Samyr Qureshi and his partners launched their business, Knack, in 2015 with a belief a peer-to-peer college student tutoring app akin to Uber would enjoy success.
Just as Uber connects passengers with drivers, the app Qureshi and his University of Florida student partners developed linked tutors who had earned high grades in specific courses to students struggling with the same courses.
Yet they knew they had to connect their idea to the students and tutors to make it flourish. They knew they had to have a marketing plan. They decided to do more than employ traditional approaches.
One approach was to incentive the tutors.
“We launched a tutor rewards program,” Qureshi said. “Essentially we built a tutor store for them to order personalized marketing collateral they could use to kickstart their marketing efforts on-campus. After a Knack Tutor’s first session, they’d get free credit to spend in the store.”
The tutor store not only helped them grow the business at UF, it played a key role in spurring its development into a national company. Now Knack is active on 40 college campuses across the country and considered a top start-up.
Marketing remains a key tool in helping entrepreneurs turn moments into movements. A strategic plan creates a network of connectivity that attracts and retains customers, creates buy-in and spurs business development. Here are the five elements of marketing you must master if you want to grow a thriving, sustainable business beyond the start-up phase.
#1. Master the Message
Your message is your magic; it’s how you solve your prospective client’s wake-up-in-the-morning problem in a way that is unique. You must be able to communicate your message powerfully and effectively whether you have an hour and 100 PowerPoint slides, or only 30 seconds in a rickety elevator. Too often the message gets muddled in fuzzy acronyms and what Inc. contributing writer Geoffrey James calls “corporate speak.” It’s best to build your brand around a message with familiar concepts, clear analogies and concise language. When Qureshi says, “It’s like Uber for tutoring,” he capsulizes the aim of Knack in seconds. His prospects know exactly what Knack and for whom. It may be tempting to skimp on this part because you think “Eh, it’s only a few words.” The fewer the words, the greater the impact. For example, test yourself and see how many of these messages you immediately associate with a brand (Hint: some are no longer used, but are so powerful they have become part of the American lexicon.):
- “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight.”
- “Always low prices.”
- “Where shopping is a pleasure.”
- “We try harder.”
- “Think different.”
- “For life.”
- “Imagination at work.”
- “Just do it.”
- “Have it your way.”
(The answers are at the bottom of this blog.)
Maybe your message won’t be a clever tagline. If you aren’t particularly clever with words and can’t yet afford an agency to help you come up with a catchy slogan, just start with this statement: “We help [describe who you help for example: “women over 40”] with [insert the problem you solve for example: “look a decade younger in just 30 days”] [hint at how you solve it in a unique way “without wasting hundreds of dollars on expensive department store lotions and potions that don’t work anyway.”]
#2 Manage the Media
Once you master your message, explore ways to propel it into the stratosphere through various social media platforms and generate buzz about your business.
There are three keys to success on social media:
1) Go where your prospective clients and/or referral sources hang out. If they are mostly on Instagram, you don’t want to be spending all day on LinkedIn or Twitter. If they love memes and lots of chit chat, don’t keep giving them soliloquys. Go where they are and speak their language.
2) Tailor your message for each outlet. The different platforms target different audiences, and the rules of each platform vary. Know the rules so you can play by them—and then disrupt them when you are ready. Words win out on Facebook, but it’s all about pics on Instagram and Pinterest. Everybody loves a good video—even LinkedIn is getting in the video game. Start with creating your own YouTube channel.
3) Don’t just “connect and forget.” Be sure to engage consistently and frequently. Don’t send the wrong signal with a Twitter account that’s grown inactive or a Facebook page that simply promotes your business without engaging others. Quality content can drive traffic and help build your Internet presence. Word of Mouth Marketing Association president Suzanne Fanning told Forbes, “Brands are too caught up in collecting social media fans and they are forgetting to actually connect with them.”
Finally, don’t underestimate the value of traditional media. A story on a reputable web site or an appearance on a popular television or radio show lends credibility and authenticity to your content marketing strategy and your brand. Social media is great but learn to write a media release that catches a journalist’s attention as well.
#3 Meet the Mentors
Mentors can be key to not only offering wisdom but opening the doors to greater opportunities. An established business leader can help you master the message, manage the media, and then they can introduce you to key figures in your industry. Entrée into a networking group can lead to pivotal connections. A meaningful conversation over lunch, a round of golf, or during Wine Down Wednesday can be rocket fuel for your marketing. Think about how many entrepreneurs who have crafted winning ideas on a cocktail napkin. How do you meet a great mentor? Community involvement – such as professional organizations, civic organizations, or a cowork space – can provide the pipeline to sage advisors.
#4 Manufacture Ambassadors
A team of folks who champion you, your idea and your spirit can prove invaluable. Message, media and mentoring can get you in the game, but ultimately you must win over every day community members and get them talking about your product. Angel investor Neil Patel refers to this tactic as creating “brand evangelists,” people willing to go out and preach the word about your product or service. It’s certainly clients whose satisfaction you can convert into testimonials, but it’s also family members, friends Nielsen research indicates that 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends over every form of advertising. “Hey grandma, do you have a Twitter account?” Go beyond those who love you unconditionally and hire people with strong reputations who can meet your needs and promote your idea. And, connect with people who like you Facebook posts or heart your tweets. Let them know it’s appreciated and ask them to spread the word. There are countless stories about how companies got a bounce by creating a buzz among everyday citizens. If the United States has more than 180 ambassadors, you should aim to have just as many.
#5 Maximize the Brand
Whether you are a start-up with little budget or Nike, Inc., smart businesses find ways to leverage investments. And, swag is a great and often, low barrier method to get your brand and messaging out to larger audiences. First, internally, as the leaders at Knack knew – give your own team some swag that easily enables them to spread your message to prospective employees or clients. People are (often) proud of where they work and likely to promote outside of the office. Additionally, if you’re a company that’s working events, tradeshows or conferences – using your brand color creatively — from scarves, ties and shoes can be an easy conversation starter. ChappellRoberts, a Tampa-based advertising and marketing agency, launched a big new brand for a financial services company, and one of the investments that company made was in well-made apparel and accessories for the team because they do so many client facing events. More than five years later, the representation of this company brand at tradeshows is still a large differentiator for them. Second, externally, swag gives you opportunity to build brand loyalty and affinity with your paying customers. Customers or clients want to know you get them, if you’re an innovation company – surprise your audience with something that relates to your unique industry and potentially makes their lives easier such as portable chargers or cell phone lights. If nothing else, get some company T-shirts and wear them everywhere you go. You might be surprised how many people ask you about what you do.
Need more ideas about marketing? Come hang out with us at Rising Tide Innovation Center. We believe in collaboration, community and the power of co-working for success.
1.FedEx 2. Walmart 3. Publix 4. Avis 5. Apple 6. Volvo 7. G.E. 8. Nike 9. McDonald’s 10. Burger King