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.

It's crucial for Houston to prepare the next generation's workforce to succeed and fill jobs with capable talent. Educational First Steps/Facebook

Recent studies have shown that nearly half of students enter college with an undecided major and as many as 70 percent of students change their major at least once during their four-year program, and it is predicted that by 2030, there will be a deficit of 7.9 million tech workers alone.

In order to better prepare the future workforce, schools are encouraging career exploration through hands-on experience. The Village School has created educational partnerships throughout Houston to offer students options to find their interests and better prepare them for postsecondary success.

Educational partnerships

Students are prone to changing their majors because often they will go into a field with an impractical idea of what a specific career actually entails. With partnerships between education and industry, Houston is able to better equip students to enter college with a realistic view of what to expect in their major.

While career-focused partnerships are beneficial for students, they also play a huge role in recruiting valuable skilled talent for years to come. A good impression, good mentors and great experience goes a long way when students start job searching.

Tuning into Houston's workforce

High school is the time for students to explore different career options. When students are placed in an internship program as early as the high school level, they are able to see exactly what the day to day looks like while building a foundation of professional development as they start to think about their future. It's important for students to have a realistic vision of what a career looks like.

There are numerous businesses in Houston that are working with high school students to help them gain experience.

For example, a few of the businesses that have partnerships with The Village School include Houston Methodist Hospital, Pimcore, M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and Cisco. Students are able to gain experience in a variety of ways including:

  • Working alongside surgical technicians and experience open-heart surgery and quarantined situations
  • Learning from cancer researchers who study nicotine addiction in children and the effects on brain development
  • Leveraging data analytics to develop software helping internal team members organize calendars at a leading SAP company

All students finished their internship with a better understanding of the workforce and the skills necessary to perform in a professional environment.

Finding opportunities for everyone

If students don't attend a high school that offers internships there are still opportunities to gain experience. Many businesses are open to job shadowing or having students volunteer a few hours a week to gain experience over the summer months. The opportunity for experience is out there and available and these opportunities will continue to grow and become more accessible for all students. Houston families and businesses must work together to ensure students know their options before entering college.

Educational partnerships benefit both students and the community. It's crucial for Houston to prepare the next generation's workforce to succeed and fill jobs with capable talent. Students are able to see that while they may not think they are interested in a specific field there are opportunities within the field that match their strengths and interests.

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TeKedra Pierre is the internship coordinator at The Village School.