Brent and Sara MacIssac didn’t set out to build a marketing agency. Hell, they didn’t even really set out to become influencers.
When the couple dreamed up Dashboard Living over scotch at a Bedford bar five years ago, they simply wanted to build an audience—and maybe one day use it to support a business that didn’t even exist yet.
Nearly 30 thousand social media followers later, however, a lot has changed.
Brent And Sara’s Instagram & Facebook pages, Dashboard Living, now serve as one of the most popular travel blogs in Nova Scotia.
It blew up a few years ago during their “100 Days of Nova Scotia” campaign, where the couple produced 100 videos over 100 days, showcasing travel destinations in the province.
Before long, Brent explains, brands were paying him and Sara to promote their products and services.
“Our audience was booking rooms, buying the products we talked about, and converting from fans to customers for our partners. We were, to our surprise, influencers,” he says.
That success eventually allowed both Brent and Sara to quit their corporate jobs and dedicate full-time to Dashboard Living.
Soon, other businesses started asking them for advice on building their own audiences, just like Dashboard did. From there it only made sense to grow Dashboard Living into a marketing agency.
“We became accidental influencers who became an accidental agency, and now we’re a deliberate hybrid of both,” Sara explains with a laugh.
Both Brent and Sara have backgrounds in corporate marketing, so it’s no surprise they were able to build a successful brand. Now, they say, they want to help other small businesses harness the power of modern marketing.
“Because we are in both worlds, that’s a serious advantage for our clients. We have the influencer perspective and the agency perspective,” Sara says.
Brent explains that a good marketing mix is essential in the modern media environment. Businesses want to make sure they have multiple touchpoints across multiple platforms to get their message across.
“Using our approach allows businesses to target their content strategy to the right audience, to be able to work with people on their email, work with people on their websites, all these different types of touchpoints, and it makes a stronger holistic approach,” he says.
“A lot of people get excited about the shiny, flashy social media posts but it’s only part of an effective modern marketing mix,” Sara adds.
She says social media posts are only a short-term strategy. It’s why, at Dashboard, they focus on both strong social media messaging and the business’s long-term marketing strategies including customer journey mapping and deliberate content marketing.
“Long-term strategies, quite frankly, aren’t as sexy, but they’re more effective for the longevity of any campaign in terms of being efficient with your marketing dollars,” she says.
Brent says the biggest thing he learned building Dashboard Living into a successful brand is that you sometimes have to be willing to repel people who aren’t your ideal audience in order to connect with those who are.
A fairly guarded and conservative person himself, he jokes that “people always liked Sara much more than me.”
It was only once he started showing more of his authentic self on Dashboard Living (and risking alienating a few folks along the way) that more people started responding positively.
He says that’s an important lesson for businesses trying to market themselves today.
“We learned that what everyone else is doing at any given time isn’t usually the best strategy for any particular brand, which is why we do things differently,” he says.