By Clinton Bowman

From sink to swim: A shift in the Shark Tank

Image by Thad Allen

Back in 2015, when my nose was to the grindstone studying for the GMAT and applying to business schools, I found myself seeking content that was going to help me be a more well-rounded applicant. That meant ditching (most) of my binge TV and reading the Economist, tuning into Marketplace, and watching Shark Tank. What can I say? I loved that show.  

Kevin O’Leary, aka Mr. Wonderful, had a laser-focused philosophy on investing back then. For him, it was all about creating shareholder value, which depended solely on cash flow projections and the presence of a hard-working, business-savvy leader. His algorithm didn’t allow a whole lot of room for creatives. It simply came down to the thing that mattered most to him—money—which makes sense since he’s fairly obsessed with adding as many zeros as he can to his net worth.  

I don’t devour Shark Tank like I did in my pre-MBA days, but recently I stumbled across some clips of Mr. Wonderful that I couldn’t click past. Imagine my shock when I saw him doing interview after interview after interview not about just shareholder value and cash flows, but also about the importance of hiring people who can tell the business story.  

At 2A, we congratulate Mr. Wonderful on his breakthrough, and we wholeheartedly agree that a business needs to be able to tell the right story to the right people in order to get traction with customers. Because, while businesses need positive cash flows and savvy leaders, they also need a heart and a history—that’s what the right story provides.  

It’s a shark-eat-shark world out there. If you find your products or services aren’t reeling in the cash the way you planned, maybe you need to cast a stronger storyline to catch some attention.   

By Abby Breckenridge

Thank you, Renato

Renato is leaving 2A. This is a big deal for us and comes with so many emotions.  

There is no doubt we’ll miss him. Renato started 2A on his own back in 2010, then Daniel and I joined him a few years later. It’s that entrepreneurial spirit, the sauce that emboldened him to start 2A, that we’ll miss the most. He brings the guts it takes to break out on his own, paired with the vision to see how something can be made from nothing. That, his sunny sense of humor, and his deep commitment to caring for the people around him will leave the biggest legacy.  

I’ll always remember the first time Daniel, Renato, and I got together. It was a breezy summer dinner around a fiery grill in my backyard, after Renato and I had finished the MBA program at Foster and Daniel had moved to Seattle with his girlfriend (my childhood friend). It was a lot of fun, included a lot of wine, and set the stage for the fruitful relationship we now share.  

Since then, the three of us have led 2A through countless wins and humbling challenges—a journey that looks more like a doodle than a straight line. From a team of four to almost 40. From one amazing client to over 40. From a shared room in a to-be-torn-down house, to 6,000 square feet on Capitol Hill. And from the youthful idea that all the steps are laid out in front of us to a more seasoned view that plans are just that.   

What we do know is that 2A, the team, Daniel, and I are all stronger because of Renato. We also know this change is a great move for all of us. Daniel and I will get to flex our skills in new directions as Renato’s departure, even with all the planning, will surely leave gaps. There’s an ocean of new possibilities for Renato as he unleashes his entrepreneurial spirit toward new ventures. And while our partnership in 2A is over, breezy backyard dinners around a fire will surely continue.  

By Joe Belcher

2A’s favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond

Image by Rachel Adams

I look forward to coffee shops a little more as we head into fall, my favorite of the four seasons. Something about pants, a warm sweater or light jacket, and a walk to Ampersand on Alki Beach for a half-caf Americano with one cream and one sugar. And on the weekends, I treat myself to the homemade biscuit, egg, and bacon breakfast sandwich. Battling the dad bod, I limit myself to one per week. 

As we continue to face the challenges with COVID-19, we continue to support and enjoy our local coffee shops. Masks, takeout, outdoor seating. In fall, we get to enjoy the walk. Not too hot. Not too cold. A little exercise. A little coffee. Two wonderful things to keep you moving. 

My local favorite is Ampersand on Alki Beach in West Seattle. I like the Kona beans, the chef’s homemade biscuits, and any of the food he makes. 

2A employees are in the Seattle area but also reach other parts of the country. Let’s look at some of our favorite coffee shops from Seattle and beyond. Give them a try! 

