1736 – The Human-to-Human Business Approach with Allison Conway

In this episode of the Thoughtful Entrepreneur, your host Josh Elledge speaks with the Founder, Strategist & Creative Director  of Sealevel Agency, Allison Conway.

Conway wide

Allison emphasized the importance of creating bold and human brands, even in the financial services and supply chain industries. 

Allison explained that many businesses in these industries hesitate to step outside the “buttoned-up” image they believe they should portray. 

However, she argues that by telling stories and humanizing their brand, they can connect with their customers on a deeper level.

Allison points out that all business is human-to-human, and consumers now expect brands to reflect this in their branding. B2B marketing, in particular, is highly emotional, as clients often share their business challenges and anxieties. 

When asked about resources or recommendations for those interested in making changes and diving into their communities, Alison suggested following her on LinkedIn, where she regularly posts valuable content. 

Additionally, she offers a guide called “The Guinness Treatment” on her website, which provides insights on giving your business the same level of brand management as Guinness, a company known for its strong community involvement.

Key Points from the Episode:

  • Importance of creating bold and human brands in traditionally “boring” industries
  • Telling stories and humanizing brands to connect with customers on a deeper level
  • Example of Guinness Storehouse's storytelling and community connection
  • Focus on providing emotional safety in financial services industry
  • Understanding the emotional needs of customers and tailoring branding accordingly
  • All business is human-to-human, even in B2B marketing
  • Importance of understanding and being a part of the community you serve
  • Immersing yourself in the community to better understand their needs

About Allison Conway:

A seasoned adventurer and accomplished author, Allison Conway boasts a rich tapestry of global experiences, having explored over 40 countries. Her travel highlights range from savoring Jordan's culinary delights to immersing herself in Egypt's historical treasures, Austria's picturesque landscapes, and Vietnam's vibrant urban jungle. 

A self-published author, Conway achieved a remarkable feat with her book, soaring to #1 bestseller status on Amazon in the competitive Business & Money and Self-Help categories.

Beyond her literary accomplishments, Conway walked the transformative Camino de Santiago, a 500-mile pilgrimage in Spain, and briefly contributed to a float plane operation in Alaska. 

Her diverse experiences transcend conventional market research, offering invaluable insights into brand management and marketing strategy. Conway emphasizes the art of storytelling and authentic connections, navigating the delicate balance between ego and authenticity. 

Unafraid to challenge norms since her early school days, Conway's unconventional approach underscores her effectiveness in marketing and brand management.

About Sealevel Agency:

Sealevel Agency® specializes in brand management, design, and marketing strategy, anchored in the belief that, at its core, business is a human endeavor. The agency's approach centers on storytelling, considering every business as a narrative shaped by human interactions. 

Sealevel Agency builds brands that exude trustworthiness, kindness, transparency, and value through consistent and authentic storytelling. Their philosophy views brand management as the art of cultivating trust and captivation.

Beyond narrative, Sealevel Agency offers a suite of services, including design, marketing, and copywriting, to develop a comprehensive and compelling brand personality. 

For businesses seeking immediate assistance, the agency provides Sealevel Strategy Mapping Sessions, a 90-minute deep dive to align strategies with goals and furnish clients with a personalized 90-day Action Plan—a strategic playbook to guide and elevate their brand.

Tweetable Moments:

03:22 – “Yes, you do have compliance and all of those things, but you can also tell stories and humanize your brand, humanize your industry.”

10:32′, “It's a lot harder to sell to a group of people that you are not personally a part of.”

