Kim Grotto

Kim Grotto: Effective Marketing Strategies in Times of Crisis

Kim Grotto is the Founder and Owner of Grotto Marketing. Grotto Marketing quickly gets to the heart of what’s important, crafts a strategy and builds a system to deliver business growth.

Join Kim Grotto and Lauren Barron’s webinar:

April 9th at 11am

Below, she provides advice and actionable strategies on how to approach your business marketing in the midst of these tough times.

Times-and People-Have Changed

Our current state will last longer than a few weeks. I think it will be at least into the fall, and we should expect about 18 months transition from “before” to “after”. After does not mean back to business as usual. The world is forever changed. Here are a few of my observations:

We are seeing innovation and adoption at a record pace (examples include food delivery,eLearning and performances). This will only continue as businesses are forced to pivot and adapt or close their doors.

The longer the uncertainty remains, the more people will face a reckoning of their values, behaviors and habits. Social chatter reveals a renewed focus on hyper-local community, mental well-being, exercising, supporting small business, education, and the arts… with a willingness to pay for it.

Building an Online Presence

It is more important than ever to have an online presence. This is the way people will discover you and is an efficient way to communicate in times like these. In some instances, your digital delivery will also be your only revenue stream.

Focus on the fundamentals. Are you satisfied with your website? Can it deliver your products and services, today? What eCommerce options do you have and how quickly can you build it? Have you claimed your Google and Bing business listing? Do you own all of your social media handles and is your information up to date? How regularly are you communicating? When was the last time you sent an email to your audience?


With so much of us stuck behind closed doors, computers and phones are the gateway to the outside world. If you’re not interacting online, you’re at risk of being forgotten.

The Power of Communication

If your tactic is to outshout everyone else, stop it. There’s always someone willing to yell louder. And if you’re using social media as a billboard, you’ll go unnoticed. With 24/7 news cycle captivating our feeds, you must take a hard look at your communications strategy and adjust it according to today’s conditions:

Focus on communicating and connecting over your values, not your product. Now more than ever, people are seeking a genuine connection, and they’ll pay attention to those who create it.

Do not assume people know anything. Do not expect them to connect the dots.

Deliver digestible chunks of information. In the reactive state we are in, the average person- more than ever- doesn’t have the attention span or capacity to process a long-winded message with multiple takeaway points. Bullet points and 2-3 sentence paragraphs are your friend.

Concentrate on frequency and repetition. In this environment, it may take 3-5 exposures to your message for someone to take notice and for it to sink-in.

I will note that audiences seeking thought leadership and evergreen content will have a higher tolerance for well-thought, more in-depth pieces.

Create a Marketing Strategy

There’s a reason marketers have one strategy for prospects (acquisition) and one strategy for customers (retention, cross-sell, upsells, referrals). Zero in on your audiences and strategize for them individually.

Remember: a disruption of this magnitude opens up many opportunities.

Covid-19 is a pretty big interruption to the usual thought patterns and routines. People’s everyday lives are completely different. Their habits and routines have been turned upside down. They’re searching for answers and sharing information like crazy. And their values and character are being pressure tested.

Collectively, this opens the door to discovering new solutions and exploring new ways of doing things. There’s an opportunity for awareness and, if the meaning, value, and relevance are there, there’s a willingness to try it out. Think about your prospects and customers as individuals and meet them where they are.

Lean into Marketing

Do not cut your marketing budget to zero! I know it’s the go-to expense to pull back on but there are much wider implications to this than simply advertising dollars. Effective marketing encompasses both strategic and tactical execution to drive awareness, consideration, and conversion. If you eliminate it, you’ll not only lower expenses, you’ll simultaneously reduce the opportunity for revenue, growth, and innovation. Now is the time to lean into your marketing. Just make sure you invest in it wisely.

The following are just a few of the many strategies you can implement into your business to continue to advantage and grow your business. Thank you to Kim Grotto for sharing her insights.

Stay Up to Date

Learn more about Grotto Marketing and the ways in which they can help grow your company by visiting their website!

Connect with Grotto Marketing on Instagram and LinkedIn. Find Kim on LinkedIn.

Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

Lauren Barron: Helping Entrepreneurs Navigate a New Normal

Lauren Barron received an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management; she is also the founder and co-owner of Gray Matters Games (GMG). GMG is a company that creates lively and cognitively challenging board game experiences for people with active minds. Through its games, Gray Matters promotes community, encourages fun and gives back to Alzheimer’s research. She shares her advice on how to tackle the challenging times ahead.

Join Lauren Barron and Kim Grotto’s webinar:

April 9th at 11am

Planning Ahead

COVID-19 and the economic impact it has will fundamentally change the small business landscape. If you are not already, you need to think about this as more than a 2-4 week issue. There will be supply chain shocks that have not yet manifested, consumer confidence may be shaky and people will just operate their day-to-day lives differently. Plan now as if this will impact your business at least through the end of 2020. The good news here is that – if you tackle this head-on, make the tough choices now and consider how COVID-19 can help you adapt your business model, you can absolutely come out of this with a stronger business.

