On brand

3 best practices for creating a business that resonates with clients

Creating a company strategy might not be as easy as it looks. Here are three things to think about before you dive in. Rawpixel.com from Pexels

In theory, creating a company from scratch should be easy, right? Your startup identifies a gap in the marketplace and develops a product or service that directly addresses the need. The target audience immediately sees how your company fulfills their specific concerns, and you start to turn a profit. Voilà!

If only the real world was so simple. No matter how world-changing your product or service might be, if your customers have never heard of it or you, they won't be buying any time soon.

Below are three important things to consider when building a company to stand apart to investors, customers, and the media.

1. Have a great name

Don't get cutesy — get clever. You want your company name to be memorable and easy to spell. This is important for both your audience and the Internet, because if people can't find you, they also can't refer you. We like it when your name actually means something — as an example, "Integrate" is indicative to the way we work with our clients and also essential to our company culture. Everything is integrated.

Once you have a few ideas, narrow your list down to your top three and start the research to make sure no one else uses them. Additionally, you want to check different domain names to see what's available and to ensure you have no immediate competition. The key exception is a company using a similar name, but in a different field and in a different region; e.g. your Houston marketing agency can have the same name as a London law firm.

Once you choose your company name, secure a unique domain for your website, including all related variations of your name to discourage people from finding the wrong company. You should also be sure to stay away from hyphens and special characters — Google doesn't like punctuation marks.

2. Stay true to your values

A crucial aspect of determining what your product or service does, lies in hashing out exactly how and why your company exists. How will you meet the needs of your core audience better than the existing market players? At the start, you need to be clear about who you are — and who you are not. Your company's brand values should be lived out daily by leadership and employees, and company culture should directly reflect company values.

3. Create and deliver value

Hopefully, the product or service you created will be valued by the targeted audience, but you also need to develop unique messaging about the product and your brand to connect with that audience. You must always craft relevant content that addresses exactly how it will make a difference in their lives.

This process begins and ends with telling a relatable story. Just like any good author, you have to show and not tell — people don't want to hear about your product, they want to hear about themselves and how their lives will be changed by your company and product.

As an example, Integrate has a client who provides financial services exclusively to restaurants. The company places high value on personal interactions, strong internal processes, and big data insights. But instead of trumpeting what they do compared to a generic big-box competitor, they showed establishments exactly how the company could assist with their liquor licensing concerns and exactly how various restaurants changes their businesses with this service. Case studies, infographics and video testimonials put the content in relatable terms that changes the narrative from a "push" to a "pull" type of message.

At Integrate, we believe in a completely integrated marketing approach, sharing our clients' stories wherever their target audiences may be, whether it's online, in the real world, or a specific combination of the two. The most important thing: connect with consumers in ways that are meaningful to them, and don't waste money on ineffective channels just because "everyone else is doing it."

For your startup to find success, you must take the time to create a worthwhile story. When you secure a recognizable name, surround it with tangible values, and connect your customers to meaningful content, you can quickly grow your business and drive meaningful results to your bottom line.

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Allie Danziger is the founder and president of Houston-based Integrate Agency, which focuses on digital marketing and public relations.

Buying a home is more digitized than ever — and here's how that's affecting the industry. Photo courtesy of HAR

A recent lawsuit is rocking the residential real estate industry across the country. Home sellers whose properties were listed on one of 20 MLSs claim The National Association of Realtors, Realogy Holdings Corp., HomeServices of America, RE/MAX Holdings, Inc., and Keller Williams Realty, Inc. violated the federal antitrust law by conspiring the sellers to pay an inflated amount to the buyer's broker.

The lawsuit highlights a new need for home buyers and sellers: transparency. Gone are the days when real estate agents can take a hefty commission from his or her clients without providing value that is worthy of the price tag. The sellers who came forward to shed light on this issue have provided further proof that the current real estate model is outdated, and some serious changes could be on the way.

Our next moves as a united industry in the wake of this lawsuit are critical. It is critical that we react positively. It is critical that we bring more value and transparency to our customers, and it is critical that we utilize the technology we now have at our hands to do so.

How is technology finding its way into real estate? Here are a few ways in the evolving world of home buying and selling has evolved over the past five years:

Online searching 

Everything can be done online. In most modern real estate transactions, the buyer has already found the house they want before they even contact an agent to begin the process. To put that into numbers, 95 percent of buyers are looking for their home online, and over half find it before they engage an agent, according to the National Association of Realtors. Despite the fact that this big chunk of the traditional real estate agent's job has been cut out, the commission is still the same and the buyer will have to pay it indirectly through a higher listing price on the home.

Evolving past commissions and working towards a focus on the customer experience is the only way to provide value and stay relevant in the world of apps and search bars.

Accurate valuations 

Algorithms and accuracy in information gathering are imperative to a successful real estate transaction. Traditional agents will often come to a potential seller client with high dollar signs, telling them they should list their home for a high price. This is a tactic used to earn the seller's business. Where is the data behind that hefty price? What kind of algorithm did the agent use to value the home?

Modern real estate brokerages should be utilizing advanced valuation algorithms to bring an accurate value of the home to the seller instead of wooing them with an unattainable price.

Targeted marketing

Due to the high dependency of the internet, mass marketing in physical publications aren't as effective as they once were — consumers have more options to find what they need faster. Fifty percent of people that will ever see a home that is advertised online will see it in the first seven days on the market. We all know the importance of target marketing, and here's where social media comes in.

Targeting the right people on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google will get a home sold faster than a newspaper or magazine can even be published. Effective agents will have built online audiences for each type of home to ensure a faster sale.

Simplifying and increasing visibility

Remember how important transparency is? Simplifying and streamlining the process is right up there with it on the priority list. Luckily, there's an easy way to solve both: custom portals. Clients love the fact that they can login and see their entire buying or selling experience in one neatly packaged, convenient tool.

The modern tools now at the hands of real estate brokerages should not diminish service, but rather enhance it. Acting as a specialized guide and using the technology to bring incredible value to clients should be the new norm when it comes to real estate transactions.

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Alex Doubet is the founder and CEO of Door, Inc. (Door.com), which is a residential real estate startup company based in Texas.