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Valerie Brown-Dufour | President | WSI

WSI: Making a Difference to Businesses Globally

As the business world gets more competitive with every passing day, digital marketing is helping businesses gain a competitive edge in the marketplace, regardless of their size or industry. Today, digital marketing is no longer limited to promoting, ranking, or optimizing an organization’s web presence. Instead, successful digital marketing strategies take a more humancentric approach and focus on tailoring content, messaging, and ad targeting based on consumer needs, wants, and personal engagement.

As a full-service digital marketing agency, WSI has helped over 100,000 businesses execute on every level of digital marketing. Headquartered in Toronto, Canada, WSI was founded in 1995 and began franchising its proven digital marketing system a short time after that. Now, over 25 years later, it has hundreds of successful independent digital marketing consultants and agencies across the globe.

WSI operates in a perpetually evolving industry, so it has gone through various changes over the years. When the company first started, it focused on website design and development. But after more than two decades, WSI offers a full suite of digital marketing services.

The Franchise Universe caught up with Valerie Brown-Dufour, President of WSI, to discuss the changing landscape of the business sector and how WSI brings stability by being a trusted digital marketing partner to businesses worldwide.

Below are the highlights of the interview:

Describe your popular services/products that make WSI standout from the competition.

In the digital marketing industry, you’ll find many agencies or technologies that specialize in one or a few areas of digital. WSI is a results-driven, full-service digital marketing agency, which means we can offer a more complete digital marketing strategy to our clients, one that can be comprised of different digital tactics – depending on the need of the business.

Some of our most popular services include web design and development, online advertising, search engine optimization (SEO) and social media. But when it comes to putting a digital strategy together for our clients, we don’t always go with what’s “most popular”. Instead, we take a consultative approach to first understand our client, their business, and their business goals before translating and aligning that to an online digital strategy. This strategy-first methodology makes us different from a lot of the marketing agencies or technology companies out there.

As a business leader, what is your opinion on the impact of the current pandemic on the service industry?

The service industry is a broad category. But as it relates to WSI, the current pandemic has reestablished our WSI Consultants and agencies as being much more than just a digital resource for their clients. We have been pivotal in helping some businesses not only navigate COVID-19 but survive it.

So many of our clients needed such things as updates to their site (i.e. the addition of ecommerce functionality) or new campaigns to reach their customers in the midst of the pandemic.

We’ve always been a trusted advisor or partner to our clients by consulting on where they need to pivot and adapt. And this type of marketing guidance was in high demand over the last year, for sure.

What is your opinion on the necessity for businesses to align their offerings with newer technological developments?

Generally speaking, if something isn’t broken, why fix it? But, having said that, if COVID has taught us anything, its businesses can’t afford to drag their feet on technological advancements. Of course, we’re not suggesting that they have to be on the cutting edge of the latest and greatest innovations. But, they need to adapt their marketing strategies based on changing consumer behaviors to remain competitive.

Newer tech developments can also make a business more efficient and save them money (for example, adding smart chatbots driven by AI (artificial intelligence) to your website or adding automation to your sales and marketing processes).

We would never guide our clients to adopt technologies that they don’t need, but in the digital marketing space, there are so many changes happening that you can’t turn a blind eye if you want to market your brand online effectively.

How are your digital marketing solutions making a difference in the lives of businesses?

I love this question, as it really speaks to the heart of why we do what we do at WSI.

This need to make a difference in our clients’ lives is a core component of who we are as a brand and our goal of unlocking a world of possibility for the businesses we work with. Our purpose is not only about delivering our clients an extra hundred leads every day or thousands of more website visitors every month. We want to change our clients’ lives by growing their businesses, and maximizing their success.

In your opinion, what is the importance of positive work culture, and how are you implementing that at WSI?

At no other time has the importance of a positive work culture been so paramount than through the health crisis of the pandemic. Not only does a positive work culture impact productivity, but it is also the cornerstone of talent retention.

Luckily, our workforce, franchisees, and our franchisees’ staff were well-positioned to quickly move to a remote working environment and were not massively impacted by this change.

Nonetheless, there are many practices we have intentionally adopted to engender a positive work culture. We recognize and celebrate our team living our values at our weekly huddles, hold regular check-ins and quarterly conversations with our team members, and leverage technologies like Facebook Workplace and Slack to facilitate better communication.

From a larger organization perspective, we have also cultivated a strong sense of community across all members of our network. At WSI, we’re more than a group of individuals; we’re a family – and it’s this feeling of family that drives our positive work culture and sets WSI apart in many ways.

As an established leader, what would be your advice to the budding entrepreneurs aspiring to venture into the service industry?

Regardless of the industry, here is what I would say are the three main things all aspiring entrepreneurs need to have:

  • Support – make sure you have a good support system. This can be your family or friends or even a network of other entrepreneurs.
  • Passion – when it comes to venturing into the services industry, you must have a burning passion and desire to want to help others. You cannot take your eye off of the customer – ultimately, nothing else matters.
  • Mindset – your confidence and mindset touches everything you are involved in and is a significant component of being success-driven.

Beyond that, as the President of a franchise opportunity, I would be remiss if I didn’t say, if you are looking to start your own business, consider a franchise. Franchisors spend a lot of time and money building their brand, honing their service offering, and developing their systems and processes, so you don’t have to. It is a great entry point into entrepreneurship.

How do you envision sustaining your company’s competency in a cutthroat and volatile world of business? Where do you see your company in the next five years?

Talent. Growing talent. Nurturing talent. At the heart of any business is people. If we can continually attract and develop our team and their skills, I am confident that WSI and our service offering will remain competitive in the fast-paced digital marketing industry.

When it comes to the next five years, I see us continuing to help more clients transform their business growth through digital marketing. Advancements in digital will continue to happen, and innovation across our industry will continue to drive businesses to digitally transform more and more each year.

At WSI, we champion this constant reinvention and changing landscape of business, institutions, and society, and we are excited for the years to come.

Client’s testimonial:

“This has allowed us to thrive during a difficult time. Not only have we increased our sales revenue, but we have also strengthened our relationships with our customers by offering online purchasing. Most importantly, we have been able to keep all of our staff working and provide job opportunities in the community during a time of uncertainty.” Joel Van Beek – Van Beek’s Landscape Supply

Franchisee’s testimonial:

“WSI as a franchise is very good. If I wasn’t part of a franchise, I would be like any “Basement Bob”, running a business without a solid understanding of what is going on in the industry. With the franchise and the WSI community behind me, I know how to serve my clients.” – Jukka Jumisko, New Mexico, US