Do Not be Complacent

I worked with struggling business owners for 5 years during the last recession, and the ONLY commonality among the businesses who did not make it were that they were complacent – either in their business model, in how they managed their financials or both. I want to communicate this to you in no uncertain terms: This is not the time for complacency. Small business owners are being called to action.

So – the big question on every small business owner’s mind is: Now What?

I want to communicate this to you in no uncertain terms: This is not the time for complacency. Small business owners are being called to action.

Understanding Customer Demand

I have put together a list of high-level questions to help you start to take inventory of your situation:

Is there still demand for my product or service? All of these questions will help you assess flexibility in your revenue line, which is comprised of two main drivers – demand/volume and pricing.

If the answer is no, consider this: What will customers want when demand returns? OR What does my business offer that’s of value that can drive demand?

Travel-related businesses are a great example of this – demand is low right now; however, domestic travel is likely to recover quicker than international travel in the coming months. What can you do now to address this forthcoming need? Are there domestic travel packages you can devise that will help people with vacations in late summer or fall this year? If yes, start working on them now.

If the answer is yes, but people can’t access your business the way they normally do, what can you do to adapt? Move to virtual services, move selling on to your website, offer delivery, curb-side, etc.?

If the answer is yes, but pricing is a barrier, what can you reasonably charge customers that helps them fit a budget and still covers your costs (at the very least – ideally, still making a profit)?

I am a huge proponent of charging your worth; however, right now, people need help. Let’s all remember that we are humans doing the best we can and try to be in service to each others’ businesses and success.

Reassess Your Business

What is happening in my cost structure? The time is now to reassess every single expense you have on your most recent P&L. What is a variable cost that can be eliminated or reduced now without negatively impacting your ability to operate? What is a fixed cost that can continue in the short term?

What is a fixed cost that would need to be eliminated if there is a protracted COVID-19 impact or resulting recession? Assess your resources – what can technology do to help you eliminate manual processes or help lower payroll? Where are there opportunities to create other efficiencies in your operations?

What is the bare minimum you need to operate? Write a list of everything you would have to spend money on to service a baseline of demand. You should know this now, not later.

Can you seek relief related to utilities, rent or debt payments now? Don’t wait until you really need it – be proactive. Do you have subscription services or other regular expenses that are not necessary right now? Where else can you pivot and adapt on the cost side? What balance sheet risk am I willing to take?

There is a temptation right now to offer suppliers or customers extended terms. I urge you to think about this VERY carefully before agreeing. Unlike in other recessions, the impact of COVID-19 is far-reaching, and unless you have intimate knowledge of a supplier’s financial situation, liquidity and ability to weather this storm, I would encourage you to protect your business as best you can. You have no idea if that supplier will go out of business and won’t be able to pay you in 60 or 90 days. You can always consider Cash on Order or Cash on Delivery as an alternative if you really need supply.

Show Your Value

Last point. If you have historically been a “push marketer,” you need to change your message now. The best thing you can do is: (i) show your value to clients and potential clients in their time of need, and (ii) BE IN SERVICE TO THEM – really and truly. Think every day about what’s in it for them and how you can help.

This list of questions is just the tip of the iceberg on how to navigate an unprecedented time to be a small business owner, but in a situation that can feel paralyzing, I hope it helps give you a start.

While these times are difficult, emotionally draining and, at times, scary for us all – please know this: there are people like me in your corner ready to assist. You do not have to do this alone – in fact, you shouldn’t. The small business community is a powerhouse of people who care a lot, and we stand ready to serve you. We are one.

Stay Up to Date

Learn more about Gray Matters Games and the fun board games they create by visiting their website!

Connect with Lauren on Instagram and LinkedIn.

For additional resources, visit our Small Business Resources to Overcome COVID-19 blog post.

Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.

How Marvelous Minds Is Breaking Down Barriers

Kym Larson was a college student with a passionate interest in learning what makes people tick, when she earned extra money as an ABA therapist for autistic children. She noticed the incredible amount of time the children’s parents spent taking the child from one appointment to another. These children needed help with speech pathology, counseling, testing, tutoring, physical and occupational therapy and more. The parents were desperate to help their children but had little down time to just be with them, enjoying and nurturing their natural personalities. Larson, knew there had to be a better way.

An Idea Still Percolating

While working towards her doctorate in neuropsychology and practicing for a number of years, Dr. Larson time and again saw parents struggle to navigate a complex system of services required to help their children achieve success. She realized how the “system” was tedious and complex for parents and children.

