On this episode, we’re talking to Joelly Lang about the ups and downs that led to her transformation into the “Branding Badass,” and a master in the art of promotional sales.
How did she go from “Zero to Hero” in this industry? That’s the topic of today’s Success Stories discussion.
A Transcript For The Readers:
So Joelly, welcome to the Success Stories podcast!
Thanks, Marshall. I’m completely excited to be here. Thank you for asking.
Just so fantastic to talk to you. And what’s really fun here is that we connected via Twitter. Know how many people do that?
You know, it’s interesting because on Twitter, I mean, with all social media, I’m very I to make a point of connecting with people who connect with me.
Right. I mean, that’s really a big thing. So I think I did a post and then you made a comment and then I reached out to you and then you said, let’s talk
Right. Yes. All, all of my, a lot of my connections in quite a few of my customers have come from just that type of thing. The secret is all in the direct messaging.
The secret is always in starting those conversations and recognizing that social media is about being social.
…and connecting for sure. Yup.
Yup. Right. So you ready to get started with some questions?
I am. And here we are. I’m on your podcast.
I know it’s exciting. All right. Here’s here’s the first one. And you know, I’ve often found that a great place to start is simply with, just with someone’s origin story.
So how did you get into this industry? What was your background and how did that evolve into what you’re doing now?
Well, it’s quite a story. Um, my background is probably like a lot of people had different, many different things. I started off. My first real job. And I say real job, because back when I was in university, I used to be a waitress.
And I tell a lot of people that was actually my first sales job and tips for my commission. Right. And you don’t think of that at the time, but now looking back. So my first real job was in advertising. Um, I went to university in Ontario. And I have to ask the university. I haven’t been traveling for two years.
I took off, I was only going to go for a year actually by myself. And I took off and I was going to spend a year traveling all through Australia, Europe, and Southeast Asia, my land in Australia, and within a little timeframe, I met a boy and I ended up, um, we worked together anyway. I was gone for two years.
Incredible experience. And I was lucky because my waitressing and bartending, I was able to do that. So I was working and traveling and then I came back to Canada and I honestly didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but I have, my family sort of background is in advertising. My dad had, was a president of a printing company.
And my brother is in advertising, so I really came back and it was my brother who said, “you know, you’ve just had this incredible experience. You have a great story to tell you, come from a creative family. Why don’t you get into advertising?”
So I’m like, okay, you already put together a book. I actually, so when I came back to Canada, the boy that I met was cause I’m originally from Montreal.
So I moved to Edmonton. My parents were not thrilled at all about that. Moved to Edmonton. I put together this book, I didn’t know what I was doing. And I literally went knocking on this is, don’t forget. This is back in 92. So this is before Google. This is before cell phones before the internet.
I literally put together this paper book and went knocking on doors when, and the yellow pages, men, some of the younger listeners won’t even know what those are like through the pages.
And the biggest as for me met the best and biggest companies and I knocked on doors and I went to this one agency and he hired me as a copywriter. And he told me after he’s like, I hired you because you sold yourself, you know? And I’m pretty persistent.
So anyway, I, I worked in advertising. I worked there for a couple of years, then I moved to Calgary and I got a job at an agency here.
And then I worked at a few pretty reputable ad agencies in Calgary as a copywriter. And I did well. I wasn’t great at it. I mean, I did, Okay.
And I, you know, I’d wake up in the morning and I wasn’t incredibly passionate about it. You know, I’d wake up and. Go to work. And I just thought this is like, is this what I’m going to do for the rest of my life?
So I did that for six years and went to a few, I think I was at three different agencies. And then by the last agency, I was like, I need to make a change. So I went back to Montreal and I remember talking to my dad and didn’t know what I want to be when I grow up. And now I think I was in my thirties.
Give you a little idea of how old I am. And again, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I came back to Calgary and I love people and I love networking. So I literally would talk to one person, have coffee and they would say, you know, you should talk to so-and-so and then I would talk to that person. And they would say, you should talk to that person.
And people were so helpful. Never even heard of this industry. I didn’t know much about it. Like nothing, you know, you don’t know what you don’t know until you’re in it. And then you start seeing hats and logos everywhere. Right. So I ended up just through networking, someone recommended, I talked to this person and I did some research and I’m like, Oh, that could be fun.