203 Degrees Fahrenheit (Kirkland, WA) – Cozy place to study, outdoor seating by a fire and fun specialty drinks like a Latte with Rachel’s Lavender. – Tammy Monson 

Alexandras Macarons and café in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) – Alexandra herself is super nice. The croissants are fresh-baked every morning – and if you catch ‘em right out of the oven you will never look back. Plus, on Thursdays they have amazing pizza. So basically, good coffee and bread-based things, all I really need in life. – Guy Schoonmaker  

I want to second Alexandras and say that their focaccia is the best! – Sarah Silva 

Caffé Fiore in Sunset Hill (Seattle, WA) Granted it was the closest coffee shop I could walk to, but it is a cute little corner coffee shop at the top of the steps to Golden Gardens Park. It had delicious drip coffee and a variety of tasty treats. They have nice big Adirondack chairs out front that you can sit in and enjoy a pick me up. – Rachel Adams 

The Coffee Scene (Fayetteville, NC) Indoor and outdoor seating, great coffee drinks, great snacks, and a bonus for hot Fayetteville – gelato! – Forsyth Alexander 

Cultivate Coffee & Tap House (Ypsilanti, MI) An amazing place to work quietly on your own projects or meet up with friends from morning ‘til night. My go-to coffee drink there was a black walnut latte, which I had not seen before and have not seen since. – Kimberly Mass 

Fresh Flours in Phinney Ridge (Seattle, WA) Nourish with my fave granola, treat with a citrus-forward macaron, indulge in a green tea muffin, and caffeinate in all the ways. Ted and I are boring and just get Americanos. But I see people getting very fussy with their oat-golden-milks and… smells great. – Annie Wegrich 

Kaladi Brothers in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) the vibes are amazing, the baristas are cooler than you will ever be, and the playlist is great. Very queer + trans friendly. Based in Alaska. – Annie Unruh 

Luck Bros Coffee in Grandview Heights (Columbus, OH) Here’s a C-bus local. Small-batch roasted coffees run by a serious coffee enthusiast. – Kelly Schermer 

Espresso Vivace in Capitol Hill (Seattle, WA) My fav! It’s just a coffee sidewalk bar focused entirely on making the best cup of espresso. – Daniel Schmeichler  

By Annie Wegrich

image of an octopus with headphones

Image by Annie Unruh

The words “I see two” really shook up our plans last year when the doctor told us that our future baby was actually going to be babies. Twins. We were already the elated parents of an almost one-year-old. Fast forward nine months, and we plunged into the waters of three tiny kiddos and only two arms. So, we came up with a simple solution: become an octopus. With 8 arms, we could hold three little ones, cook dinner, and maybe brush our hair. “Octopus” is now a household verb (“I’m going for a run, can you Octopus?”).

All of our worlds changed significantly in the last year, and we’ve all had to shake up the way we do things. We’re balancing working from home with disrupted childcare, dog walks, and a new reliance on takeout. Thank goodness for the podcast, right? An on-the-go, always-on way to hear news, learn something new, and keep up with the cool kids. With no time, and no hands, short episodes of my favorite podcasts shook up my way of engaging with what’s important to me.

From 0 hands to 8 arms – with 2 earbuds

Which takes me to: Podcasts are the octopuses of marketing, and your employees and customers are listening. As a marketer, podcasts enable you to extend your reach and wrap your tentacles around your over-taxed audience. Swim with me while I share an eight-armed answer to why you should add a podcast series to your marketing ocean (and dive deeper if your toe is in the podcast water.)

  1. Podcasts make marketing personal and allow you to share your story or pump your products in a way that feels one-on-one to your listener.
  2. You enable your audience to engage on their terms, and likely, on their phones, while commuting, doing chores around the house, or working out. You are not inconveniencing them or interfering with their schedules—a major plus for those with busy lives.
  3. Podcasts are a great medium for establishing thought leadership and highlighting your expertise in the market via a series of entertaining, deep-dive stories.
  4. Each episode has a purpose, whether you’re interviewing a different industry expert, highlighting a company value or success story, or guiding your customers through new features, each episode in a podcast series can serve to educate and inspire your listeners.
  5. Subscribers automatically get new episodes as you publish for easy, continued engagement.
  6. Podcasts are as versatile as a mollusk and appropriate for stories targeted at prospective or current customers, industry experts, or even broadcast internally to your employees.
  7. Audio is an accessible option for the vision impaired or anyone with screen fatigue.
  8. 80% of listeners finish podcast episodes and when they’re done, these listeners can follow you on social and re-share your content.

2A knows octopuses

2A can help you create your marketing octopuses. Podcasts are swimmingly delightful stories, and we’re storytellers who know how to make a splash. Whether you want to teach customers something new, speak with authority to product power-users, share technical insights, or tell company stories, we’re here to help.

Ready to dive in? Connect with us!

By Melanie Hodgman, Michaela Ayers

Image of a street with the words

Image credit to the members of the Vivid Matter Collective

When our lives were disrupted by COVID-19, out went the well-worn grooves of daily routines and life as we knew it. That disruption, combined with the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, and George Floyd were a catalyst for expanding how 2A incorporates diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) into the fabric of the organization. Recognizing we needed outside expertise, we turned to Michaela Ayers, founder of the social impact organization Nourish.

