Friday, September 10, 2010
Posted by Cathy Belk
This past weekend, I read an article in the Sept. 6 Fortune called "Building a Faster, Cheaper Startup." It profiled Ben Franklin's Wheels, an online electric bike retailer, which was started last spring for under $40,000. Through the use of a P.O. Box (vs. a physical location), social media for promotion (vs. purchasing ads), crowd sourcing for brand creation (vs. hiring an agency partner), and PayPal payment/contracting instead of hiring, the investment to get this firm going was approximately 4% of what it would have been 10 years ago.
Clearly, for cash-strapped, resourceful entrepreneurs, getting quality work from tactics like these (and I'm thinking particularly of the branding and marketing/promotion tactics) offers tremendous benefit. I'm sure investors expect that level of resourcefulness and efficiency now. (As an aside, the website recommended in the article for the creation of a brand logo or other graphics packages - Crowdspring.com - sounds like a really interesting option. Anyone used it?)
But I'm remembering things I've been saying for the last 6 months - "it's all about relationships now". For brand development, I value the relationships I have with agency partners and designers who know the brands with which I work, who know our history, and understand how we want to evolve our brand. The power in some social media is that it leverages personal relationships, the relationships of people who actually know you, with whom you have a relationship and all that comes with that (expectations, credibility, and reputation). And in the business world, which has been harder in the last two years, relationships have been even more important when resources are ever more scarce.
So, it feels dichotomous to think that at the same time personal relationships are more important for brands and business than ever, there are vehicles which eliminate relationships entirely in the name of efficiency.
But maybe it's just about the stage of the business. For startup companies, there's not the luxury of time or money - or perhaps, even the need - to build relationships with marketing vendors. To get going, you need good design, quickly, at a budget you can afford. It's good that tools now exist to help startups marry quality, speed, and cost efficiency on the front end.
But as brands and business mature (and that maturation comes quite quickly in my mind), audiences become more complex, and choices become more important, I'll place my chit on the power of strong marketing relationships and related partners any day.
What do you think?
Cathy Belk is the Chief Relationship Officer of JumpStart. She specializes in branding, marketing communications, and business and relationship management. She brings 16+ years of experience in a variety of marketing and business roles, but gets her energy from working daily with entrepreneurs and their growing companies.