Collaboration Research

Episode 1011: Collaboration Research, with Nicole Mahoney

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Collaboration research — Explore our expert insights and strategies tailored to your industry’s needs. Unlock the power of collaboration research.

Collaboration research — With a talent for creating special events that blossomed while working for her dad’s car stereo shop, Nicole Mahoney got her start in marketing at Frontier Field in Rochester and she began serving as the executive director of the internationally known Lilac Festival. Later on, Nicole headed the Canandaigua, New York Business Improvement District while also performing projects for the tourism promotion agency Visit Rochester.

In 2009, Nicole founded Break the Ice Media, with more than 20 years of experience in tourism marketing. She now hosts “Destination on the Left”, a highly successful tourism marketing podcast.

As a business owner, Nicole knows what it takes to be successful. She founded BTI to help businesses tell their brand story through public relations, digital and traditional channels. She has the ability to uncover unique marketing opportunities and develop marketing and public relations initiatives that help clients build long-term success.


What you’ll learn in this episode is about collaboration research

  • How Nicole founded her marketing agency, Break The Ice Media, and how she specializes in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry
  • Why the industry at large is experiencing a workforce shortage, and how it is impacting businesses during the global pandemic
  • How Nicole built a team that is as passionate about helping businesses in their industry as she is, and why industry collaboration is one of Nicole’s main focuses
  • How launching the Destination on the Left podcast helped Nicole clarify her focus and led her to do a collaboration research study to be helpful to her audience
  • Why Nicole set out to answer the question “what makes collaborations work or fail in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industry?” in her research
  • How Nicole used her team, her podcast, and her network of connections in the industry as the foundation of her three-month collaboration research project
  • What results Nicole and her research partner Susan Baier were able to discover through their research, and what content Nicole was able to develop based on the survey
  • How Nicole determined her two-pronged webinar strategy with separate private client and public-facing webinar offerings
  • How Nicole uses the research results as cornerstone content and then slices and dices it into many different smaller pieces of cobblestone content
  • How planting her flag as the authority on travel, tourism, and hospitality industry collaboration has created new opportunities for Nicole’s agency


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Collaboration Research: Full Episode Transcript


Get ready to find your recipe for success from America’s top business owners here at Onward Nation with your host, Stephen Woessner. 


Good morning. I’m Stephen Woessner, CEO of Predictive ROI, And your host for Onward Nation, where I interview today’s top business owners. So we can learn their recipe for success, and how they built and skilled their business back when Drew McLellan and I – Drew is the CEO of Agency Management Institute when he and I were mapping out the content for what would later become our book, Sell with Authority. We knew we wanted to create a strategy that you could use to plant your flag authority, which means to become the known expert in your niche. And we wanted to give you a strategy that you can apply regardless of the type of cornerstone content that you decided to create. 


For example, maybe one or a launch, a video series, we build a strategy for that. Maybe you want to make keynote speaking your cornerstone. Yeah, we covered that, too. Or perhaps writing a book feels like the right fit, or maybe hosting your own podcast, or maybe conducting research that addresses the key challenges your clients and prospects are facing every day would be the spot-on thing for you and super on target for your audience. In short, we built out these strategies, all of these different forms of cornerstone content that you could use to plant that flag authority in when drew and I then taught our build and nurture your sales funnel workshop. 


This past January in Disney, I will tell you many of the agency owners in the room were gravitating toward thought leadership research as the cornerstone. It was fascinating to watch. So they wanted to learn how to conduct the right research like the right study, that would be helpful to their audience, and then how they can take that research and then slice and dice it in the actual sales funnels that would drive leads under their business. Well, in addition to that workshop that we taught in January when Erik and I hosted our weekly how to fill your sales pipeline, open mic Q and A’s well, the people in the room or asking a lot of questions about how they too could use thought leadership research as part of their strategy to build their authority position and how it could be helpful to their audience, how their finding this can be sliced and diced in the sales funnels, how long it takes to complete a study and what does complete in a study actually, even me in the list goes on. 


