Expert Soapbox: Marketing & Communications Q&A With Tricia Chan | by Soapbox Inc. | Oct, 2021

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As a business owner, coming up with a product or service idea is just the beginning. Next, you have to market your business as well as appropriately communicate with potential customers in order to make a profit. For this reason, marketing and communications are essential aspects of business development and overall success.

If you’re looking to learn more about marketing and communications for your business, look no further than Tricia Chan. A wearer of many hats, Tricia is the Co-Founder and CMO of waste*d; Principle of Public Group; Board Member of Do Good Sh*t; Business and Brand Advisor for RIOS; Brand Advisor for Nichole Miller; and Brand and Communications advisor for Maclaren. Having worked with Apple, Teletubbies, Hewlett Packard, and more, Tricia knows what it takes to create a successful marketing campaign.

Read on for some of Tricia’s thoughts on marketing and communications:

I started over 25 years ago in college working for startup companies. Back then, we didn’t have fancy things like social media. We didn’t have so many different options, channels, and confusion, and we barely had websites. So it’s interesting looking back now at the difference and what it takes today to achieve something in marketing.

But I don’t really think marketing and communications are still as difficult as people make them seem. There are just different flavors and choices now to communicate, but at its core, marketing is still about clearly articulating why you matter and why anyone should care about your business. And that applies to something like a business sustainably making sweatshirts to something like an artificial intelligence platform. It doesn’t really matter what the business is because the process of extracting all that important language is always going to be very analog.

Things are more efficient in the sense that we now have amazing tools to edit, layout, and everything is much more automated. However, I think the distraction of social media can get the better of people. I always ask, “What’s the purpose of wanting to create a following?” But I don’t think that marketing’s changed in that it’s still that process of extracting and writing the most important positioning, messaging, and value proposition elements and then tagging it to specific audiences. I guess the reach is bigger and more automated. And really, I think that’s the dirty little irony of it all. Marketing just hasn’t changed much. The things that were important then are still important now.

I think so much of it is dependent on the type of company that you are, and ultimately, the type of conversation you want to have with people. Because there’s a fakery factor with social media, with associations and things that you actually purchase. It’s like buying an advertorial in a magazine that’s editorial, but everyone knows you paid for it. It’s not dissimilar in that sense, and you have to strike a balance. At the end of the day, what you’re trying to do is transact and do whatever it is that leads you to the next place.

It’s also important to consider what the true worth of a “like” on social media is. Ultimately, what’s the value of 100,000 likes? I’m not sure, I don’t know what that truly means. You have a metric that is tangible, and in marketing, you’re constantly looking for tangibles, because by virtue of what we do, it’s intangible, right? You can measure it by metrics, like impressions for example, but no one values that anymore.

I do love Instagram because it’s visual. There is power in DMing somebody in their Instagram feed because sometimes you’ll actually get a response. And I agree that a picture’s worth 1000 words. Truly, if it’s a really good image, and you’ve done it thoughtfully, you don’t really need to say much more.

The area that I think that I’m more focused on now more than ever is the function of content.

In the AI space, I think it’s super important to have a blog, post thought leadership content, and then share that content on syndicated sites to get some attention to what you’re trying to do. This is important because what you’re doing is distinct from what a lot of other people are doing. AI is something that needs to be clearly defined, you need to explain what you’re doing and why it’s important. However, you don’t need to go into the “how” of how you’re doing it because that’s your proprietary asset and you need to protect it.

If you’re a company that has proprietary assets that you need to protect, you’re better off being agile, quiet, and letting 3rd parties speak for you. I mean, I’ve always defaulted to letting a 3rd party speak for you because it’s much more compelling. Typically, people don’t want to hear from the company because they just assume it’s going to be biased, and to some degree, it is going to be biased. I think it depends on what you’re trying to achieve, but thought leadership is super important. Then again, it can be dangerous, just depending on your kind of business.

Another big question to ask yourself is are you doing marketing for marketing’s sake to be cool, which is a really expensive investment? Or are you doing marketing to feed the bottom line? I think more often than not so many marketing peers like to fall into that trap of, “I want to be cool, I want to have a moment and for people to like our brand,” but at the end of the day, if your brand is not selling through and your brand is not developing, your brand is not making an impact and you do not have a job. And I don’t think a lot of practitioners get that. A lot of people think, “Oh, we got 100,000 likes, I have job security.” But at the end of the day, how are you getting that consumer to sell through? There has to be something else. I think about that all the time, and I think sometimes it has nothing to do with all of these fancy channels that we have at our disposal.

It’s important to know the basics of marketing yourself before hiring someone to do it for you. There are a lot of resources and classes online that you can take to get the meat and bones basics so that, if you are going to hire on a team, you kind of know what you’re talking about. You’re not going to get the same results if you don’t know how to function within the environment. No one says you need to be an expert, but you definitely need to be functional.

Defining what the starting point is is really important, meaning you’re creating this business in this particular timeframe. You’re creating a product in this space at this specific point in time for a reason. Identify who are your direct competitors, fringe competitors, visionaries, people that you respect, and people that have influenced you in originating this idea. All that kind of data feeds how you articulate yourself.

Finally, I recommend typically pivoting to a place of “we’re all in this together” as opposed to “it’s us against them.” It’s just a disposition that I’ve always had because we’re all trying to solve problems or meet a need, and we all come at it from a different perspective. But just because we come at it from a different perspective doesn’t mean one or the other is wrong, it just means that it’s different. Identify what that starting point is super clearly so that you can really bulletproof yourself and intuit the response that you’re going to get. It’s not unlike chess. Intuit the questions that you’re going to get, intuit how people are going to perceive you or liken you to somebody else so that you know how to respond visually and verbally to the things that people say to you.

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