And, Larson thought, what if that place were comfy and cozy: A fun place to be instead of a sterile, bland clinic?

That idea she had in undergrad was still percolating. Wouldn’t it be great for the families of struggling children if they could get all their services in one place? And, Larson thought, what if that place were comfy and cozy: A fun place to be instead of a sterile, bland clinic?

What if the service providers—the therapists, neuropsychologists, tutors, OT’s and speech pathologists—just wore regular clothes, like the children’s parents and teachers, instead of lab coats and suits that made them look like intimidating scientists or menacing professionals? After all, Larson reasoned, children need to feel comfortable and safe in order to learn and grow, and the clinical uniforms didn’t really serve any purpose other than making the office look more, well, clinical, and maybe intimidating.

How Marvelous Minds Came to Be

Larson, who hails from Glen Ellyn, Illinois, returned to her home town to raise her own family after completing her education and gaining valuable work experience as a neuropsychologist. In 2017 her idea became a reality and she opened her dream clinic and named it Marvelous Minds: the place where children and families could access a plethora of services all under one roof in an environment that was warm, inviting, entertaining and pleasant. That’s what she envisioned all those years ago as a young college student and everything seemed to be in place for success. Except there was a problem.

Growth as a Barrier

When the doors opened and Marvelous Minds became a reality, the problem wasn’t lack of customers or resources, it was growth. Fast growth. “The speed with which our practice has grown took me by surprise,” said Larson. “I thought I would have time to learn about running a business while my practice grew, but it happened so fast, I could barely keep up. They don’t teach you how to run a business in grad school, the focus is purely clinical.”

Fortunately, Larson found the Innovation DuPage Owner-to-CEO accelerator program which was the perfect resource to meet Larson’s need to learn what she needed to know to continue on her road to success. The program allows business owners of all kinds to come together, learn from experts in a variety of topics like finance, human resources, marketing, distribution and more, as well as from one another. The group forms a cohort that shares what works and what doesn’t in a non-competitive, friendly and collegial environment at Innovation DuPage twice weekly for twelve weeks.

Larson said, “The program was like a mini-MBA. It came at the perfect time for me. I didn’t know what I didn’t know about running a business until I enrolled in the program. But one of the best things about it was getting to know the other business owners and taking advantage of the other programs Innovation DuPage offers.”

Indeed, Larson’s employees are also taking advantage of the classes and workshops offered by Innovation DuPage, so they too can learn what they need to know—from digital marketing to website analytics—to help Marvelous Minds continue on their trajectory toward success.

Marvelous Minds Is Hiring, Welcoming New Customers, Growing and Helping Children

Dr. Larson’s Marvelous Minds is not only growing, it’s thriving. Parents who are concerned about the development of their children—whether struggling in school, suffering from anxious, forgetful or impulsive behavior or myriad other diagnoses from ADHD to cognitive and motor disorders, even substance abuse—can find help under one roof at Marvelous Minds. Under the watchful eye of a range of high-level professionals from occupational therapists to speech pathologists to tutors and parent coaches to neuropsychologists (including Dr. Larson), the whole child is treated to improve behaviors and outcomes.

Larson said, “The biggest surprise in running a business, in addition to meeting my five-year plan in one year, was finding out how much I’m enjoying building a business. I knew there’d be a huge learning curve, but I didn’t know how fast I would need to learn it, and how many mistakes I could have made along the way. I’m still learning, but it’s fantastic to know Innovation DuPage is here to help when I get stuck.”

Marvelous Minds Working Marvelous Miracles

What she already knows is how much Marvelous Minds is helping her patients and their families. Larson said, “Bringing one-multi-disciplinary team to handle everything a struggling child might need and having all the services together under one roof—speech, OT, behavioral, parent coaching, psych—is so rewarding. I love to say, ‘Let’s go across the hall and talk to that person,” when it becomes clear through our work that another service is needed. As far as I know, an organization like this didn’t exist before Marvelous Minds. I love that we can treat kids and their parents, see them thrive and watch as they become all they can be with our help. That is why we are here.”

It is that joy and optimism, not to mention smarts, that is attracting new patients to Marvelous Minds in Glen Ellyn. As the practice continues to add new therapists and services, and continues to grow, it is enjoying a reputation for innovation in its field. That and the gratitude of parents who’ve finally found the help they need to watch the little marvelous minds in their households reach their full potential.

Larson added, “If you (or anyone you know) is looking for a marvelous career to change lives and empower families, contact me today. We are currently looking for pediatric and family therapists, an occupational therapist, a neuropsychologist, and special education tutors and advocates. Come join our ‘marvelous’ family!”

Innovation DuPage can help transform your idea into a viable commercial venture. Connect with us on Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook or call 630-942-3340 to explore your next steps. If you are interested in connecting with entrepreneurs like you, check out our public events.