So in this episode, we’re going to break down and answer all of those questions, but I want you to hear from a business owner, just like you, who’s decided to research because she knew it would be super helpful too, her agency’s audience. And now that it’s complete, how she and her team have leveraged it, add value to existing relationships, win new business and much more. So our guest expert today is Nicole Mahoney. She’s the founder and CEO of Break The Ice Media. And I’m excited for her to share her insights and perspectives with you about the research study that her team conducted. 


And then really importantly, how the research has been helpful to her audience, how has opened up new business development opportunities, and then all of the different ways her team is leveraging that content and so much more. So without further ado, welcome back to Onward Nation, Nicole. 


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Collaboration Research: Nicole Mahoney’s Introduction


Thank you so much, Stephen. I always loved talking to you and certainly loved sharing what I’m learning and the journey I’m on with Onward Nation and excited to be here. 


Well, I’m excited to have you here. So this is gonna be awesome. Thank you for saying yes. Thank you for your willingness to always be super generous and sharing insights, and your expertise. Awesome. Before we dive in which as I’m sure you can feel like a litany of research-based questions or oriented questions, take us behind the curtain here in just for some additional context with Onward, share a little bit more about a break, the ice, and also your niche, just to give context around the area of specialty and so forth and where you are planting your flag authority. And then we’ll dive into the actual research in how that’s been built out and been helping your agency. 


Absolutely. Well,  Break The Ice Media is a marketing agency. We specialize in the travel tourism and hospitality industry. And it’s been kind of an interesting road for me because you mentioned Drew McLellan. rew has this philosophy where he thinks agency owners are mostly accidental business owners, and I’m not an accidental business owner. I always knew I wanted to do my own, my own business and that I was an entrepreneur at heart. I grew up in an entrepreneurial family. And so what’s been fun for me with this business is kind of reflecting on how my entire career and journey has built a build-up to my passion in the work that I’m doing now and the travel tourism and hospitality industry. 


And one of the threads that I’ve been thinking about recently is all of those small business owners that make up this industry that I love so much it’s the restaurant owners, it’s the tour operator. It’s a travel agent. It could be a small historical site or a candy shop on a main street. There are just so many small businesses that make up the small BMB owner. I’m a winery owner brewery on her, so many. And so what’s been really fun for me is to think about how I have this passion about business specifically about small business and how that’s kind of brought me to this place where we’re serving just industry in a really, really deep way just this morning, my team and I on our leadership call kind of interesting, cause we’re a marketing agency, but one of the big challenges that our industry is facing, and I know a lot of industries are about ARS in particular is workforce shortages and getting those restaurant workers and getting those a tasting room worker’s in and being able to serve their customers. 


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Collaboration Research: Driving Recovery and Innovation


Collaboration research? And so we spent like probably almost 45 minutes talking about that problem, for our clients or clients, aren’t asking us to talk about that problem, but that’s how passionate we are. We just want to solve those problems and help the industry be able to move forward. 


Well, and that’s in the workforce. Shortages are one of those maybe linchpin isn’t the right word. But if that problem can be solved, and if you’re talking about that, because that’s one of the things that leads to recovery, right? It’s tough to get out under the other side of the recession, and come roaring out of it. If you don’t have the right team in place and you can’t serve customers when they come out. I mean, all of those types of things revolve around that critical piece, right? 


Yeah, exactly. And in part of what we’re seeing, like, I think it’s a Cedar Point. Someone told me recently about a huge amusement attraction in Ohio. I know you’re familiar with it. I’m sure. And that they’re closed now. I can’t remember how many days this is anecdotal. Someone told me this, but a few days a week, they can’t be open all seven days because they just don’t have the workforce for it. Or I’ve been to a restaurant who are here. We are in the peak season where I live between Memorial Day and Labor Day. And they’re closed on Tuesday and Wednesday, cause they just don’t have the staff to staff it. So absolutely, they have to have the workforce in order to be able to come out of this recession. 


That’s a huge piece of it. And I was actually excited about some of the creative ideas. My team came up with the reason why to share it because when you are so deep and we are going to get some of our point of view and like where a steak is when you’re so deep into your niche, that you’re literally talking about the problems that those business owners and your clients are scratching their heads about in trying to come up with ways to help them solve for that. I just find it so much fun to talk about that and come up with those solutions and hopefully be able to help our clients solve those problems. 