Apply to be a Guest on The Thoughtful Entrepreneur:

Links Mentioned in this Episode:

Want to learn more? Check out Sealevel Agency® website at

Check out Sealevel Agency® on LinkedIn at

Check out Allison Conway on LinkedIn at

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Josh (00:00:05) - Hey there, thoughtful listener. Would you like consistent and predictable sales activity with no spam and no ads? I'll teach you step by step how to do this, particularly if you're an agency owner, consultant, coach, or B2B service provider. What I teach has worked for me for more than 15 years and has helped me create more than $10 million in revenue. Just head to up my influence and watch my free class on how to create endless high ticket sales appointments. You can even chat with me live and I'll see and reply to your messages. Also, don't forget the thoughtful entrepreneur is always looking for guests. Go to up my influence and click on podcast. We'd love to have you. With us right now, it's Allison Conway. Allison, you are the founder of C-level agency. You're also a strategist. Creative director. Your website is sea level agency. Allison, thank you for joining us. Yeah.

Allison (00:01:13) - Thanks.

Josh (00:01:13) - Josh, please give us an overview of what you do with sea level.

Allison (00:01:17) - Yeah.

Allison (00:01:17) - So sea level agency spelled like the level of the ocean is a brand management marketing strategy, design consultancy helping clients industries that are in sort of traditionally vanilla or boring industries. And we help them create really fun and bold brands through the stories that make them human. A lot of people think that their marketing, their brand management, their brand strategy has to be boring, but we help them see that their brand is in fact human, and they should represent themselves that way.

Josh (00:01:53) - Yeah. And so who do you work with?

Allison (00:01:56) - Yeah. So we work with B2B clients in industries like financial services, supply chain industries like that, where you would traditionally think, oh, this is a boring industry. I'm really not supposed to have fun, interesting, bold branding. But we come in and we say, okay, here's where we make you super human. Here's where you identify with your customers, with your community in a way that they can really react to and reach.

Josh (00:02:24) - Yeah. And Allison, you know, someone who is nervous about that, right? And they're like, but we're buttoned up.

Josh (00:02:32) - We're, you know, white collar, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Like, if you were to spend some time and say, okay, sit down, let me give you the kind of the 401 let me give you, like my little mini Ted talk. Do you mind kind of giving us that little mini Ted talk right now about why this is so important?

Allison (00:02:47) - Yeah, absolutely. So this past spring, I was in Dublin at the Guinness Storehouse and walking around the storehouse in Dublin. I'm not really much of a beer drinker and especially stouts. They're really not for me. Yeah.

Josh (00:03:02) - Yeah, but walking around the guy. Yeah.

Allison (00:03:06) - But walking around the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, they did such a remarkable job of selling me on the product that they give you a sample at the end, and then you can go to the bar at the top and have as many drinks as you want, and by the end of it I'm like, oh my gosh, give me this beer.

Allison (00:03:22) - This is so great. They're selling beer. It's not that interesting, right? But because of the stories that they tell and because of the way that they connect to their community, it becomes interesting. And I'm suddenly a convert. And give me beer, give me a stout, this dark beer that I would never normally drink. So when people are nervous about wanting to be buttoned up or wanting to, you know, oh, I don't want to say that because we're in a financial services industry. So we have all of these things that we have compliance, we have all of these things that we have to do. Yes, you do have compliance and all of those things, but you can also tell stories and humanize your brand, humanize your industry. You know, I say this to financial services especially. You're not in the wealth management business. You're in the emotional safety business.

Josh (00:04:12) - That's really important to break that down.

Allison (00:04:15) - Yeah. So this is true for many industries. But let's take financial services as an example.

Allison (00:04:22) - You're not in the wealth management business. You're not in the financial planning business. You are in the emotional safety business. What do people feel when they come to you? You're managing somebody, you know, hey, I got three kids. They all need to go to college. And I want to make sure I'm prepared for retirement or or whatever it is. What does that all sound like to you? Anxiety. That sounds like I'm so nervous about how am I going to send my three kids to college? How am I going to plan for retirement? How am I going to, you know, I want to start this business, but I don't know how I'm going to fund it. I want to do these things. That is all. When a person comes to you as a wealth manager, they're coming to you and they're saying, give me emotional safety. Tell me how I manage my money so that I know I can protect and serve my family. I can start the businesses I want to start.

