Elissa Hansen is the President & CEO of The Northspan Group Inc., a mission based, non-profit, consulting group in Duluth, MN. For 35 years the organization has been delivering high quality, professional business, community, and organizational development consulting services to clients in the Upper Midwest.t, primarily in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

Recently having taken over as only the second President in its history, Elissa is looking forward to getting her staff of 5 employees and 5 contractors working together and teaming on new projects they have never done before, finding new clients, and new ways to do business. Her plan for the next 5 years is to guide the organization towards stabilization through growth.

Elissa is excited about working with the rural communities Northspan serves. “ We are working with city councils and community members in rural towns where it takes a lot to do the things they want to do.” She explains, “Northspan engages with them so they can do more.”

The organization also offers gap capacity support for economic development groups across the region, whether it be a city or an EDA because many of them cannot hire full time staff. By her estimation, “Almost every community we talk to we work with because they really need help.”


Northspan has several programs they “power” with staff as boots on the ground or hired consultants. One of these is called NORTHFORCE, a program to attract workers from outside the 10 counties in the Arrowhead of Minnesota and 3 counties of Northwest Wisconsin to move, live, and work here.

“We try to tell them about why this area is awesome to live and work in…”

“Because they live outside the area,” Elissa explains, “We try to tell them about why this area is awesome to live and work in. You can be 5 minutes to your playground which might be a hiking trail, or biking, or restaurant, or theater… but you’re not sitting in gridlocked traffic.” They currently have 4,000+ candidates in the system with about 20% (and growing) being “extra-regional”, or currently living outside the 10 county area.

They also work directly with the businesses who need this extra-regional workforce because there are more jobs in the region than people to fill them. NORTHFORCE will hand-curate packets of resumes of the people that want to work and fit the jobs at these businesses.

Northspan started using Buzz Frenzy for NORTHFORCE and saw immediate results. The company has the data to know precisely the top 20 cities that their extra-regional candidates are coming from. They took that data and created accounts (called “bees”) on Buzz Frenzy for 18 of those communities. “We’ve seen the clicks double if not, sometimes quadruple by using the tool,” Elissa says, “We’re spending the same amount of money, but now we are talking to 18 different communities instead of 4 or 5.”

The businesses they serve buy into this job placement service. Northspan takes the job listing, creates a Facebook post from it like normal, and adds their chosen hashtag, #northforce, to it. Buzz Frenzy “sees” the hashtag, creates an ad from that post and automatically sends the listing to all of those communities at once. “We’ll do that 2 or 3 or 4 times depending on how much the business wants to pay.” Elissa explains, “The businesses are getting more candidates to look at that job and they are getting more applicants.”

“We’re spending the same amount of money, but now we are talking to 18 different communities instead of 4 or 5.”

Buzz Frenzy is simple enough to use that there are 4 people on staff who use it. They can write the content, taking what the employers give them and adding a bit of zip to it – clean up the text, add some interest, and imagery. Everyone knows to add #northforce whenever they are creating a post. “We don’t have to worry about making any mistakes with ad-spend, geography, or targeting, It all just happens on its own. And,” Elissa continues, “if I’m traveling and somebody buys the service, I don’t have to be the only one to do it, which is fantastic.”

The targeting created by Buzz Frenzy works across all of those areas and job positions. “It doesn’t matter what the job is,” Elissa explains, “it could be a CFO, a general manager of a bowling alley, or a marketing manager. The targeting is written for a person looking for a job in our region. And it’s proving to work, which I think surprises everyone on our advisory committee that looks at the success we are having.”

To clarify, NORTHFORCE is using one Facebook page, placing one post, and automatically creating 18 ads in 18 different communities. The ads run in places throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, but also places as far flung from Northeastern Minnesota as Denver, Colorado. “When we tell that to the businesses we are working with,” Elissa explains, “they are like, ‘here’s my $99’ because they could never do that themselves. Their HR staff, if they have any, might not have much social media experience, so NORTHFORCE provides that resource as an added bonus. These businesses do pay for it, but it is really inexpensive for what they get.”

“…Here’s my $99’ because they could never do that themselves.”

Using Buzz Frenzy to automate Facebook ad creation has saved more than just money, it has also saved them time. “If we had to do this ourselves, write the ad, target those 18 communities, and we would still have to go through the 5 pages of creating that ad in Facebook…” Elissa sighs, “we wouldn’t be able to offer that service.” Also, Northspan coordinates with many other agencies in the region and were able to take work off of their plates as a direct result of this time savings.

Now NORTHFORCE is on a brighter track. When Elissa started as President & CEO, the program was in the hole, which isn’t irregular. Elissa explains, “In a non-profit we have some mission based work that might not make us money. Making this change has caused that program to now break even.”

All of this puts Elissa on a trajectory to meet her lofty goals. That means more applicants are looking at jobs in the region, and more applicants are applying for these jobs, “which is great,” Elissa says,”because we don’t have enough people living here to fill all of the jobs we have open.”


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