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Collaboration Research: The Power of Understanding and Collaboration


With collaboration research, you’re having those types of conversations, it shows that you’re in the same trench that you are just like them, that you looked just like them, that you’re concerned about the same problems, the same challenges, the same business issues that they are, that you get them, you see them, you hear you speak, not only do you speak the same language, but you speak the same dialect. So then your content lands the way that it should because you’re one of them because you actually are, you have been in this space for a really long time. So when you’re speaking to those problems, it’s not like you read a headline someplace and thought, oh, well, I’m going to start talking about that. Like you get it. 


What is collaboration research? You know, it’s cool. As I said to my team members, I was listening to a podcast about this workforce shortage right now. And it’s a really deep and kind of different viewpoint than what most people like to say. Well, the stimulus checks are keeping people from working, and it’s really a lot deeper than that. It’s not the stimulus checks. There are a lot of other factors. And so then when you start to think about the, what are those other factors and what are the long term effects? I don’t think that necessarily those stimulus checks when they stop are going to solve the problem. It’s a deeper problem than that. And it was interesting cause I said that, and then one of my team members said, yeah, I’ve been really digging into this lately, too. 


And I thought, how cool is that? I mean, it’s not just me as the CEO and owner  and you know, podcast host and thought-leader in this space, but my team is that much passionate about it as well. And we had a really smart kind of multi-faceted a conversation about it. And it comes from that place, the passion and that the niche and being that deep and in the trenches, as you say. 


Okay. So I know we’re going to talk about research, but I’m not at all surprised that you just said what you said because you’re all about collaboration. It’s not lip service for you. You, youlive and breathe that you teach your team that you’ve created a culture that thrives on that in. And so when you go into a leadership team meeting like that, or in an entire team meeting like that, I’m not at all surprised that if the collaborative conversation, because it has like, it is a part of you or tapestry part of your DNA, part of what makes you awesome. Is this really a collaborative spirit? 


Yeah. It’s interesting. You mentioned that in. So we’re getting to research, and we’re getting to our point of view. And one of those spaces where I saw a gap in our industry in terms of other thought leadership that’s out there for this industry is within the subject of collaboration, it happens all the time. And when I talked about collaboration, that’s not what I just described, which is the inter organizational collaboration where we are collaborating as a team within our company. But it’s the collaboration where you are collaborating with others outside of your company, with other organizations, or even with competing organizations, a favorite word I like to use is cooperation where competitors cooperate to do something bigger together, and then they can do it on their own. 


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Collaboration Research: A Journey from Idea to Research


And so this whole idea of collaboration, I felt like was one of those kind of, is it really table stakes? Is it really just taken for granted that everybody knows how to do this? And I was observing that, no, not everybody does know how to do this. Some collaborations work really well, and some don’t. And so that is really where we did decide to stake. Are you not to stake our claim? And I have had people talk to me, especially since the research came out and now they really get it. You know, I’m kind of skipping around Stephen, but on the podcast, I talked about collaboration all the time. The podcasts that I have collaborations are a huge theme, by doing this research project on collaboration and bringing that out, first of all, people went well, of course, you did that. 


But second of all, I’ve had people say to me that nobody else is talking about collaboration or doing this type of work the way you are. So we are really starting to get more notice in that area. 


That’s amazing, Onward Nation, Nicole is the host of Destination on the Left, an amazing podcast, a would highly encourage you to listen and subscribe. So Nicole let’s, let’s turn our attention toward the research that you and your team did in, in first. Let’s talk about the path and journey because here, you’re the host of this amazing podcast in now adding a second piece of cornerstone content. Awesome. But it wasn’t like flipping the switch on. And now of a sudden we have a research study, there was a path and journey for you of sort of meandering through and thought process of, okay. Yes. I think it might be research, but what’s the right topic?


Like what’s going to land, right? What is going to be super, super helpful? So, can you take us through that journey? Like how you decided, well, first why you decided on research and then how you on what the right topic was to really go down that path. 