Allison (00:05:08) - I can run with the ideas I want to run. That's true for almost any industry you're in, right? You take the apparel business. You know, if you have a clothing brand, you're not in the clothing business. You're in the social status business. You're in the business of giving people the status with the trends and making them feel like they are part of their social community.

Josh (00:05:30) - Yeah. You know, and again, this idea all business is human to human. Can you tell me more about what I'm particularly interested in is your observation of I believe that all businesses always been to human to human, but I think, I think consumers, my opinion, are expecting that to be reflected in branding much more so than in the past, where four out of five dentists agree that you should. Or whatever. Right. And could you maybe share some observations of trends around this?

Allison (00:06:02) - Yeah. So human to human. I would actually argue that B2B marketing is even more emotional than to see, you know, you take a beat to see brand, let's say Nordstrom, for example.

Allison (00:06:13) - You walk into a store, you buy the clothing that's on trend, you buy the sneakers that you need to go for a run in, whatever it is. Nordstrom has a brand you buy from target over Walmart for, you know, all of the reasons within their brand, right? But B2B marketing is when I get on a discovery call with a prospective client, they're basically trauma dumping on me, right? They're like, I have this problem in my business and I have this, I have I got to make payroll and I got to bring in revenue, and I got to do this and this and this and this. And it is a highly emotional decision in B2B marketing. So humanizing that. It's almost never about the product itself. Right. Like, you know, you can retain me to manage your brand long term for marketing strategy for design, things like that. But that product isn't actually relevant. What's relevant is here's how we're going to make payroll, here's the emotional connection to what your business, why it matters in your business.

Allison (00:07:14) - Here's why the long term management of your brand matters emotionally. This is how you're going to get your three kids in college, because we're going to do one, two and three to manage your brand long term.

Josh (00:07:27) - Yeah. And I know a lot of work, Allison, that you do is kind of centers around the customer journey. Can you maybe share a bit about your high level thoughts or opinions on how we should view, or to what level that we should obsess on your customer journey?

Allison (00:07:47) - Yeah, absolutely. So it has a lot to do with the experience, right? But it's also when I talk about customer journey, I talk a lot about the way that they decide to work with you, and B the journey that you take them on through your product suite so they may come into your orbit and not necessarily be ready to have a retainer with you. Or you're like, purchase your flagship product. But they could be ready to take a slower process with you. Or a they could be ready to do a one day strategy session, for example, or a 90 minute strategy or whatever it is, and allowing them to take that journey.

Allison (00:08:28) - Okay, I've done the one day with you now I'm ready to do a retainer, or now I'm ready to commit to a longer term contract as opposed to, you know, asking them to marry you without getting to know them first.

Josh (00:08:42) - Yeah. Okay. So when you work with your clients, what does that typically look like?

Allison (00:08:49) - When I start a long term contract with somebody, it looks a little different for my other offerings. But the long term contract, we essentially take the first few months to gather data around what your actual community wants from you. What your clients are saying is good is not good. And then we plan for how can we fill in the gaps that you're missing. So, for example, I might come in in the first few months of, of that contract and say, okay, here's an opportunity. Your clients, they may not be ready to book your, you know, let's say a retainer contract with you, but they might be ready for this. So here's a product that we need to add into the customer journey to make sure that they are ready to work with you.

Allison (00:09:34) - And then from there, it's it's a lot of seeing what works, navigating what your community actually needs from you. You know, you take the Guinness brand, right? They're selling beer. But that's not what you think about when you think Guinness. You think about the community. You think about Ireland, you think about the history. You think about all those kinds of things that the product itself is part of it. It's an important vehicle to drive, but it's the vehicle that drives the purpose. So in long term brand management, that's what we are figuring out. What is the vehicle that drives your purpose?

Josh (00:10:09) - How can someone figure this out, or what are some questions that they could ask themselves? Or what are some simple steps that they could do that they could start to uncover this?

Allison (00:10:17) - Yeah. So it's very important to know your community better. I mean, I'm sure you talk about this all the time, right? Knowing your ideal client avatar, that's entrepreneurship 101. But it goes even deeper than that.