And again, so then when I did, so when I found an industry that I wanted to be in because people are like, you should go in sales, you know, you’re good with people. And then it’s like, well, I don’t want to sell cell phones, but I want to sell photocopiers what am I going to sell? You know? And so then I learned about this industry and how much fun it is and how it’s such a big industry that we really don’t know, but, and then I asked her the same thing. I went in the yellow pages. I looked at the biggest ads who were the biggest as, and those were the company I was going to hit up, no experience again, and knocked on doors. And it was down to two companies. Two of the biggest at the time, at best in my mind.
And I was just persistent. And the reason I went with the company that I ended up with because I didn’t have a car yet. And so they were closer to my house cause I was like, I’m not kidding. And so they, he hired me. He was really generous because I had zero experience, but I was tenacious and persistent and I guess that’s what you need in sales.
And so he hired me and I was very fortunate. I was single and just was able to give a hundred percent of my time to it. This was a 90, Oh gosh, 99 maybe. And I worked my way up and I was very lucky because a really good girlfriend of mine, who I worked with at an ad agency had. two jobs. And she ended up working for a big national company and she was one of my first clients.
So like, literally I think when I, in my first year, my, one of my first order was like, you know, huge.
Yeah. It’s always interesting when you have the end on something and you can build on that success because that’s the social proof that you’re doing it, right?
Yeah. Well, and you know what? Ignorance is bliss, as they say when you don’t know what you don’t know, you just go ahead and do what you think is right. And sometimes it works. So, yeah.
So talk about, you’re at Genumark…and how did you get into that company and what do you actually do? And who are your clients kind of now, where are you kind of focused on?
So I was with that original company for probably I guess, two years.
And then, um, you know, there were some things that were happening within the organization and I’ve always been very professional and always want to work. You know, I have this mindset, if you want to be the best. At what you do, you need to work with the messes, frying yourself with the best. And there were some things that were going on in that company that, um, weren’t kosher.
So I was like, okay, I need to get out of here. And it was perfect timing because in January Genumark just was opening up their office in Calgary.
They weren’t called Genumark at the time they were another name. And I was friends with one of the multiline reps and I grabbed them, brought my office, and said, if you hear of anybody hiring, like I need to leave.
And he literally was like, your timing is amazing. Big company, that’s opening up in Calgary. And I went in and interviewed him. They hired me and it was great. And I’ve been there now almost 20 years. And so it was, you know, and anyone who’s in this industry, whenever you leave a company, there’s always a risk of not having your clients follow you.
Right. That’s everybody’s biggest fear. I didn’t have that fear really because AI had really good relationships. My clients. And I didn’t have a non-compete, which I know a lot of people do right now is that’s a big challenge too. And also a really good friend of mine is a lawyer. And when I left, she helped me write my resignation letter and down to the penny of what I was old.
So it was really strict. Like there were no issues went over and that, you know, of course, some of my clients, it was a bit harder. But most of them eventually came with me and, and I really, my career really started to take off actually when I went to January. So I didn’t leave too much behind. And then I just sort of went up from there and, and, you know, it was a steady climb and I worked my butt off and I got some great clients and a couple of, as they call them, I guess, like big whales.
And it was, I was very fortunate, and yeah…
Joelly, how important is it to have the support of the company that you’re selling for, you know, with the right tools and the right help with your art department. And I need help on some ideas or copywriting, or I need, I need to go to that meeting that, you know, so I got to get on a plane, you know, cause some people don’t want you to do any of that or they don’t give you those that support.
So how important is that?
To be honest with you. I mean, Genumark is a team, family effort. It’s never, I never feel like I’m doing anything by myself. I mean, everything from the president, all the way down to the support staff, we’re all in this together and everything that we do, sorry to be so cliche, but it’s true.
And you know, I’d never done an RFP alone. I’ve always had such a huge support to do that. And yeah. Everything from writing orders to, um, sound everything. It’s, it’s always a team effort. So I don’t know how I would do it. I’ve had a lot of people actually ask me, you know, why don’t you go on your own? Why don’t you start your own business, blah, blah, blah?
And I’m like because I honestly don’t think I can do it on my own because I rely so much on the support of everyone in accounting, creative, you know, uh, coordinators, everybody.
Teamwork makes the dream work.
Huh? Did you write that?
One of the things I really liked about you was discovering that you are the self-described “branding bad-ass.”
So where did that come from? How are you using that to your advantage?
Well, here’s the thing, Marshall, I mean, true story. Well, there’s a couple of things. One is how I came up with the actual name is I, you know, I told you sort of my climb to success, but I didn’t tell you my downtime, my downturn. Um, so I need to share that with you because it’s important and why I came up with this name, you know, everything was on the upclimb and I was doing really well and succeeding, and my sales were amazing. And I think I was top sales in Western Canada for like 13 years and life was just going perfect and great.