Sure. So I have to start with the launch of the podcast, which will be five years ago, this October, which is a yeah. Amazing to me. I keep saying to you, Stephen, I can’t believe this is episode 1011 and how amazing that is. But for me, five years of doing a podcast every week, dropping an episode every single week for five years as quite the commitment, and really proud of that. When I launched the podcast, I had this idea about collaboration, but it wasn’t nearly as clear in my mind or as firmly staked in the ground as it is now. 


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Collaboration Research: From Idea to Research in Collaboration and Creativity


And I thought, well, I want to explore a collaboration. I also think there’s a lot of creativity that happens here. So we’re going to see the podcasts around creativity in collaboration, within the tribal tourism and hospitality industry. So that was the path that I set off on a few years ago, probably after I launched, I started thinking about research, and it wasn’t immediately obvious to me that it should or would align with what we talked about on this show. In my own, initially, I was thinking, this might be something separate. This is a separate project. And I had several conversations with Susan Baier, from audience audit, who ultimately ended up doing this research project with us, and it probably took us almost three years to figure out what was the best project. 


With collaboration research, we’re not suggesting it takes three years, but for me, ’cause, we first started down the path of, well, what problem what problem do we want to try to help our industry solve? What questions do they have? And is it a question about the consumer? Is it a question about a certain segment of the industry is really trying to figure out where I could be most helpful and where our research would really stand on its own and set us apart because ultimately, that’s what I was trying to accomplish? And so it took me a while to get there, mainly because I was still on this path of developing the podcast. 


We have a blog that goes along with it. Eventually, I decided I wanted to do something more of a keynote because I thought that if I tried to write a keynote, it would help me solidify my viewpoint. And through that process and the pandemic, frankly, because I really knew that once the pandemic hit, collaboration was going to be key to a recovery. And that’s really where I was like, okay, this is it. We’ve got a really, really dive in deep into this idea of collaboration, how it helps the industry, and how it will help the industry into recovery. 


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Collaboration Research: Finding the Key Threads of Collaboration


Okay. I am frantically trying to take notes in and keep up. This was awesome. And so, yeah, you mentioned kind of one of the threads, a or earlier when you were talking about small business owner, and then you went on to explain the thread. So, I’ll use that metaphor again here. Like when you talked about the problem to help to help your industry solve, and then you went on to share questions, and is that about consumers? This is about segmenting, and then you knit it all together. It’s like, where can we be the most helpful it seems like, your thought process with the research was let’s not have a research study just for the sake of creating a new piece, a cornerstone or a venting, something to do. 


It’s how will the research findings ultimately be super, super helpful to who we want it to serve and also help BTI Break The Ice Media stand out. Right? 


Exactly. Yeah, exactly. It wasn’t, and there’s a lot of research out there within our industry. And there are research firms within our industry that provide awesome insights on all kinds of topics. And  I didn’t wanna just be added to that. I needed something that was really gonna stand out, and we were really looking for those gaps. And I think it was really the pandemic that showed it to me because I went, the pandemic happened and people are, I mean, people or leaning on each other, like crazy through the pandemic. Right. And you would see restaurant owners like to go containers, which was a hard thing in the beginning. 


And I remember talking to a restaurant owner who said, yeah, I’d run out of something, and I’d run down the street to my neighbor, restaurant owner, and borrow for you to-go containers from when we were helping each other so much. And it just became so apparent how important collaboration was that I felt like, okay, I’ve been exploring this now at that point for almost four years on my podcast. And here we are in the worst downturn we’ve ever been in my lifetime. The industry went from basically a hundred to zero overnight. How are we gonna come out of this? 


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Collaboration Research: Understanding Collaboration in Travel and Hospitality


And it just became really clear. I think collaboration is an important tool in the toolbox. I don’t know if people give it enough credit for what it really does. And I think maybe people might take it, take it for you or like take it for granted that collaboration has just happened, but they don’t just happen. There are certain things that make them happen and certain reasons why these ones are successful and some aren’t successful. And so that’s really what I set out to do is figure out okay for the travel tourism and hospitality industry, what makes collaborations work and what collaborations fail. 


Essentially. That was the question I asked. And as Susan said, I can help you find out. 


