate with their customers, we’ve found common themes. Here’s our short list of business villains that smart leaders pay money to avoid, and clever marketers position their products to combat.  

  • Innovative competitors—nothing spells the end like getting left behind by a business that reinvents your space.
  • Security threats—if your data is compromised, so is your future.
  • Inefficient teams—employees make the engine churn, don’t let old tools and bad training slow them down.
  • Disenchanted customers—they vote with their dollars, so you’d better make sure they’re voting for you.

Whether your business customer is looking to digitally transform or empower their team, make sure you’re offering a solution that fights their villains and smooths the arc to resolution.

Tips for starting a new job during a pandemic

02/25/2021

Tips for starting a new job during a pandemic

By Tracey Whitten

Tips for starting a new job during a pandemic

Image by Brandon Conboy

For some, the prospect of starting a new job elicits feelings not unlike meeting your significant other’s family for the first time. You may ponder questions like, Will they like me? Will I fit in? Can I bring value? Maybe not that last one, but you get the idea. The stakes feel high. Now, starting a new job, remotely, while amid a global pandemic, can feel downright abysmal. There are the normal jitters that come with trying anything new and then there is the pandemic-induced anxiety.

I should know, I’ve been there! It can feel overwhelming at times. But after a few months in my new role as a program manager for case studies, I’ve discovered some tips that have helped ease the transition.

Tip 1: Coffee, tea, kombucha?

Yes, some of us need it to function, but I am alluding to time in this case. Schedule coffees with people. Spending 15–30 minutes in get-to-know-you chats can help humanize your co-workers in this strange dystopian time. Learning about your new colleagues in this informal setting allows you to pick up on their working style, personality, and quirks, then they get to know you in return. I recommend scheduling as many as possible in your first few weeks.

Tip 2: Sit in on all the meetings

Saddle up, get cozy, and mute yourself. But seriously, sitting in on meetings that may not directly involve my role has helped to form my 360-degree view of life at 2A. From internal revenue meetings to client branding calls, getting a peek behind the curtain in different scenarios has helped connect the dots. It has given me context about where I fit in and where I might bring value. While you’re ramping up, I recommend asking your manager if there are meetings you can sit in on.

Tip 3: Finally, slack

Cut yourself some! This is uncharted territory for everyone. We’re all learning and growing, so it’s okay to make a few mistakes along the way, and luckily at 2A it is encouraged. For a self-proclaimed perfectionist, I won’t lie, this one has not come easily. But across the board, this notion has been reinforced by my patient colleagues and for that I am grateful!

It’s not the easiest, but these different tactics have definitely made starting a new job amid a pandemic less jarring. Now, when I finally do meet my co-workers face to face, that will be a different blog post entirely.

image of a green car hood with a supercharger engine

02/17/2021

Supercharge your pre-pandemic messaging to keep pace

By Clinton Bowman

image of a green car hood with a supercharger engine

Over these past months, we’ve seen digital transformation make quantum leaps forward. According to a recent McKinsey study, several years’ worth of digital transformation has occurred since COVID-19 began. In the car race to keep up with the needs of today, it’s easy to push off your longer road-trip activities like messaging. Yet, with no clear end in sight, now is the time to make sure your messaging is keeping pace.

At 2A we’re story geeks. We know that in order to build compelling content you need the right foundation. Messaging is the framework to ensure you and your team are ready to deliver captivating content to your customers that addresses their needs of today and tomorrow. As your customers’ needs evolve, you should revisit your messaging and make sure it still resonates. Kick the tires. Get the tune up you need. And set a course for the new road ahead.

Our team of storytellers and consultants are ready to be your co-pilot, navigating the map and maybe the playlist. We’ll work with you to evaluate your current messaging, identify what can be scrapped and supercharged, then build the framework to gas your rendezvous with customers. From there, we can create other itineraries, be it sales tools or your brand identity to help land the new and improved you.

Wondering how to get your messaging back in the fast lane? Pick us up and let’s get you back on pace together.

Ideas born in quarantine to help with your 2020 pivot

02/10/2021

Ideas born in quarantine to help with your 2020 pivot

By Rachel Sacks

Ideas born in quarantine to help with your 2020 pivot

2020 hit us hard. It brought upon more challenges than any of us could have ever imagined. But I’ve been so impressed with the creative ways companies have pivoted in order to keep their businesses running. I saw restaurants offer dining experiences in a yurt, museums offer virtual tours, libraries offer virtual story time, and more! There was so much innovation born from the world shutting down because of the Coronavirus.

At 2A we pivoted in our own way. With everyone going remote, we were challenged by the increasing demand for digital content and focus on virtual experiences. We pushed ourselves beyond what we already knew to expand our offerings.