And then 2014-15 happened. Everything changed.
o I live in Alberta, um, and 2015 oil place or oil prices. And so I literally lost, you know, like almost a million-dollar client overnight at the same time, my husband and I, who were together, 16 years split. So I was a newly single mom with two young kids, no financial support.
I was the one who I’m actually paying my ex and I was making like 100% commission. So when you’re not selling, you’re not earning. So it was brutal. It was a horrible, horrible, horrible year.
And I couldn’t, you know, mindset is everything. And I couldn’t even focus on my work too. Get myself out of this hole.
So the hole is getting deeper and deeper and deeper. And this is, you know, you talk about support. I mean, this is where Genumark really was amazing because when I was, you know, at the top of my game and my sales are off the charts and I mean, it was great. They were supportive and they incentivize and celebrated me.
But when I was at the deepest part of my life, they were supportive and whatever you need we’re here. Don’t worry about it. You know? I mean, that was pretty amazing. I have to say.
So that was tough. And so then for, from 2015, until today it’s been a real struggle or up until just probably before COVID, it’s been a real struggle.
I started a side business actually in 2017 to help supplement my income because again, I’ve got two kids and as I’ve said, all-commission, everyone who does that knows how hard that is. Right. And I just, I knew I need to do something and I’m, I’m a fighter. So I got another job on the side and Genumark was cool with that and it was all online.
So that’s fine. And then, um, you know, I sort of when, before COVID hit or maybe when COVID hit, I actually just before COVID I actually was contemplating leaving the industry.
Because I thought I cannot continue a hundred percent commission. I need to support my kids. My side job is not full-time and I was, you know, looking at options and I had people reach out to me with offers and everything.
And so I really was like, what am I going to do when I grow up? Now I’m in my fifties. Right. And I’m asking that same question starting over. So I, uh, I started taking some time and I, I thought, you know, I haven’t really given a hundred percent to Genumark in the last. You know, for years, I know it. I know, I know what I can do and I wasn’t doing it because of my mindset and everything else.
So, I cannot leave and walk away until I give the same thing to my marriage. You know, I couldn’t leave my marriage until I gave it 200%. Right. And only then can I walk away?
So I couldn’t walk away from this without knowing I gave that, you know, everything. So I decided with my mindset and I said, that’s it.
I’m going to give this 200% of my commitment, everything that I have. And if I still can’t climb back up to where I was, then I need to look at it again. Because again, when you have people, depending on you, you have to make some hard choices. So I rebranded myself as a Branding Bad-ass I read an amazing book.
I don’t know if you know, Jen Sincero, and she wrote a book called “You Are a BadAss” and it really talks about, you know, You can do anything, but you need to go. If you want to go and change your life, you need to change your actions. I mean, I’m paraphrasing, but I decided, okay. And mindset was everything.
And so I decided to dig in and do a lot of social media marketing go back to prospecting. I hadn’t, you know, I had a proper, I mean, when I was, I had an assistant and I never promised I didn’t prospect for years because I was too busy. Right. And you know, a big lesson, don’t put all your eggs in one basket because when that basket breaks you’re screwed.
And that was me. And so I learned that lesson. So I’ve, you know, I’ve learned a lot of things and I’ve learned to also diversify, not just as far as, you know, my mind was always Alberta, Alberta, Alberta. And I realized like we are so virtual that I have the world, like when North America to work with now.
So I’ve been, you know, my, my, um, territory, so to speak is. Inter like all over North America. So I have new clients now that I’ve created it or I’ve developed in Toronto. And then you have clients in New York and I have clients in all over because you’re not limited. Everything right now is virtual. We have amazing technology, Genumark.
So Branding BadAss when I decided mentally to change my attitude and to change my brand and to give it, then I’m like, okay, so I need to start a Twitter account. I need to start a new Instagram account. You know, I was like, starting fresh, starting over. And so I went on Twitter and I’m like, okay, what should I call myself?
And I’m looking for, and I am like brand, and I think that’s great about Twitter is that. You can’t have any duplicates, right? It’s the is taken and taken and you can’t use it. So I was playing around with branding and then I was like, first I start off with bad-ass because I feel like I’m a bad-ass because when I read about, you know, what is a people asked me, like, well, what’s a, bad-ass what makes you a badass?
You know, and I think as someone who is authentic, who, someone who never gives up, you know, you speak your mind. I’m, I’ve been known for being pretty blunt and speaking, my mind has gotten me into trouble, but. So I wanted that word in there and then I want a branding. So I started off with badass brand being, and then just, and then I typed in branding bad-ass and Twitter, and there was none.
