top of page
  • Writer's pictureSusan Tatum

Differentiating with Client Testimonials

Dawn Wagenaar’s company, Ingenuity Marketing, is a professional services marketing firm. She shares her wealth of information when it comes to branding, niche, sales consulting, and content for a variety of firms and businesses.

Notes from the Show

When it comes to marketing and branding, it's so important to cut through the noise in your niche to reach your ideal customers. Dawn Wagenaar of Ingenuity Marketing works with professional services in branding, sales consulting, design, staff augmentation and a variety of other marketing needs.

Dawn focuses on developing branding with the customer experience. She finds that many brands do mostly aspirational branding… "here's what we want you to get" "how we want you to feel" etc. But new clients get a lot more value by understanding the customer experience, and the only way to get that information is by asking current clients. Dawn explains how her teams will interview clients for their clients, asking deeper probing questions to develop key messages, branding, verbiage, and other content for the firms.

As long-term members of the marketing profession, things have changed a lot in the way customers see things and what works in branding and marketing. Dawn's keyword for new firms is SHORT. Keep it short and sweet when it comes to videos, podcasts, blogs, or any other content. The shorter the better chance your clients are reading, consuming, and benefiting from it.

Dawn shares a wealth of information when it comes to branding and marketing, and even expanding beyond your current niche. She also provides some great tips on how to develop and continue referral relationships, which she views as one of the most important pieces for your business.

You can reach Dawn at her email or find Ingenuity Marketing Group on their website.

What's Inside:

  • What is a professional services marketing firm?

  • How Ingenuity Marketing works with clients?

  • Using client testimonials to drive branding and messaging.

  • Differentiating with client testimonials for your niche.

  • How new firms might approach content creation.

  • Expanding beyond your current niche.

  • Bonus tips on developing and continuing referral relationships.

Mentioned in this Episode:

Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:36

Hi, everybody, welcome back to stop the noise today my guest is Dawn Wagenaar. And she is the principal at Ingenuity Marketing, which is a professional services marketing firm. And so therefore, very, very relevant about the listeners today. And I'm looking forward to this conversation, because Dawn's got a lot of information to share with us. So welcome, Dawn.

Dawn Wagenaar 0:58

Thanks, Susan. I'm very excited to be here today.

Susan Tatum 1:00

So tell us before we dive into the topics, just give us the 30 seconds on who you are and what Ingenuity Marketing does.

Dawn Wagenaar 1:07

Well, I am a principal in Ingenuity Marketing. So pretty much I own the company and responsible for everything that happens all the fun stuff, just like all of your listeners, I'm guessing. But we are an agency that focuses on professional services. So all of our clients are CPA firms, engineers, architects, construction, associations, and then we have a few financial services, law firms and other types of consulting. So we do everything from branding, sales, consulting, design, pretty much anything that you may need, we do a lot of marketing outsourcing. So the staff augmentation right now is really hot. We assist clients with that, whether or not they have a marketing department or not.

Susan Tatum 1:50

So by staff augmentation for listeners that may not know that means that if they just need some extra expertise in some area, that you can provide that in some specialized area.

Dawn Wagenaar 2:03

Right, yeah.

Susan Tatum 2:04

Okay. So who, you know, one of the things that we were talking about before we started recording, and I had noticed this on your website, that you do talk a lot about differentiation. You know, I think that is something that is so needed amongst all professional services types of firms that I see it constantly, that there's so much look alike, and it's a problem from the top of the funnel, to when you get somebody to agree that they want to work with you, it makes it so difficult on yourself and on your buyer that so share with us your thoughts on that?

Dawn Wagenaar 2:39

Yeah, you know, the whole branding process in general, and differentiation is huge. And I don't think firms do it enough or take it seriously enough. And they'll do a lot of aspirational branding. And what I mean by that is they're like, This is who we are, who we want to be, but they really need to ask their clients what the experience is in working with them. And that is key. And then you have that whole, you know, is this really what we want it to be so then you can work on your client experience for going back to that is, then you can figure out what is differentiates us. And then you can put it into your sales messaging, your sales question, your proposals, all of that, and really showcase the value that you bring to the market.

