5 take-aways from DC Entrepreneurship Week’s panel on “Creating a Loyal Brand”

Building a loyal following can be challenging for new companies. The organizers of D.C. Entrepreneurship Week convened a panel of brand experts to discuss common problems and provide advice for upstarts on how to connect with customers. Here are a few takeaways from that conversation:

1. Start-up founders often spend too much time focusing on a name or a logo, when what’s really important is the actual product and “how you’re going to get the most value” to customers, said Jeff Majka, founder of Honeycomb Consulting, a content marketing, public relations and consulting firm based in Arlington.

2. “People invest emotions before they invest dollars,” independent sports marketing professional LaRhonda Burley said, noting consumers often support teams they associate with childhood memories, for instance, instead of the team with a better name.

3. Today, “marketing is a relationship, and sales is a transaction,” said Eric Holtzclaw, founder and chief executive of Laddering Works, a Marietta, Ga.-based marketing and product strategy firm. It used to be the other way around, he said, but marketers today need to nurture personal relationships with consumers to learn about their behavior. One-on-one interviews can help companies understand why consumers aren’t buying their product.

4. Both qualitative and quantitative data are necessary to tell the customer base’s whole story, said Holtzclaw, who has interviewed thousands of consumers about their buying behavior. Some businesses are misled by broad trends suggested by data analytics, when a better strategy is “taking a metric that’s not working, and using it qualitatively” — using it to direct conversations with consumers.

5. Start-up owners should value their customer’s time as they would their friends’, said Michael Lastoria, owner of the “&Pizza” chain with locations on Northeast Washington’s H Street and Northwest’s U Street. “Sending out a survey is very arrogant,” he said.

Mohana Ravindranath covers IT and small business for the Washington Post and its weekly Capital Business publication.
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