Here are a few ways we pivoted in 2020:

  • Full-stack case study – We put engaging copy and arresting design into motion, creating a scrollable, interactive web experience. These full-stack case studies take the digital web experience to the next level to tell classic customer stories.
  • Click-through demos – These click-through product demos help sellers demonstrate the value of technical products to potential customers.
  • Video from afar – Don’t have a videographer on call? No problem! We’ll send you a kit with all of the tools you need to create video content from the comfort of your home office.
  • Virtual keynotes and talk tracks – Our virtual keynotes wow remote audiences with exciting morph transitions and talk tracks that hold their attention. Even though we pivoted to design keynotes for smaller screens, they still had a big impact. Dance moves included.
  • Animations – Animations are blazing hot sauce in marketing today. They’re informative, persuasive, and add a spicy zing that keeps your company top of mind. Last year our animation practice grew 250 percent.
  • 2A culture – Even though an impromptu Teams call doesn’t quite replicate the water-cooler chat, we have connected with each other in different ways from our home offices. We’ve enjoyed virtual ice cream parties, happy hours, and even baby showers!

I’m not sure when life will go back to the way it was before COVID-19 but until then, we can help with your pivot. Let’s ride this wave of virtual experiences until we can collaborate in person again.

The entrepreneurial force is strong in Joe Belcher

02/04/2021

The entrepreneurial force is strong in Joe Belcher

By Katy Nally

The entrepreneurial force is strong in Joe Belcher

Joe likes to get in at ground zero. He likes facing limitless possibilities and the ability to shape what’s yet to come—even if it means getting his hands dirty. His entrepreneurial streak has led him from marketing kids’ bunkbeds, to building a craft-brewing curriculum, to carving out a market for Tombolo Institute.

“I love coming in at the ground level—the spirit, the hope, the opportunity—there’s this energy where people are so willing to work together to achieve a broader goal.” —Joe Belcher

The spirit

Joe got his first taste of marketing straight out of college at Walt Disney in Los Angeles. But the organization didn’t deliver the startup pace of change that Joe’s entrepreneurial spirit craved, so he started looking around. At the time, Hollywood Video was in its infancy with huge potential to take off. Joe jumped right in, accumulated as many hats as they’d let him wear, and finally left his marketing position after the chain had established 3,000 stores nationwide.

The hope

By 2014, Joe had founded his own company, Joe Belcher Marketing, helping companies stand out with targeted marketing strategies and assets. When his professor friends in Portland reached out about a new venture to enable the craft beer scene, Joe couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Crafting A Strategy brought hope to the little guys—the ones driven by their passion for hops and obsession with the perfect pour—to compete against mass-production labels. With all the craft breweries popping up, the three founders saw the chance to educate brewers on the business side of things through an online curriculum. Joe helped launch the new company and led the brand and website creation.

The opportunity

Steeped in continuing education, Joe made his next move to join 2A as an embedded consultant for Bellevue College. 2A had led the brand development for the school’s tech-focused spin-off, Tombolo Institute, and Joe was ready to add some meat to its bare-bones framework. The marketing plan, the reporting, the outreach, the assets—Joe tackled it all. And then, the pandemic. While many industries made cutbacks, tech seemed to be immune. For those who were out of work, the opportunity through Tombolo presented new meaning. And Joe dove right in to energize his team for a new pivot.

The view is of a computer screen with a view of Microsoft teams

01/26/2021

Product demos—the greatest thing since sliced sourdough

By Erin McCaul

I’m the proud new owner of a quirky old house on a 2-acre homestead, and I don’t know how folks fixed things before YouTube. Video walk-throughs have taught me how to swap outdated light switches, build raised beds, re-plumb a laundry tub, and use a maul to split firewood. I’ve even taken up bread baking. Unexpectedly, the do-it-yourself trend recently cropped up in my 9–5 life outside the farm. At 2A we’ve been crafting click-through product demos that help sellers demonstrate the value of technical products to potential customers.

Ramp up quickly

Like a YouTube tutorial, snackable product demos are a great way for marketers to help sales teams ramp up quickly. Taking the prep-work out of product walk-throughs, these clickable demos can help teams sell new tools, brush up on product functionalities, or onboard new hires.

Visually engage customers

With an intuitive and engaging design, customers will feel like they’re in the actual product rather than a demo. This realistic experience makes it easy for potential customers to understand what makes your solution so valuable.

Tell value-first stories

Our clickable demos pair screenshots with comment boxes to prompt sellers on talking points throughout the demo. Sellers also have the ability to toggle the commentary off, giving more seasoned team members some breathing room as they walk through the product.

We’ve got a process that takes the guesswork out of demos. After an hour-long interview to learn about your product, our team does the rest. We craft a demo story to capture the featured use cases, mock up designs, write a script, package it all up for development, and deliver ready-to-deploy code packages in eight–12 weeks.

Ready to help your teams and customers re-plumb a laundry tub, master your product? We can help!