Explore learnings from the virtual marketing workshop held by the DMC's Kristen Stippich and Bob Osmond for the cohort of Boost Founder Fellows.
Company Ventures developed Boost, a 4-month program designed to help a cohort of female and BIPOC founders grow their network and prepare them for fundraising. As part of this program, Company Ventures engaged DMC to support historically excluded entrepreneurs by providing access to a range of marketing resources.
The session provided a broad overview of the (constantly shifting) marketing landscape and surveyed the different owned, earned, and paid channels available to reach and engage both B2B buyers and consumers.
Fundamental to this conversation was the idea that reaching customers is no longer linear. The idea of a “sales funnel” has gone the way of the typewriter in an environment that is always on—and happening across multiple channels. It’s time to adopt the Flywheel Marketing Strategy.
Building a Startup? You’re Building a Brand
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of bringing a new product or service to the world—diving right into marketing messages that focus on features and functions. Stippich and Osmond cautioned that, in order to get to marketing, you have to start with the brand.
According to Sprout Social, “76% [of consumers] say they would buy from a brand they feel connected to over a competitor.” 68% of customers would rather buy from a trusted brand.
Your brand is your promise, grounded in proof. It’s what sets you apart from your competitors. So, how does your startup elevate its story in its early days to gain investors, partners or customer connections?
While the workshop covered a wide range of topics, frameworks, and examples, here are three considerations for any early-stage founder seeking to build their brand.
1. Your Customer is the Hero of Your Story
While it is tempting to focus inward on why your company is so awesome, the most successful brands make their customers the hero of their story.
In his watershed book, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Joseph Campbell explored stories and myths over millennia and connected many of them to a central idea—or monomyth. This has been widely popularized as “The Hero’s Journey.”
Summarized simply, Campbell argued that every story is ultimately about a hero’s transformation. The hero seeks a destination or treasure—sometimes physical, sometimes spiritual. During their journey, they encounter obstacles to reaching their goal (“It’d be a pretty boring story without obstacles,” noted Osmond).
It is when the hero meets a mentor—a magician, a wizard, or a coach—that they gain the knowledge, the insights, or the “magic tools” to succeed. Osmond and Stippich argued that the entrepreneur’s job is to embrace the role of mentor.
The hero’s journey framework calls you to step into your customers' shoes and look at your product or service from their perspective. What problems (obstacles) are they facing? What “magic tools” do you uniquely provide that helps them solve those problems?
This leads you to another essential question. Why does your company exist?
2. Find Your Purpose
In his now famous TED talk (and book), “Start with Why,” Simon Sinek popularized the now-common notion that brands should have a core purpose.
Sinek asserted that brands usually know what they do and how they do it but forget to pay attention to why they do it. Knowing WHY you started your company should become core to your brand’s storytelling.
Writing for Forbes, Afdhel Aziz noted that “…66% [of consumers] would switch from a product they typically buy, to a new product from a purpose-driven company. This figure goes up to 91% when Millennials are polled.”
Putting your customers at the center of your story and grounding your brand in a clear purpose elevates your marketing. This is increasingly important to Millennial and Gen Z buyers. For example, “62% of both Millennials and Gen Z (respectively) are willing to spend an extra 10% or more for sustainable products.”
Taking early steps to ground your brand purpose will also help you attract and retain talent.
3. Establish Your “Employer Brand” to Attract Great Talent
Developing a strong brand requires a workforce that shares your company's core beliefs. Your employees are one of the most effective resources to create a positive brand experience for your customers.
There is fierce competition for talent. Data shows that your company’s purpose and mission has a big impact on your ability to attract people to help you reach your full potential.
In conclusion, as you start your external marketing engine, you need to establish the fundamentals of your brand. By putting your customers at the center, creating a compelling story about how your product or solution helps customers overcome obstacles, and creating a company that is a true representation of yourself, your startup will establish a strong brand that resonates with investors, future talent, and customers.