Estimated reading time: 3 minute(s)
Startup founders face a myriad of obstacles, and one of those obstacles is correct branding. Entrepreneurs Marlon Whitfield and Anthony Stewart found that one of the biggest reasons businesses fail within the first year was due to an inability to communicate their value proposition in a clear and compelling manner.
Addressing this issue, they created Hawk Time, a St. Louis based marketing and consulting firm housed at Industrious Downtown. Hawk Time works with small and medium-sized businesses, helping them close the gap between their marketing strategy and the products or services they offer through marketing, branding, advertising and overall business strategy development.
We sat down with Marlon Whitfield to talk about common problems startups face in their marketing efforts. Read on to find out his thoughts on typical mistakes companies make and how to fix them:
1. Find Your Company Voice
“Developing your branding and finding your company’s voice is extremely important. Something as basic as having an attractive website is key. We’re in a global economy, and what you present to the world will give legitimacy to your business. The image that you put out there with all of your marketing efforts directly reflects the type of business that a customer will anticipate to receive from you. So you want to make sure you’re branding yourself correctly.
At Hawk Time, we offer something called a Think Tank Session, where we spend time helping people hash out their ideas, putting things into perspective both short-term and long-term. It’s important to ask people the right questions, to dig deep and find out what they really want as a company. We help them figure out where they want to go, prioritize the steps to get there and bring their vision to life.”
2. Focus Your Marketing
“Your marketing needs to have a plan, a focus. Start with your end goals. Do you want to drive revenue? Do you want to reach more people? Do you want to create more leads? Whatever goal you decide—that becomes the forefront of your plan. Then you work backwards from there, letting your ultimate goal drive the direction of where you want to go.”
3. DIY Doesn’t Work
“The biggest issue for a lot of startups is capital. They don’t have the funds to compete at the level they want. So, they try and do things themselves. We’ve found that when people try and do the marketing themselves, the quality of branding doesn’t match up with the product or service they’re putting out there. You may have a wonderful product, but the marketing you’re putting behind it doesn’t sell it.
We also help people strategize and find the places where they’ll get the most bang for their buck and find a higher return on their investment.”
4. Create Guidelines & Put Them Into Practice
“Bottom line—start with something that you love to do. As a for-profit business you want to make money, sure, but the ultimate goal is to love what you’re doing. Let that be the driving force, and the money will come.
For long-term success, you need a plan, a strategy. Create timelines with measureable steps. Determine your ultimate goal and know the steps to get there. Evaluate the plan along the way and make adjustments where you need to, but let the end goal be your guiding principle.”
5. Marketing in 2016
“Like always, marketing is about emotion. It’s about how you make people feel. Whether you’re using colors or images or words, it’s all about evoking an emotion and relating to people. If you can tap into that, you’ll go a long way.”