And I was like, that’s it. And so I that’s how, and then I changed my handle on Instagram and now LinkedIn and I just started going full steam ahead and I’m like a dog and a ball, a dog with a bone, you know, like I don’t give up. And here I am and I’m working really hard to get back to where I was. Uh, it’s not easy, but I am so excited and, uh, I have a whole, I’ve got my mojo back and I lost that two years.
It’s amazing how the mental and your core strength has to come from the attitude that you have in things.
And I really loved that story about, uh, getting reinvigorated in finding your mojo and finding your center and then expanding from that and developing that with, uh, everything that you’re doing.
And that’s just incredible.
Well, thank you. I mean, I, you know, sometimes people say to me, you know, you’re so strong. I don’t know how you do it, but. And you just kind of go, well, what’s my alternative, you know, like I, I just, I’m not a half-ass person. I go everything I do, I give it my all. I’m very passionate about I when I do something that I’m passionate about and I love it comes naturally to me, you know, I’ve got this fire inside of me and, and I lost it and that was tough, but it’s back.
Can I go? Anything’s happening?
See you there a minute ago, you talked about, you know, you didn’t really do much prospecting. So what do you think is the biggest challenge that people have?
With sales currently, you know, is it lead gen? Is it just networking? Cause we’re all like closed in now. Is it closing the presentations and the deals?
And what do you say to people struggling right now?
Well, you know, I’m, again, I have a different approach to. Probably everything in life. And I probably do to sales as well. Um, you know, I did, I’ve done a ton of, um, social media marketing in the last couple of years because my other job is all online.
And so it’s, I did a ton of learning what that, which is again, been amazing as far as transferable over to, um, my, my career, what I do in branding and trying to get new business. I don’t. I think again, we’re back to mindset. So I think it’s a mindset. I don’t let necessarily look at it as like. I, you know, I, I want more business.
I look at it as like, I, I know what I can do to help you. So when I look at all these companies out there and people are struggling and everything, and I see like really bad, like logos and really bad stuff, I’m like, I can help you. So when I reach out to people, I reached out with not like, I want to sell you something, but like, I can help you.
Like, are you, you know, and I, and I just sort of talk to people and find out sort of what their pain point is, you know? And if they’re struggling and you know, I’m also very, I, this is going to be a very controversial thing when I’m about to say, just so you know because everybody talks about, you know, you have to build relationships first with people.
Before you’re gonna sell them something, right. Because we buy from people we know like and trust. And so you have to build relationships, which I totally agree. And I am a relationship person and I love people. I love getting to know people, but I also. Feel that we, I also would like to be very upfront with people.
I don’t like to waste people’s time and I don’t like people to waste my time. So for example, when someone will reach out to me on LinkedIn, if I get a request on LinkedIn from anybody. I R before I accept it, I always reply back and I’ll say, Hey, thanks for reaching out. I’m just thanks for your request to connect.
I’m just curious, like what motivated you to reach out to me? Because, you know, as a woman, I’ve gotten a lot of different answers. I mean, maybe men do too, but I’ve had guys like, you know, want to go for coffee, like, you know, are you single or whatever? And I just, so I asked like, what motivated you because I want to know why they want to connect with me.
And when I get answers that are. Kind of not really vague and not to the point. And, you know, just wanted to say hi, I’m always suspicious of that. So I, I like straightforward. And so when I reach out to people on LinkedIn and you know what, I give them a chance to check out who I am. Right. And you can, you just have to look on my LinkedIn, you know, exactly who I am and what I do.
And then I just say it as I’m like, Hey, I’m not verbatim, but I basically just tell them who I am. What I do find out if they’re struggling and if they are, would they open? But you’re open to hearing how I can help it, if not totally cool. Like I don’t pressure it, but I get right to the point of the reason why.
And I can tell you, I have in the last six months, honestly, I have three new clients that I’ve gotten that way because I had one guy, actually, this is like, he’s, they’ve turned out to be a really great client. He’s like, your timing is perfect. We just rebranded. And we’re looking for some stuff. I’m going to introduce you to my assistant.
And she, she, and I now have become friends and they were a great client of mine. You know, I know a lot of people are gonna say, that’s not how you do it and you should, you need to build relationships. But what if I like to spend time back and forth with somebody for like, you know, what do you do? How many kids do you have?