From my first phone call with Michaela, I knew Nourish’s approach of incorporating human-centered design, action learning, and anti-racism principles into her DEI solutions was a good fit for 2A. Her background as a facilitator and artist brings a depth and beauty to her bespoke workshops. Her trainings met us where we were–individually and as a company—and brought us along what can be an uncomfortable journey of learning and practicing anti-racism and inclusion.

We have taken the resources, tools, and language from our first Nourish workshop series to center DEI more consistently across the company. It’s in our recruiting strategies, hiring process, onboarding, internal mentorship opportunities, and spaces to talk about racism and exclusion with colleagues. As one employee commented in their workshop feedback, “The biggest thing I have learned in all these trainings is that working against racism and building a company that is inclusive will be something I do forever. It’s not one initiative, it’s part of every initiative.”

So, what’s next for 2A and for Nourish? At 2A we are collectively working towards meeting the DEI goals we set last summer and looking forward to our next engagement with Nourish in the fall with a focus on power & privilege, and inclusive allyship during two all-team workshops.

I reached out to Michaela to find out what’s on the horizon for Nourish, and they are busy!

They have just successfully completed a crowdfunding campaign that will allow them to take their service offerings to the next level while continuing to serve corporations and communities through facilitation and consulting. 

They are working towards the development of an online learning platform that would support both individuals and organizations who want to deepen their understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism. Nourish is committed to making these courses artful, accessible, and doable so more people can be a part of building equitable and inclusive communities. 

Outside of the e-learning platform, Nourish is also laying the groundwork to become the first DEI employee-owned cooperative. An employee-owned cooperative is a values-driven business that puts worker and community benefit at the core of its purpose. This democratic business model would allow Nourish to expand its consulting services, take on larger projects, and most importantly build wealth through cooperation.  

While the future remains uncertain, we can’t deny that this is a potent moment where we get to redefine what normal looks like. We’re looking forward to the evolution of Nourish and can’t wait to see what happens next!

Not knowing where to start the work of anti-racism isn’t an excuse not to begin. Thankfully, organizations like Nourish are there to guide us on our journey.

By Tammy Monson

Image of a notebook. The left hand page says

Image by Thad Allen

Parenting my daughters is one of my greatest joys. I fully embrace being a mom and savor each stage my kids enter with new enthusiasm and wonder (including pregnancy, newborn sleepless nights, and most recently the transition to adulthood!).

Over the last 9 years, I have primarily worked out of my home office as a program manager and enjoy modeling the balance of a career and parenting for my kids. Starting a new role as a program manager at 2A helped me realize how much parenting has taught me about program management.

Flexibility is the name of the game in parenting. Plans can be made, but rarely end up just the way we envision. The camping trip that gets sidelined by a surprise fever the morning of departure, the hurt feelings that cause us to pause and process, or the homework assigned that isn’t uploading correctly and misses the turn-in deadline. These unexpected changes translate well to project management life—another round of revisions, changes in the scope of work, an idea that seemed to flow great at first that no longer hits the mark—it is all about being able to adjust, pivot, and recalibrate when necessary.

Organization is the oil that keeps the engine running smoothly. In today’s world where we are fighting busyness and overcommitted lifestyles, maintaining personal health, the health of your children, and simplicity at home require lots of organization. In project management, identifying all the steps and actions from start to finish is the first step in getting organized. Creating a timeline, gathering resources, communicating set-backs, and following up on feed-back all keep the project organized. That translates to a satisfied client and repeat business.

Communication is the key to successful relationships. Although teenagers may not always seem like they enjoy communicating with you, it truly is the anchor in the ebb and flow of their day-to-day lives. Similarly in project management, ample communication helps all collaborators on a project. Consistent communication keeps the project on time, the team on the same page, and clients feeling heard.

Parenting is not always easy, but it brings so much joy. The same is true for a well-managed project—there is nothing more rewarding than a great team and happy clients at the end of a successful project.

By Nora Bright

3 lessons from Top Chef about B2B content marketing

Image by Thad Allen

I started my job at 2A the same week Top Chef: Portland premiered. Though I love to cook, I somehow missed the popular cooking competition until quarantine, and have binged through more seasons than I’d like to admit. While we’re all at home just trying to get by, there’s something inspiring about watching the show’s chefs strive to achieve their dreams.