Once you started to crystallize this, as far as the question, and then no pun intended you and Susan started collaborating around that question. So then what did that process then look like? Okay, this is the question we want to try to answer now, how do we extrapolate that into, or how do we build a study around that and then go into the field and collect data and all of that. So what was that process like and what was the timeline? 


Yeah. So first of all, we had Susan Baier as our research partner, which I’m I recommended we definitely, we definitely, unless we do research and house, we need to have a research partner. So they know how to structure and build a tool. That’s going to give you valid data back. But what was interesting in Susan’s process is we actually had the whole team, my whole team, and Susan on a call kind of brainstorming around a subject and saying, what do we know about collaboration? What have we observed where it’s worked, and what have we observed where it hasn’t worked? And this information came from not only my over 200 podcast interviews. 


Collaboration research? So I’ve talked to over 200 people about this topic, but also from my agency’s own. I work with clients who are and collaborations that wee service as counts for us. And so my team had a lot of insights because they’re like feet on the ground, right inside these collaborations, helping. Then, what Susan did from that brainstorm was she took everything that we thought we knew or that we knew. And then we wanted to test it essentially. So she’s structured a tool, a survey that you would ask questions and such a way that I’m we, we’re basically trying to fight either, prove her wrong or prove rights. 


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Collaboration Research: Navigating the Journey of Collaboration Research


Collaboration research? Some of these assumptions that we had about collaboration. And then, as far as a timeline, we engaged, I think it was in September, and we had our results by December. So it was about a three-month process. And so you’ve got to develop the tool in the questions, which was the first part of it. Then, coming up with the lists that you wanted to send it to, you need to find the people to take the survey. We did not pay for that. There is a way that you can pay to get people to take your survey. We felt we have enough of an audience through the podcast our own e-mail marketing lists in the associations that we belong to and we were able to get a good enough sample, and then once the tool was out in the field, it’s out there for a few weeks. 


When did I start with collaboration research? I can’t remember exactly. It might be two to three weeks, and then you close it out and start to play with the data. Really. So, yeah. So that’s what happened. One of the things I’ll say about putting it out in the field, we had our lists and we also had the associations who said they would put it out for us because it was our first time. I feel like on our second time, we’ll get more people raising their hands. We had enough meaning. I thought we would’ve gotten more takers. We ended up with 161 respondents, which was enough to make it valid within plus or minus. 


I can’t remember five or something like that. So it’s a pretty good, solid number. I wished that we could have gotten some of the associations that agreed to send it out for us for more responses from them so that we could’ve gotten a sample size that was outside of our own audience. But we do have a pretty big audience because of the podcast in our email list. But I, through that process, I mean, it didn’t slow us down and it didn’t stop us from getting great data. And we have a really good cornerstone piece of cornerstone content from that. But I think the second time we go out, it’s gonna, it’ll just grow like a, cause we got this already, and people have taken an interest in it. 


And so I think once you have it, they go, oh, okay. Now I understand what you’re doing. Sure, I’ll raise my hand. I’ll participate.


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Collaboration Research: The Three-Month Journey of Collaboration Research


Let me give this back to you and make sure I’m tracking. So, end to end, about three months of kind of forming up the assumptions. What are we going to prove or contradict by going to the field and collecting data? Now, did those three months also include all of a statistical analysis or so forth? So, at the end of the three months, we have the findings. 


We had some early findings that I was using in December. But the final report and everything was probably more like January. So there, there was like, we have the data in and what was cool for me as I was speaking at a virtual event in December and I was able to pull in some early data and share it. And it was just some early findings. It wasn’t the final executive summary, or we didn’t have it on our website or anything, but I was able to say, Hey, we just pulled this in from the field. And here’s something really interesting because one of the data points was that 94% of respondents said that collaboration was going to be. I forget the exact word we used, but it was critical to recovery. 


And so I was, that was a really cool data point to have to be sharing in December as we were still in the thick of the pandemic and thinking about what recovery might look like as I was encouraging people to start thinking about collaborations and how they can really use those for recovery. So it was just a kind of a neat thing to be able to have this early data point. And I think there might’ve been a couple of others I pulled too early on, but yeah, once you, of all the data in a title does take a little while to get that executive summary to get your assets ready for your website. And what we did is, I think it was mid to late January. We held a webinar for the first, for our clients and revealed the study. 


