Data. Market research. Customer acquisition. Whether you’re a small business owner, startup entrepreneur or nonprofit fundraiser, those three things might well be the holy grail we’re all after. But how do you actually find what you’re looking for when you’re strapped for time and short on resources?
The answer lies with a white-haired Wonder Woman you may have seen walking the halls of Vibe Coworks of late. Her name: Peggy Branaman.
Based at the Poulsbo branch of the Kitsap Regional Library, Peggy has the answers for those of us looking to up our targeted marketing game. At Peggy’s fingertips: Reference USA (RefUSA), a proprietary database that’s like a heat-seeking missile. With accuracy, clarity and efficiency, it locates the very customers or donors you’d like to connect with most.
Peggy is a whiz at harnessing the power of RefUSA to identify new sales prospects, create effective marketing plans and gather essential competitive analyses. Now, she and her colleague Carina Wood bring this awesomeness to Vibe members every month by holding Data Days: KRL Open Office Hours at Vibe Coworks — the coworking space many of us like to call home. Like many events and workshops at Vibe, Data Days are free and open to everyone, regardless of whether or not you’re a Vibe member.
So, let’s dish about how RefUSA—and librarians—can amp up your social enterprise, networking and entrepreneurial spirits.
What brought KRL into partnership with Vibe Coworks?
Peggy: Vibe is at the intersection of so many key components of a thriving community that makes Kitsap a better place for all of us to live. The library is laser-focused on supporting Economic Vitality as a Public Services priority. I am a business specialist and, in my role as an Adult Services Librarian, work intimately with nonprofits as well.
Once I met Alanna and Marcel and understood their vision, I couldn’t resist Vibe. Their invitation to do a workshop and pilot monthly office hours on site at Vibe Coworks is exactly what librarians do: be out in the community, listen, build relationships, be a connector to the right resources, the right people. Meet people where they are, literally and figuratively, whether on the street or in the board room. Vibe Coworks was a natural fit for KRL. And it’s natural to me, as a former sales person. I love doing this work—the impact and the joy!
Give us the lowdown on — and an example of — Reference USA’s success.
Peggy: RefUSA is the highest-quality data source, in my opinion, for marketing and contact information for businesses in the US and Canada. It also profiles individuals, a la such demographics and psychographics as habits, preferences, interests and whether or not they’re new to the area.
Since we brought RefUSA into the library system, it’s generated incredible word of mouth. It’s a product that truly lives up to the hype. I’m passionate about it and a good listener, so that makes matching what you need and what it can do for you something that comes naturally to me. From the conversations I have with people, I can customize the Reference USA resources to work for you and your goals. It’s empowering.
Here’s one concrete example of what a practical, hardworking tool Reference USA really is:
I work with businesses, but also with the nonprofit sector a lot. Mary Nader, the former director of Fishline, came to me about identifying the highest charitable givers in the 98370 zip code. She was two days away from breaking ground for the new facilities on Viking Way and needed that list from me in five minutes! I emailed that list over, and Mary’s people were able to start making calls right away. That’s how fast we can customize and target the database.
What’s your favorite success story of introducing someone to RefUSA?
Peggy: This young contractor came in, new to the area, a very quiet kind of guy, not very expressive. I was baffled by him as I can usually read a person right away. I asked myself, “Am I reaching him?” It didn’t seem like it.
He didn’t seem very excited about RefUSA, despite our finding a number of businesses and organizations for him to look into. He went out the door of the meeting room, heading for the front door, and I hear this yell: “S@*!, that’s awesome!” This fellow didn’t realize that I was right behind him. And I went, “Oh, yes, that’s what I was looking for!”
I’ve seen that magic happen with RefUSA over and over again. Its capacity to problem solve is life changing.
What else would you like to see the Kitsap Regional Library and Vibe Coworks do together down the road?
Peggy: First, building community together by continuing to pilot office hours at the space.
Everything we do at the Library, and everything they do at Vibe Coworks, centers on relationship empowerment. There are all kinds of natural connections between Vibe’s members and other resources in Kitsap, other leaders and entrepreneurs and remote workers. And in the same way you need to have a lawyer or accountant or doctor, you need a librarian!
I’d also like to fold in this kind of inclusion and fortification for nonprofits through Vibe, marrying social enterprise with social consciousness. Vibe Coworks seems to be very tuned into the world around us and all of its marvelous nuances.
Another thought I have involves the big picture. By working together and offering free access to RefUSA and other KRL services, we’re on the cutting edge of a whole new universe of entrepreneurs. People working close to home and being able to work anywhere as they positively impact their community and county.
The vision they have at Vibe Coworks is really special, I believe. It’s broad, sophisticated and bold. I want to be part of making their vision of the Vibe team and all of its members come alive. Not just a place; it’s a place that things happen. The creativity and power of individual, local action—that’s big. After all, Poulsbo is the business center of Kitsap. Today, we are part of the goodness and generosity that is growing Kitsap at large.
You work with nonprofits and grant seekers. What’s that all about?
Peggy: Working with the social sector from social enterprise to nonprofits and would-be nonprofits is a huge part of my work. I’m heading up the library’s role as a Network Information Partner with the Foundation Center of New York and now GuideStar. They’ve recently joined forces to become one amazing organization called “Candid.”