While watching the premier I was struck by the parallels between creating a winning dish that will delight the Top Chef judges and crafting a content marketing piece that will make potential customers hungry for more. Here are three lessons from Top Chef that can be applied to B2B content creation:

1. Don’t forget the challenge

It’s heartbreaking when a contestant makes an incredible dish but ends up on the chopping block because they lost sight of the challenge. Like, thanks for the truffle mashed potatoes but how does that relate to Edo-period Japan…?

In content creation, it’s essential to keep your eyes on the prize. Whether you’re generating leads or educating customers, your content must help you achieve your business goals.

2. Highlight what makes you special

A common pitfall for Top Chef contestants is to cook food that seems worthy of a win, instead of the food that brings out their passion and unique stories. Adrienne on Top Chef: Colorado struggled when she tried to mimic other contestants, and finally got the attention of the judges when she got back to her roots.

When crafting content, stand out from the competition with assets that convey your company’s unique expertise and brand.

3. Be realistic

Foie gras terrine. Chicken Ballantine. Handmade ravioli. These are all dishes that got Top Chef contestants eliminated who weren’t realistic about time constraints.

Creating content can be time- and resource-intensive. Instead of good intentions leading to something sub-par because you lack the in-house resources, how about bringing in 2A?

Does this mean my many hours watching chefs vie to become culinary champions was not all for naught? It’s hard to say, but I sure did learn a thing or two about making great work, whether that means salt-crusted snapper or an ebook on the merits of cloud-native applications.

By Liz Mangini

Wonder Team activates to deliver superhuman marketing solutions

Image by Thad Allen

While chatting with a Microsoft marketing lead recently, I heard about a presentation challenge that’s all too common. She told me it was difficult to create slides that serve two purposes—supporting presenters and flying solo without commentary. Either the deck would be too dense and full of text, or lack enough information for readers to understand the story.

She asked me, “How do I provide enough context, tell the full story, and frame it all on a limited number of slides?”

At 2A, we get it!

When it comes to solutions, the 1970s extraterrestrial superhero duo comes to mind—The Wonder Twins. They activated their superpowers by touching hands and saying, “Wonder Twin powers, activate!” Zan metamorphosed into a form, and Jayna into a shape. Together, they solved any problem and always saved the day.

Although 2A storytellers and designers may not be from another planet, their creative expertise is out of this world! Storytellers magically form ideas into impactful copy and designers shape concepts into appealing visuals. Together, they transform words and shapes into a compelling story that resonates and drives action.

In fact, 2A is composed of more than the Wonder Twins (storytellers and designers). We have a Wonder Team, which also includes whip-smart, innovative consultants, program managers, and developers.

Whether you need help with a pitch deck, case study, video, eBook, or messaging framework, the Wonder Team works with you to understand your challenges and goals. Then, we strategize to come up with simple, innovative solutions that empower you to deliver successful business outcomes.

Do you need a Wonder Team?

We are ready to activate!

By Katy Nally

Cats off to a new kind of eBook

Image by Brandon Conboy

Welcome to the feral world of eBooks—where even the way you write “eBook” can get catty (is it ebook, Ebook, e-book, or eBook?!) First off, many clients confuse eBooks with whitepapers. The former delivers a high-level taste of your product while the latter provides a technical deep dive. And once you finally sort out the deliverable you want, there are many ways to get eBooks wrong, leaving customers disappointed that they handed over their email addresses for a supposedly juicy asset.

The biggest mistake? Content that sends readers straight into a cat nap. They’re longwinded duds. The main points may be there, but readers had to slog through 20 pages to find them. And the next biggest mistake? The story doesn’t connect to the reader’s needs. Without relevant context as to why someone should care, m-architecture diagrams—no matter how beautiful—just won’t land.

Our eBook breakthrough: informative ≠ boring

eBooks can be exciting! Ours take you on big cat adventures and still land the main points. Fancy Feast that! For instance, in our eBook about a NoSQL database, we thought, how about a cat hotel to explain the nuances across database models and entice the audience to dig in—right meow!

While we could write cat puns all day long, for an eBook to land, it has to be built on a solid framework.

Our eBooks are like catnip because:

  • We break down tough concepts: Technology is complicated, but your audience shouldn’t need a PhD to understand how your product works. We break down the technical concepts—and sometimes bring in the purrfect metaphor—so anyone can understand how it works.
  • We grow the flow: There’s always more to the story than just product specs. We keep readers engaged with a narrative that’s easy to follow and doesn’t break the flow with a million marketing benefits or buzzword soup.
  • We put it in context: If the audience doesn’t know why they should care, then a marketer somewhere should be fired. We frame the benefits of your product in a way that resonates with the reader.

So how about an eBook as thrilling as a laser pointer darting along the floor?

Take the leap and land safely with 2A.

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.