And then we held a public-facing webinar a few weeks after that. And that’s how we released the study. And when we released it, we released it with an executive summary. Of course, you had the webinar. Tableau is the software that Susan uses. So it’s just interactive. Umm, look at the data and we were able to embed that into our website. So people could actually go in and play around with it and look at different segments. If there are any curious questions, we release them, and then we develop some of the pieces of content. We developed something that I call the sweet spot, collaboration filter, or something like that. 


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Collaboration Research: Leveraging Survey Data for Collaborative Success


So basically using the data from the survey, but saying, okay, based on the data, we collected them as a survey here as a scoring mechanism, or you can score collaborative opportunities that come your way to see if they’re a good fit. We also developed a quiz because, through the research, we defined the three types of attitudinal segments. And so we developed a quiz. People can go to our website and take this quiz to find out which segment they belong to. And then there’s all these insights about a, about that particular segment that you could then use as you’re entering into collaborations so that it can be more successful if you understand where people are coming from, it’s a little bit easier to work with them. 


Super smart. So it sounds like a big study, a initial nugget that you then smartly took in blended into some speaking engagements. So you had, and December of 2020 final study in an executive summary Dunn in January, but you took that big study in a slice it into like five or six smaller, but really meaty pieces like the filter, like the quiz and so forth. Like, so, this one study or just on the surface turned into five or six super helpful things. 


Right? Yes, exactly. And it actually, what we did with those five things is we did the webinar and then we sent the executive summary that actually became our funnel after the webinar. So we didn’t actually send all of those pieces all at the same time, but we had built out a and ready to go out and in our plan. So when we did our webinar and re you know, and revealed the study results, then we had, I think it, I can’t, but I’m pretty sure it was like a four, four email sequence as a followup. In each one of those, we provided the other pieces that we were using. So we were trying to be really helpful and kind of walk them through the study, but now here’s how you put it into action. 


That’s what we were really trying to do. Okay. 


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Collaboration Research: Maximizing Impact through Exclusive Client Engagement


How to put it into action. Okay. Love that. And in that again, the thread going back to the original purpose of your study, which was what problem to help the industry solve? How can we be more helpful? And so it’s not just the study. It’s how we can then be helpful to our audience so they can put the findings into action. Right, 


Right. Exactly. Yeah. I wanted to make sure our audience knew that this wasn’t just a study for the sake of. We wanted to know that 94% of people think that collaboration is going to be instrumental in recovery. Like, that’s an awesome data point, but then it’s like, okay, how do we actually though, to be better collaborators, that’s a really, really the goal. How can we help our audience be better collaborators? They can collaborate more effectively and be more successful. 


Okay. So let’s go back to your strategy, your webinars strategy because you had the private client webinar and then you had the more public facing webinars. So why is the duality like the two-pronged approach there, what was that strategy about? 


We ended our clients to feel special. Like they’re getting something before everybody else. And it’s been it’s something that has been in our client nurturing strategy for a long time. And this was a huge opportunity for us to really lean into that and point out that we value you as clients. We think this is really helpful. We want to roll this out, but we’re going to roll it out to you first. And not that it really gives them, it didn’t really give them a, a leg up, so to speak. We just wanted them to feel like they were on the inside. 


 and yeah. So that’s how we decided to do that. And we ended up with, I think altogether nearly 200 people between the two, between the two webinars that came. And I mean, we still, these are downloadable items. These are the things that we were constantly using. Wasn’t just a one and done, but that was the launch. 


So what would this be with this? Be fair to say that the research, because I know that you’re building out these really amazing keynotes. Would it be fair to say that the research is also assisted with the build-out of the keynote and also that I know you have been hosting this amazing podcast now for the last five years, and the podcast there was some germination of that into the research? Is that now going backwards to where the research, giving you talking points to pull into the podcast? 