Allison (00:10:32) - It's knowing your community like the back of your hand. It's a lot harder to sell to a group of people that you are not personally a part of. Right? If I were to go and try to sell my services to a bunch of mechanics, they're going to look at me and be like, all right, lady, I don't know what you want from us here. You're not a part of our group. We don't have any idea what it is that that you want from us. Right? But if you're going. Into a community that you are personally a part of, it's a lot easier to dive into what are the problems that they're having, right? If I were a mechanic myself, or maybe I grew up in a family of mechanics, then I could say, oh, well, these are the issues that mechanics have, and these are the ways that this is going to help their garage grow much bigger, or this is how they're going to open new locations or whatever that is. But if I'm not a part of that community, I have no idea what their problems are.

Allison (00:11:23) - So the very first thing that you need to do is plant yourself in the community of the people that you serve. That might mean joining a club for mechanics, or it might mean going to more networking events for mechanics. Or it might mean, you know, if mechanics are on strike, joining the picket lines for mechanics. Right. It's being a part of that community in every aspect.

Josh (00:11:47) - Yeah. So your website, C level agency, let's say someone's listening to us right now and they're like, okay, well I know I'm open to making some changes, you know, so someone's listening or a conversation and they're kind of ready to dive in, you know, maybe even before a conversation, you have something that you'd recommend that they take a look at or read or watch prior to maybe grabbing time with you.

Allison (00:12:14) - Yes. So the first thing is LinkedIn. I'm posting stuff on LinkedIn every day.

Josh (00:12:18) - So here you are. You're a good LinkedIn follow.

Allison (00:12:22) - So the first step would be LinkedIn. The second step is to dive a little more in and to see what pieces you might be missing.

Allison (00:12:30) - I have a guide. It's called the Guinness treatment. So if you go to sea level agency slash Guinness treatment, it's a quick guide about how to give your business the Guinness treatment.

Josh (00:12:41) - Yeah. Again, just in case anyone forgot again what is the Guinness treatment.

Allison (00:12:45) - Yeah. So that is giving your brand. No one does brand management better than Guinness.

Josh (00:12:52) - What are they doing.

Josh (00:12:54) - So they can I.

Josh (00:12:55) - Apologize? I know you were kind of talking about this earlier, but just.

Josh (00:12:58) - Yeah. Yeah. No that's okay.

Allison (00:12:59) - So what Guinness does is they take their product which is beer. Right. And they plant themselves into their communities in Dublin. Now of course this is branched out to all over the world. Right. But if we take it on the micro level, they have inserted themselves into everything that their community does and needs. So for example, they have been on the forefront of movements in Ireland. They have been the leader in conversations about their communities in Ireland and now, of course, all over the world.

Allison (00:13:40) - So the Guinness treatment is essentially giving your brand the treatment that Guinness gives to their brand, essentially making your brand as long lasting as the Guinness brand.

Josh (00:13:55) - Now wouldn't that be awesome? All right, so Allison Conway again, your website c level You mentioned again the free resource. And I also I know that you do strategy sessions. What happens in a strategy session.

Allison (00:14:10) - Yeah. Oh gosh. That is a 90 minute session that we essentially fit into 90 minutes. Everything that you're going to need to do long term. So for example if your brand visuals right, that's just one element of your brand is the colors and the fonts and the logos, things like that. So we decide, are those things aligned with where you want your brand to go and if they are, how to use them creatively to communicate to your audience. We look at your customer journey and where you might need to fit in new products. Into that product suite. We look at what your current marketing strategy is, so how you communicate with your community, how you serve your clients, what's working, what's not working.

Allison (00:14:54) - It's a highly potent 90 minutes.

Josh (00:14:58) - Nice nice. All right. Again the website C level That's SCA level agency Allison Conway again you're the founder. Thank you so much for joining us.

Allison (00:15:11) - Thanks, Josh.

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