Candid supports nonprofits in every aspect of the lifecycle from start up to dissolution and everything in-between. The Foundation Center is best known for the grant-seeking moment, providing resources, support and training to people looking for funding, but they are so much more!
I am really passionate about connecting with nonprofits and empowering them with these resources.
You’ve said that this is a very special time for coworking. What do you mean by that?
Peggy: I’ve seen other coworking spaces come and go in the time I’ve worked with businesses in Kitsap as a librarian, going on 20 years in August. But absolutely, the time for coworking is now. Collaboration, entrepreneurship, the social sector, the rapid evolution of nonprofits, transparency, changing workplace values and ethics, transportation challenges, leveraging technology, grassroots solutions to local problems, working, eating, living and giving responsibly and locally … no matter how you look at it, our [time for coworking] has arrived.
Three years ago, the library went out into the community and held dozens of conversations throughout Kitsap, just listening to what people wanted from their communities. Employers wanted to be able to hire locally, employees wanted to work locally, everybody wanted faster, more effective responses to drugs, homelessness, mental illness, poverty, and were willing to work together for local solutions. We saw the theme over and over, and I know we can do that in Kitsap, we can do that in Poulsbo,—we are doing that in Poulsbo. Good people, right timing.
You refer to yourself as a business person first. Why is that important to you?
Peggy: My natural habitat is business. I came to librarianship in mid-life and still feel like a fish out of water, but in a good way. I totally relate to people who are entrepreneurs, for whom time is money. They may not spend time in any of our library buildings, even if they value them and if their families do.
In my previous career I worked with all sizes and types of businesses from Silicon Valley and San Jose to Carmel, Monterey and Big Sur; from lumber mills and lettuce farmers to resorts and high-tech manufacturing facilities. I took that experience and fell naturally into networking with business people of all kinds.
I want business people to know “I get it!” We speak the same language, have the same impatience to get things done, the same drive to keep it practical, keep it real.
I love working with businesses. I want them to know the library has a product or two that will knock their socks off. Over and over people tell me “Wow! I wish I’d known about this 10 years ago!” I want to be in your network. Call me. I know it sounds cheesy, but truly — you’ll be glad you did!
You grew up in Spokane. What do you remember most from your childhood?
Peggy: There’s a family memory I savor. My dad was a bigger-than-life kind of character in our Eastern Washington community. A lawyer who represented anyone who came in the door, whether they could pay or not. That was such a big part of every aspect of my growing up, just being surrounded by how my dad moved through the world. His presence, his values, his drive. He always told me I could do anything.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
Peggy: Just silly! I love to watch Australian dramedies on Netflix. OFFSPRING is it right now. There’s something about the programs from that country. Humor around peoples foibles. I relate to Aussie characters much more than American ones.
Name the authors you can’t live without.
Peggy: If I had to be trapped forever with just one author to listen to, I would choose Shankar Vedentam and his podcasts/NPR program Hidden Brain. This description describes my favorite stimulation and guilty pleasure perfectly: “Hidden Brain helps curious people understand the world – and themselves. Using science and storytelling, Hidden Brain reveals the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, and the biases that shape our choices. Our audience takes uncommon pleasure in the world of ideas…to give you insights to apply at work, at home and throughout your life…love to show how ideas are interconnected…”
It sounds so commonplace. But it is “anything but!”
To that I would add anything by Malcolm Gladwell (Blink, Tipping Point, Outliers, etc). And for business insights, a recent favorite is The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle, for its practical accuracy despite the dull title. It’s a gem and explains just about all the baffling group behavior of every organization while implying extremely simple solutions.
Last, but not least, TED TALKS! [shouting intended]. Favorites include “Why You Don’t Like the Sound of Your Own Voice” by Rebecca Kleinbergen. In under 13 minutes, she explains why people with annoying voices aren’;t actually hearing them like you are. Then there’s “The Power of Introverts” by Susan Cain, which is less than 19 minutes. I have told my family, if I am ever on life support or in a coma, just put me in a room and put on TED Talks.
What are 3 things that people might not guess about you?
That I am under 65. It’s the hair, ha ha. You can’t buy this hair!
That more than once, someone I helped at the library has said they have heard I’m some kind or wizard of something. Again, it’s the hair!
That I’ve had graying hair since I was 28. And I like being different. But no surprise there, probably.
Meet the author: Vibist Susan O’Meara is a Poulsbo-based freelance writer, editor and journalist with global experience. Back in the day, Susan did event marketing for the electrified Don King, boxing’s bad-boy biz whiz. Then she got roped into writing and producing TV spots for Love Boat: The Next Wave, the ‘90s reboot, and nonfiction programming for Showtime (e.g., Roswell: The Real Story). She’s not sure which was more surreal—going with the flow of those Hollywood highs, so to speak, or navigating Nairobi’s magazine scene. Susan has worked in the US and abroad for the likes of Bloomberg Media, Deloitte, Discovery Communications, and the United Nations. She’s obsessed with wrangling language and messaging that helps brands, businesses, and individuals to grow and shine. Except when it comes to Don King’s hair.