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Collaboration Research: Maximizing Impact Across Platform


Yes. I didn’t mention that, but we did do a podcast, I think two. I’ve done two so far that have centered around some of the findings of the research. One had Susan and of course, to talk about it. So that was part of our launch strategy. And then, second to that, I used it myself. I’m in a solo cast, and then we also have a very active block, and geez, I’m trying to think how many blog posts we’ve had right now. Actually, once a month, we make sure that we’re posting a blog that relates back to the study. So we’re trying to keep it alive all year long. 


And that’s one way. And then throughout the blog, we also link back to portions of download the executive summary here or find out what kind of a collaborator you are or whatever. All those pieces that we have that are downloadable, we’re linking back through our blog. And I would say that the research study has upped our game on the subject. And I think our audience is really starting to a, not just because of the podcast, but because it’s everywhere now. And it feels to me like it’s everything we’re doing. You mentioned my keynote. I have been working on the Q & A keynote around this topic. 


And then I also have a companion book, or I have a book with a companion keynote. I don’t know what comes first, but both are in production right now. So, the book is on collaboration. The keynote is on collaboration. We talked about collaboration with a podcast or research is on collaboration. So I just feel like we are really spending that flag for ourselves and in our positioning. 


And it’s so smart. How, like, if we were to look at the last five years, how you’ve taken one piece, a cornerstone mastered that found something else mastered that, but then, but then it isn’t, it isn’t like these individual pieces, how you’re knitting these all together or stacking them on top of one another, but what, how their, their totally integrated with how a podcast benefits, research research, or benefits, podcasts, research, or benefits, keynote that then feeds into a book or vice versa, or however that ends up being whatever, but all of your pieces or collaborative, which is a really smart, they’re not individualized. So that’s really cool how you’re doing that. Yeah, it sounds cool. 


Discover more ideas about collaboration research as cornerstone content by tuning in to this episode


Collaboration Research: The Impact of Research on Setting BTI Apart


I said it that way because it’s not that nice of a journey, but it does. It is kind of amazing when you start to focus on something, and then all of a sudden, you’re like, wow, this really does fit together. 


Okay. So what are one of the goals, though? And I know that we’re quickly running out of time, and I want to be respectful of your schedule, but I know that you said that one of the goals for the research or, ultimately, first and foremost, one to be super helpful to your audience, to the industry, how can we help them solve key problems are answer key questions. Awesome. And then if we do that job really well, is that going to help break the ice, stand out, and set yourself apart of it? I think that is what your exact word set BTI apart. So, from your perspective and point of view, do you feel like the work that you and the team, Susan and the team put into the research has helped Break The Ice Media be set apart and stand out? 


And what are some of those ways that you’ve seen come to fruition? 


I do think it’s helped us stand out and separate ourselves. I think some of that hasn’t come completely to fruition yet because we’re still working our way through. We launched in January and February. But the more I hear back from my audience or my clients about noticing that they’re noticing that we’re talking about this, about collaboration, that to say to me, that they know what they haven’t seen anybody else do. This kind of work says to me that we’re finally sort of breaking through. 


The other thing, though, that it’s helped us with is we are, for the first time, this year, going to be bringing the podcast to two national conferences for the industry. And it’s, that has been in my, a, a goal of ours for, for several years. We’ve done regional and statewide conferences in the past, but we have never done a national one. And I think that we’re getting this recognition and in kind of being seen more as a partner, in the eyes of other people in the industry who could be good referral sources for us, a good third party endorsement for us, a good to align ourselves with all of that. 


So it’s also elevated us there. So it’s not just about, it’s not just necessarily about that direct one-on-one client relationship. We’ve landed six new accounts because of this research. I can’t point to that just yet, but I think I will be able to by the end of the year. It definitely has leveled us up. And here’s another thing, Stephen and I haven’t talked about this at all, but we are a team of seven people. And so for a small agency like us to have this type of content and research that gets noticed, I think it really helps us show that we are at a higher level than just a small, what people might think of as a small boutique agency, but that we really can punch above our weight class, if you will in that area. 


And this has really helped us with that, which is why I also think these two national conferences where I’m talking to the CEOs of these two big national organizations trade organizations they talk, I think that, that they’re seeing us in a different light because we really are that partner to the industry.


