From the the GIST TechConnect webchat “Getting Your Name Out There: Branding and Marketing for Startups.”
Once a business has established its brand identity, the next big hurdle can be formulating its marketing plan. How the business reaches consumers directly impacts the likelihood that customers will take action and buy a product or service. In addition to understanding the best way to reach a target customer base, many businesses struggle with how to promote their products with limited resources.
Two leading experts helped entrepreneurs watching the webchat “Getting Your Name Out There” learn how to stay competitive in an ever-changing environment. YLAI Network members can learn from the insights shared by Ray Sanchez and Jane Sugiyama, who spoke about formulating a brand identity and approaching marketing elements in ways that will stick in consumers’ minds.
Marketing with Less
Economic challenges can greatly influence the way that a business markets itself. Business leaders around the world have learned to brainstorm ways to overcome the challenge of working with limited resources. Sanchez is adamant that the absolute best form of advertising is word-of-mouth, due to the personal influence it can have on potential customers, as well as being a free form of effective advertising. When asked how to deal with a limited marketing budget, he stated, “When someone believes in you and starts telling their friends about you, that’s advertising on a person-to-person basis!” Encouraging the entrepreneurs to activate their own personal networks on behalf of their businesses, he recommended an exercise where leaders write a list of 100 names — people who would truly be there for them at all times. By asking them to refer the company to 10 of their friends or people they know, the business automatically has gained a wide grassroots reach. “All you need is for a couple of those names to hit,” he said, “and you’ve worked your way to some business leads!”
Avoiding Common Mistakes
Business leaders can approach their marketing plans with the best of intentions, but many fall prey to some of the most common mistakes in developing their plans, which leads to ineffective customer reach that doesn’t resonate in the ways that matter. Some issues include:
Having unrealistic expectations → Businesses can have unrealistic expectations of how many orders will come in because of advertising efforts. Just because a business runs a discounted special doesn’t mean that everyone is going to rush in the door to take advantage of it.
Using inaccurate customer segments → Ray Sanchez thinks that leaders must have spot-on customer segmentation that clearly identifies their core customer base, “You have got to know exactly who your customers are, otherwise you are not going to create a good message or promotion.”
Not knowing your return on investment (ROI) → When your customer segments are solid, the next task becomes the promotion of the business’ products or services. But advertising can be a tricky thing to understand, with a range of cheap to expensive pricing depending on ads within television, radio and social media, or in print publications. Sanchez says that he has encountered many business leaders that did not have a grasp on advertising costs, not knowing if sales coming in from those promotions made it worth the cost of the advertising itself.
Overestimating your time → Sanchez warned against overestimating your time. Especially when it comes to self-produced marketing efforts, time can slip away and seep into space already allocated for the day-to-day business that also needs maintenance. He advised, “Though you may have the skills to manage your own marketing, you may have other pressing needs in your business that you need to focus on.”
Best-In-Class Tactics to Remember
Although it can be important to highlight aspects to avoid, it is also crucial to make sure a business’s marketing plan has a handful of successful elements in place that will drive customers to make purchases and keep them coming back for more. The best way Jane Sugiyama thinks business leaders can accomplish that is through the “3 C’s” framework:
Be Clear → Hone in on the WHY, because it is your passion and purpose that drives customers. Being really clear about the value of what you are trying to sell and who you are trying to reach are the most effective ways to ensure that you your marketing will drive results.
Be Consistent → Focus on staying consistent across all digital and social platforms, email communications and business cards. This should include the messaging as well. The talking points representing your company should mirror the mission and values on a company’s website or social media content. Sending a consistent message to all consumers will reinforce brand awareness and put the company at “top-of-mind.”
Be Competitive → Build an awareness of who their main competitors are in the market and be sure to monitor them frequently. They may be approaching their marketing efforts in a way that allows them to reach customers on a deeper level, and those efforts can inform ways to adapt and pivot marketing efforts to better reach a consumer base. To remain competitive, Sugiyama thinks, leaders need to become aware of how the market is constantly changing, and adapt to new trends only if they align with the business’s mission and values. Just because the desire for two-shipping is growing, doesn’t mean that a small business has to change it’s low cost shipping methods if it does have the resources to support that change in operations.
The key takeaway for YLAI Networks members can be summed up with one question: Why are you doing what you’re doing and why is your product more unique than someone else’s in the market?
The experts encouraged those listening to make sure that a customer’s experience equals or exceeds the promise of the advertising. This is where a customer determines the strength of a brand; they are either going to love the brand and talk about it to their friends and family, or they will be disappointed and will never come back again.
Ray Sanchez: Partner and co-founder of Ghostlight Creative. He established Ghostlight in 2006 after working in brand management and growing brands such as Church’s Chicken and Gas Natural. He graduated with degrees in advertising and theater arts from the University of Texas-El Paso.
Jane Sugiyama: Marketing specialist for the University of Michigan’s Center for Entrepreneurship’s Technology Acceleration Programs, She works in supporting faculty and researchers looking to turn their inventive technology solutions into a commercial opportunity. Additionally, she oversees the digital marketing and communications at MCity, a public-private partnership that accelerates advanced mobility vehicles and technologies. Sugiyama graduated with a B.A. in communication and media studies from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.