Susan Tatum 3:23

To paraphrase. I think what you're saying is that, it's really important to understand why your clients do business with you. And the only way to understand that is to ask them

Dawn Wagenaar 2:35

amazing concepts. Right?

Susan Tatum 3:38

I know.

Dawn Wagenaar 3:38

think many of the many firms will just do a regular survey, but it's really the stories of the clients tell us and that's why, you know, having sometimes a third party, or even if you have a marketing director or someone that's not like direct contact with the client, you know, asking those questions, and, you know, even asking and clarifying questions, and tell me more about that, and making sure that you really just understand, it's not just a client satisfaction survey, it's more than that. It's really understanding what that experience is that they have, you know, when they work with you, so they're telling you the story, you know, when my business burned to the ground, this is what John did for me. And they were, you know, at my side that night, telling me this, and we've actually heard stories like that, believe it? Yeah, it is, you know, those are the types of things that, you know, really differentiates a firm and you start to when you interview so many clients, you start to see themes, and that's, you know, what you can then determine are the differentiator.

Susan Tatum 4:44

So, how do you get people to open up to you, when you're asking them questions like that. I mean, how because if because if you said to me, what's been your experience working with x, y, z, is kind of like well, where do I start

Dawn Wagenaar 4:58

Right. There's a series of questions that we asked. And I have amazing writers and individuals, I work on my team team members that ask these questions. I usually I don't usually talk to the clients, or the clients of clients, do interviews, just what our principles are good that our clients, but so it's asking the right questions, but then, you know, what's key to is getting permission to have them involved and wanting them involved in this branding process. And so whenever we're doing any sort of branding process, we ask our clients, you know, please ask your clients if they'd be willing to take a call from us and be involved in this process. Sometimes they do. And sometimes they don't. And usually what happens is, it kind of reaffirms their decision and working with them. Because, you know, they're talking out loud about the stuff. And it's such a, you know, wonderful thing. So then they're really happy to, but yeah,

Susan Tatum 5:59

yeah, yeah. And it suddenly reminds them of what they like about working with your clients.

Dawn Wagenaar 6:05

Yes, exactly. And what other wonderful thing that I was going to say is, if you share these transcripts, and you get permission from the client, to share the transcripts, and then do testimonial, if you share the transcripts with the staff of who works on these clients, like, it's really validating to them to Wow, I did that this is what that client means, like means to the firm's great, I had no idea. And you know, oftentimes CPAs, for example, they're working so many hours, like a week, during busy season, or for seven months out of the year, this is like, it really then makes a difference. And it doesn't make it seem like okay, you know, I'm just not doing the grind here. I'm really making a difference to this business owner and their business.

Susan Tatum 6:48

So you're getting and having those conversations, you're getting specifics. So you're not gonna how often do we look at? You look at a website, and it's like, well, we value our clients, then we're the best at customer service. And it's all about our people. And yeah, that's just meaningless stuff.

Dawn Wagenaar 7:04

Right? Yeah, you have to be a really great writer that I think, and while I think you really have to be a great interviewer, first, you have to be able to ask the right questions, and not just ask the surface question, because the client of our client can just answer the question, but you also then have to ask clarifying questions. So like, we train our staff on interviewing. So asking those clarifying questions or you hear something, tell me more. It's not just surface question.

Susan Tatum 7:38

Right. Right.

Dawn Wagenaar 7:39

pulling that information out of the client too is really vital. And then, you know, years ago, I think, you know, like using words like unstoppable, we use this I had a years ago for an engineering firm. And it was some message and it was an amazing word. You know, it's things that just, it's not just your standard vervet. So it's really to like, words that make a difference. And really, you know,

Susan Tatum 8:03

Is words that come I think, evoke an emotion.

Dawn Wagenaar 8:08

Yeah, exactly. Right.

Susan Tatum 8:10

Okay, so and then when you say you get this information from the clients, and one quick segue on that one, what if it is a newer firm, and they don't have a lot of clients to talk to?