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Collaboration Research: The Power of Unique Brand Elements


And you mentioned the steak in the ground, and I know that not, not all the time, but some of the time you compete for work through like a request for a proposal or an RFP process. You mentioned punching above your weight. It’s not common for an agency, no matter what the size is, candidly for an agency to have the top rate of a podcast, like you do a bonafide statistically valid research, or like you do a rock-in-awesome blog. Like you do in all of this collaboration and in how you built a name for yourself in your industry, 


So, if somebody on the RFP or the selection committee is looking at these agencies, you stand out because it’s not common. What you and your team have really stacked over the last several years. It’s amazing, 


Nicole. Yeah. It definitely makes a difference. And I think it gives us not only the ability to stand out but more confidence as we go into those pitches. Right. We know we can, or we have a really good story to tell, and you mentioned RFPs when you’re going for our fees. We have to be very picky about the ones we go for because they take a lot of time and money, frankly, to put them together. And so when we pick them, we know we’ve got a really good story. We’ve got a great foundation, and that’s also been key. One more thing I want to say is we’re not a regional agency. This is another thing I’ve been thinking about a lot. 


We want to be a national agency, and we’re located in Rochester, New York, which, a second tier, or market’s not you don’t, you’re not what I can. We are not in New York City, a first-year city. And so this is a way that we can compete with, say, a New York City agency or some of those bigger agencies, even though we’re in a smaller market, ’cause we have these, those things that you just listed, the podcast, the research, and these are ways that we can get ourselves known outside of our region and then outside of our state. And so it’s been that that’s actually even a bigger point is that has been key to our strategy to be able to work at a national level or even an international level, and to move outside of the local or regional agency. 


This is also why it’s so exciting to see you going down the path of keynote in the book and more things to stack into that, because that will open up, obviously, speaking opportunities in, in all of that, which was just amazing. And when we think about the pounding of the steak in the dirt, like you’ve talked about a few minutes ago, it is so awesome. I know the word quickly runs out at a time here, and I want to be respectful of your schedules. So before we go, and before we close out and say goodbye, first of all, thank you. Thank you for again saying yes. Thank you for being generous. I’m with your expertise in taking us behind the curtain, which is amazing. Any final advice that you’d like to share or anything you think we might’ve missed? 


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Collaboration Research: Last Bit of Advice and Connect with Nicole


And then, please do let Onward Nation know the best way to connect with you. 


As far as anything we missed, I can’t think of anything specifically, but I just would say that any of this type of cornerstone content will absolutely change your business. It seems daunting at first to get started. If you have the right partners as you get going, it’s definitely easier. It’s a commitment, but it has made a huge difference for us for all the reasons that I just said. So if you’re thinking about research or any of this content, I would encourage you to just take the first step and in moving in that direction, ’cause before you know it, you’ll be sitting here with Stephen, and he’ll be saying, you’ve got this podcast in this research of this. 


If you go, yes, that does sound kind of cool as far as finding me. I am on LinkedIn, Nicole Mahoney on LinkedIn, my website You can listen to the podcast on whatever podcast player that you listened to, which is Destination on the Left. And I love to network, I take on Zoom meetings all the time, just for networking purposes. So feel free to reach out. I’m happy to share. Oh, okay. 


Onward Nation, no matter how many notes you took or how often you go back and relisten to Nicole’s words of wisdom, which I sure hope that you do, the key is to actually put it into practice, to do what she was encouraging others to do with respect to the research piece. How can you take it and put it into action? How can we take the findings apply them and put them into action? So that’s what’s key to taking this blueprint that she so generously shared with you: take it and apply it. And when you do, you’ll accelerate your results, and Nicole, again, thank you sincerely for coming back to the show for the third time to be our guest, to be our guide, to help us move our businesses onward to the next level. 


Thank you so much, my friend. My absolute pleasure. Thank you. 


This episode is complete. So head over to for show notes and more, or a few of your ambitions. Continue to find your recipe for success here at Onward Nation. 


Discover more ideas about collaboration research as cornerstone content by tuning in to this episode

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