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Marketing in a transparent world

On last Monday, Rodrigo Espinosa, Founder and Lead Strategist @ Huddle Brand Agency, Heather Meeker Haas, Co-Founder and Partner @ MeekerQuinn PR Agency and Adiba Barney, CEO @ SVForum, Communication & PR Coach and Consulting came to our office to lead a workshop on Marketing and Brand Awareness.

Commodity is the worst place to be

Rodrigo took the lead on brand strategy. Whenever a consumer pays premium, makes a selection or advocates for your products, he doesn’t just buy a need. He buys value, he buys a lifestyle, and he buys your brand.

How to create that value, how to strengthen your brand? You first have to ask yourself those questions: Why do you exist, and what problem are you solving? Is this problem already recognized by the market you’re targeting? If not, you will have to educate people, and it’s a whole different challenge than dealing with an already recognized problem.
Once you’ve figured out who you’re talking to, and what your target’s pain points and needs are, the next step is to build expectations. You should bring high expectation in people’s minds through stories & memories. Your company should be the only one able to meet those expectations. What are you disrupting, and how big is this disruption in regards to its market? That’s what you have to keep in mind, because if you don’t look at it that way, your product will become a commodity. Commodity is the worst place to be.

A brand is also about the relationship with its customers. The closer you feel to a company, the more you will advocate its products and become a loyal customer. That’s why every brand today is a media brand. Content is a great way to create that relationship. Create content on the problem you’re solving, and how you’re solving it. “Today, you have to connect with your customers”. Everything you do behind the scene is an opportunity to engage people with your brand. They’ll feel part of the company!

You will not build a brand if the only relation you have with your customers is a transaction. Show what your customers do with your products, how your product makes them better at what they do!
This relationship perspective is blowing up current marketing strategies and structures. You’d rather have 100 people love your brand than 1000 people hear about it once. That’s why marketing expenses are going down and the focus has shifted to customizing the purchase experience, loyalty and advocacy.You should consider the entire spectrum of actions from production to delivery of your product / service in such a way that your clients will be happier, and speak about your brand in a positive way. A happy customer will advocate your brand. It’s your marketing machine! Spend your money on them instead of trying to reach every single person on earth.

If you don’t own and tell your story, the market will do that for you.

Following these insights on what to tell your customers, how to build a relationship with them, Heather went deeper into details on the ways to spread your story worldwide. That’s called Public Relations, that sounds easy and obvious but it’s actually quite complex. From strategic counseling to marketing communication through branding, messaging, social media marketing, events and strategic partnerships, PR is far from just media relationsA well-handled PR campaign will bring you many benefits. You’ll be able to own and tell your story, the one you define, the one fitting your product / service. Let’s say you’re sticking with the bare minimum: the survival PR. You’ll work on building strong brand awareness to stand out from the competition, sell your products and develop your business. But you really should be thinking further than that. Beyond awareness and sales, your PR should also address your strategic points. It might be the first relation between you and VCs, your potential partners, or your potential buyers. Just keep in mind; first impressions go a long way. Pretty serious topic isn’t it? But you are a startup, you don’t have millions of dollars to engage in PR, and bad PR could lead your company to failure. Whether you plan to do it in house or outsourcing it, as an international startup, you will have to face specific challenges regarding cultural and language barriers, but there are also great opportunities. Americans love different approaches, so a very light European touch could be appreciated. In addition, you will definitely fit with this international trend, bringing challenging companies in the Valley is quite attractive from a VC’s standpoint. Now let’s be a bit more specific, let’s say you’re launching your US operations. What should you do? During the pre-launch period, you need to make sure that everything is ready. Define your story and tailor your message that you’ll be able to spread on all channels. Build your media database; look for journalists, bloggers and influencers who are relevant to your product. Engage in social media in order to grow your community, last but not least, you’re in Silicon Valley: Network! When the time to launch comes, everything should be ready to go. Craft tailored stories for the reporters you’ve previously identified, create and share content with your community, attend key events to spread your story and expand your network.

Attention spans are short, stay relevant. You did well thus far, your buzz is growing but you certainly don’t want to be another promising company that disappears shortly after it launched. How do you capitalize all the attention you got from your launch? First, do not lower your efforts. Keep pitching, keep releasing announcements, keep sharing content … and at this point, you should have customers aka your marketing machine. Make sure to nuture valuable relationships with them, and identify success stories. Show how your product improved your customer’s activities.

Long story short, don’t tell you customers about you. Tell them about themselves.

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