Dawn Wagenaar 8:22

Right? Then what we do is we'll do aspirational branding, or it can be a combination. So it's really around, okay, who do you want to be as a firm? Tell me about what you're trying to accomplish? And then if they do have a few clients, we'd love to chat, chat with them. But sometimes, that's just what happens. Because we have done that before. Sometimes it is that aspirational branding. Until I do that.

Susan Tatum 8:44

Okay. So then if a firm is, you know, so they need to do this internally. They're too small, to hire someone like you guys to help them with it. I guess it's better to ask even if you're not really good at asking the questions to at least try talking to your clients.

Dawn Wagenaar 9:02

Yeah, I mean, I always believe that you should ask, we're trying to get someone that's not associated with directly with the client. So whether you have an admin person on staff or someone, and you know, we'll do all sorts of different packages for branding. So sometimes, you know, we have a small firm package. So sometimes we'll only interview five clients, you know, and we can do that, or sometimes we'll interview 20 or 30 clients across the board. So it just depends on the size firm and the amount of research that you're needing to do to get a good cross section of what's happening.

Susan Tatum 9:39

So then you get this input from the clients and you're, you're analyzing it, and your writers come up with the magic words. And so where do you apply all of this?

Dawn Wagenaar 9:50

So we apply it in all marketing materials. So everything and sales materials so everything from Well first we create key messages. And so it's usually three to five themes or promises that we're noticing in, you know those differentiators in that and then it's on your website, usually your homepage, your about careers also, because usually we'll do something around a recruiting message or what it's like to work at your firm, since that's huge right now. And that'll right. We'll also then sometimes it's talking points to or sales questions, we'll do that we those differentiators in there. So we'll create questions. So they don't have to say, here's why we're great. It's really about them asking the right questions, then that the client will then understand or the prospect when they're in that sales meeting. I understand.. Now.

Susan Tatum 10:48

What? Alright, that makes that makes sense. So now, the second thing that we talked about previously was content, because I am. So you and I, you and I have both started our business in so long ago, that whatever we did, then is not relevant now. Because it's just also different now. If you're if you are working with a company that's just now getting started, or if you were starting your company today, what would you do do from a business development business building perspective?

Dawn Wagenaar 11:25

In relation to content specific?

Susan Tatum 11:26

Well, I think we we talked about, yeah, content content would be something that you would do.

Dawn Wagenaar 11:30

Yeah. So in relation to content, I would make sure that it's short and sweet. So unfortunately, in today's world, we don't have an attention span. So no more white papers. I mean, I know for SEO and other types of information, it can be helpful, but shorter videos, even shorter, long, I just think people just don't read unfortunately. So I think the shorter the content, the better. Podcasts, I'm seeing anywhere from 15 minutes to 45 minutes. So it just really depends on what you're doing, and are how you're dispersing them. Some. Sometimes they divide them up now, but short and sweet, the content has to be relevant and valuable. So kinda like what your audience is looking for. One of the things that you just say so even though Susan, you had set started this question about like, what we did wasn't relevant how many years ago, I still use this, look in your email your sent Items are your questions deleted and what your question your clients are asking you, that is then the relevant content that you need to then write your content about. So if they're asking you about the inflation Reduction Act, write some content about that. If they're asking you about, you know, some tax law change, about whatever, then write about that. So look to see what they're asking you questions about. And that will then help you write and do videos, or podcasts or whatever types of content, social media, all of that, that will then help inform and showcase your content that you need. The other key is then making sure that you have relevant keywords. So when you optimize your content, and I know a lot of people will just use the keywords that they're finding. But I think it's important to actually do the research and hire an SEO expert if you can to find the right keywords that make a difference that will then move your content up and make sure that it also the by the audience that you want to be seen by

Susan Tatum 13:32

Oh, yeah, I don't know how you would do SEO on your own now.

Dawn Wagenaar 13:35

Yeah, I know.

Susan Tatum 13:37

I Think that words that the words that would come to mind would be the words that come to everyone's mind. And you would be fighting an uphill battle against all that content?

Dawn Wagenaar 13:48

Yeah, exactly.