Where do you go to school? And, you know, I spend a lot of their time and my time. And then finally, when I get around to talking about that, it’s either like, Oh, so that’s why you reach out, to begin with. Right. I find it’s just like, I dunno. I, I like to be very upfront with people.
Yeah. So when I connect with people on LinkedIn, I have a little video, I send them and it’s got, it’s got a, it’s a, I think it’s like a two-minute video I made and I give them some information and, uh, I’ve gotten some really good, uh, answers and success and some good things that happen from that because I’m giving value first in this new relationship.
And the other thing too, is that you know, I’ve had lots of, lots of times where I’ll reach out to someone and I’ll say, Hey, do you know who is in charge of your swag? I’m a branding expert or whatever. And then they’ll say, well, we do it out of Europe, or we do it out of this company. We have a great relationship with our company and we’re good.
And I’m like, okay, no problem. I’m like, so how are you holding up these days? Like, then I can start with the relation. Like I, I’m good to talk to people about that, but I just want to be. Very transparent with why I’m sending somebody a message because I appreciate that when people do that with me.
Cool. I don’t know. Yeah.
So what’s your favorite tool Joelly to get customers to be stickier?
Because you talked about moving around in your career and you want your customers to follow you and all that kind of stuff. So what’s driving that loyalty, especially these days with this crazy market that we’re in?
Yeah. Um, and that’s a really great question because how do you get customers and how do they stay?
And I, and that’s where the whole relationship comes in. That’s where the trust comes in. Right?
Absolutely. I mean, I have, I have some customers I’ve had from back in the nineties, you know, for over 20 years. And I had, and I consider them friends and because I’m always honest with them, they know that I’m passionate about what I do and that I will do anything for them.
And I’m, and I’m transparent. And I own when I mess up too, you know, like I try to keep people really in the loop from the second week, start talking about something to the orders delivered. I can’t tell you how many times I get. People that say to me all the time, like thank you for getting back to me so quickly.
Thank you for I get it. And I’m always amazed. Cause I think as opposed to what, like not, you know, not applying right away taking my time because I know that if I don’t reply, somebody else will, you know, and, and I, you know, it’s interesting because I’m hard on… like suppliers, you know, I’m sure he talked to, I’m not sure it was fired.
I love them, but they know me and like they know gradually, you know because I’m an advocate for my customers. So I’m, I feel like I’m working for them in a way. Not necessarily just genuine, but I’m working for my customers. And I want to, you know, my job is to, I tell them that your job is to make your job easier and make you look good.
And when I, when I get a compliment, like, Oh my God, you made me look so good. My boss on this desk, A win-win for me and, you know, but yeah, customer service and just really knowing that I have their back and they know that I think that’s golden.
So it’s less about the transaction and more about the long-term result.
For sure. And, you know, um, I think you and I may have talked about this another time as far as, because of my advertising background and working in that world and branding, I mean, I’m able to bring more than just selling pens because, and I tell people too, again, back to my being so straightforward when I meet with people, you know, you can get this pen from 20 different people and you could probably get cheaper from 10 of those people.
But what I bring to the table, Not just my passion and my customer service, but my knowledge and my background, as far as what does it mean to be a brand and how is branding an extension of your brand and making sure that it all flows and works together? You know, I, I become more like a consultant for them and I tell them that and, and I give them examples of that.
And I think they appreciate it because that’s the value that I want to provide that is going to set me apart, you know, from everybody else that’s out there. Perfect.
Thank you so much for sharing your story of success with us today. If someone wants to learn more about what you do or how you can help them, what is the best way to contact you?
Well, uh, as I said, I just started sort of my new Twitter account. So you can find me on Twitter at Branding BadAss you can find me on Instagram at Branding BadAss. And, um, and LinkedIn is just my name, Joelly Lang. Uh, Genumark. And, but if I’m a may talk about my new podcast, that’s starting, which I’m super, super excited about.
And it is called Branding Matters. Bad-Ass Banter with Joelly.
Oh, that is a passion project of mine. That is really to help people, um, to learn because there are so many people right now, I think that are struggling or starting new businesses are struggling. Even what branding is or what a brand is and all that.
So that is why I’m doing this. So that’s gonna be very exciting. So reach out to me if you wanna learn more about that and you can also firstname.lastname@example.org.
Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate you.
Well, I appreciate you reaching out to me on Twitter and inviting me on this podcast and I hope it was helpful for anyone who’s listening.
Well, that’s our show today. Thanks for listening. And don’t forget to subscribe so you can stay up to date on the latest Success Stories, episodes. Have any suggestions for future topics? Send them my email@example.com and we’ll see you next time…