Susan Tatum 13:49

So well, that. So that leads me to the just the sheer amount of content that's out there. And so so the My work is done primarily on LinkedIn? Well, part of my work is done on LinkedIn, but you just see, the your news feeds are just full of stuff, that there's not a lot of differentiation in the content even.

Dawn Wagenaar 14:14

I know, yeah, it's true. And that's why I always say, Do you shed the other thing is, if you can be any sort of niche expert or have a niche specialization, then it's really easy to to differentiate your content. So if you're writing about the inflation Reduction Act, focus on the manufacturing industry, or the pharmacy industry, then you're able to really then differentiate your content.

Susan Tatum 14:41


Dawn Wagenaar 14:42

And your audience then, you know, is very specific, which then helps your content as well.

Susan Tatum 14:48

Well, when you could go even tighter than than the industry, you go, met types of manufacturers and stuff like that.

Dawn Wagenaar 14:54

Right. And so we're firm believers and niche specialization. So if you can do that, that's great. And then But take it a step farther, of course to I mean, I'm a firm believer of old fashioned networking still get out, go to the be involved in trade show or trade organizations, go to those conferences, do trade shows, sponsor, you know those opportunities, be a speaker, you writer, then you're really showcasing your expertise in your content will be even seeing even more and more value,

Susan Tatum 15:24

you'll learn a lot too I think in doing that. But actually, do you find, I find that focusing and getting a client to niche down is terrifying to them. it's really hard.

Dawn Wagenaar 15:39

I think some are doing it more now. And they're more open to it because they're seeing others do it. And I think if you can make a case for it based on the clients what they already have, or if they start small by just starting to, you know, join, you know, and have like, I have one client that as a complete, all they do is pharmacy that is truly like that is that is truly a niche specialization CPA firm, where I have other clients that have they still have a smattering of general clients, but then they have niches and four different areas, you know, so you can kind of go that bit, you know, and build other niches as you're still bringing in other clients, which then I think makes you feel more safe, too.

Susan Tatum 16:25

Yeah, no, I wwill say. So don't with me if I'm doing trying to help them with their pipeline, and we're doing some sort of outreach program. I'm not saying you have to change your whole business. But if you focus market by market, type market and type of people and clients, it really helps in cutting through all that noise.

Dawn Wagenaar 16:46

Yeah, I agree. Yes, I completely agree with you.

Susan Tatum 16:48

So you built your firm focusing mostly on CPAs. And then the architects, engineers, contractors, construction.

Dawn Wagenaar 16:57

Yeah, we had a huge law firm practice to at one point, and we kind of that's kind of been a little bit smaller now. We still have a few law firm clients, but not as many as we wants to add. But yep. So you,

Susan Tatum 17:09

you're making a not a leap, but an expansion in your business. Do you mind talking about that a little bit?

Dawn Wagenaar 17:16

No, not at all. Yeah, we're expanding into the senior living space. And it was just an area that I was interested in. And I thought, based on the research that I did, that it would be something valuable, and an area that I thought we could grow, especially in the Midwest. So based on all the informational interviews we did, and we did a ton of research. And then we started going to conferences, we went to our first conference this fall, we just felt there was really a need. So we now just added a page to our site. And we started up, you know, updating blogs and writing blogs and content, then now we're starting to run on social this week, or next week, I guess, October 1st. Yeah. So we'll see how it goes. But

Susan Tatum 18:05

so this was driven by you. You've built your firm around well, lawyers at some point, CPAs. And you felt like, I've got this under control. And it's not going to get me where I want to go. If I stick just with this?

Dawn Wagenaar 18:22

Well, I feel like there's a lot of acquisition, merger or acquisition happening and the CPA space. I am a firm believer and in the AEC space, and I think we definitely are still growing that space. But the CPA, there's just been a lot of what's the word I'm looking for

Susan Tatum 18:43


Dawn Wagenaar 18:44

Yeah happening, and even several clients this year. And so let's just like we might get them back our projects, but it I just feel like it might take a few years for the entrepreneurial, the millennials to spin off and start their own firms that aren't large firms. So I just figured in the meantime, let's start a new niche. And you know, for years, we've gone back and forth on starting a different type of niche. And we just couldn't find the right niche. And I just feel like we finally found did our research enough and found the right depth. So

Susan Tatum 19:19

finding the right sorry, sorry, go ahead.

Dawn Wagenaar 19:23

If they'll find out though.

Susan Tatum 19:26

Yeah. Well, you just just got to do it. And then the faster you do it, the sooner you'll know if it's the right thing or not. When you say you looked at some other places and they just weren't the right fit was that that's the numbers didn't work. Did it all was there just something also about it wasn't going to challenge you or,

Dawn Wagenaar 19:45

well, it was really around like, you know, is this a niche that will handle any economic downturns, what's happening in the niche will will it grow? Can my staff you know, is it similar enough to what we already do? we know because there's a lot of construction that happens to and the senior living match? So which we know. So things like that. So it was like, Okay, this is something that we can handle and be really great at. So, and we felt also based on what other marketing agencies were doing. We're the niche, we fell. Okay, yes, we can compete here and really make a difference.

Susan Tatum 20:24

Well, it's certainly a niche that's strong and, and getting bigger and changing, which,

Dawn Wagenaar 20:33

oh yeah, definitely

Susan Tatum 20:34

keep you on your toes.

Dawn Wagenaar 20:34


Susan Tatum 20:35

Well, Dawn, is there anything that you wish I'd asked you that I didn't?

Dawn Wagenaar 20:39

No, I don't think so. Well, there was one thing, I think it's still important as a small firm, you know, to have that referral network and keep meeting with referral. I know, we didn't really talk too much about that. But I still think that's vital, especially in today's world with the remote, and people not getting out there as much. But I still think you can have virtual coffees, it's so important to have that network of individuals where you can get referrals back and forth. And especially as young leaders, you still need to, you know, build that

Susan Tatum 21:15

And that can be I think that for, for me anyway, getting to know people finding them and getting to know them is not difficult to do. It's keeping the relationship going. That can be tough.

Dawn Wagenaar 21:28

Yeah. And I think some people are much better at it than other, I always say, but you know, 15 minutes on your calendar every couple of weeks, or, you know, stay in touch with whoever I always put, you know, every other week, an hour on my counter to do business development follow up. And that includes referral sources too touching base.

Susan Tatum 21:46

So you are you're just checking in with them to see what's going on or

Dawn Wagenaar 21:50

yeah just, and then we have what we call a partnership program too so then we follow them on social. I'll ask them periodically, if they want to be on our, you know, podcast. What else can we do for them? We do Oh, we share blogs, back and forth. So we'll see if there's a blog that we want to share of there's so just kind of help things like that, too.

Susan Tatum 22:17

Okay, that makes sense.

Dawn Wagenaar 22:18

I think sometimes it's hard. And I know especially CPAs. Well, all of them, whether you're a banker, law lawyer, they're always like, I don't have any once refer that person. And sometimes you can do other things besides just referring them business.

Susan Tatum 22:31

Yeah, you can help that you can give them a platform, expose them to your network, that can be helpful as well, for sure. I wrote that. That's that. Thank you for bringing that up. That was good. I tweeted it. I noted several things on that one. I know sometimes that in past economic downturns or we know things are getting tight, sometimes referral networks can be can dry up a little bit, because so many changes are made and they are often fighting for getting their own clients. But I think what you're doing with just staying in touch with them that way and sharing those blog articles, and commenting on their comments on social medias. Those are just some really good ideas. So thank you.

Dawn Wagenaar 23:17


Susan Tatum 23:18

How how's the best way for people to get in touch with you if they want to follow up,

Dawn Wagenaar 23:21

they can email me at That's INGENUITY which is also our website, which has tons of valuable resources and blog articles and videos. And you can you know, follow us on social too with you'll find me all over there's tons of ways to contact me.

Susan Tatum 23:51

All right. Well, thank you so much for for being here today. And it's this is it was a great episode, and I hope you have a wonderful rest of your day.

Dawn Wagenaar 24:00

Thanks Susan you too bye.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page