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.

August 23 is pHERsonal Finance Day — a day dedicated to education about financial practices for women. Getty Images

You've seen the statistics on Americans' financial health. The average American is not in great shape: $6,000 per person in credit card debt, $4,900 per person in student loan debt, and 51 percent of all workers who feel they aren't saving enough for retirement.

You also probably know about two other trends: women are living longer than men and divorcing at higher rates. What you may not know is that in 2019, most married women still say their husbands manage their finances. Even more surprisingly, millennial women have their husbands manage their financial futures at higher rates than their mothers. According to a 2017 UBS survey, 61 percent of millennial married women say their husbands manage their finances versus 54 percent of boomers. How do these trends come together?

Each year, there are two million American women who get divorced or widowed. These women grapple with a traumatic life event while trying to figure out the passwords to their investment accounts. In addition, married women are waking up to discover their retirement savings are short of their expectations. In a world of women's marches and the "Future is Female" t-shirts, women should be stepping up to shape their financial futures. For that reason, women should take a financial health day.

What's a financial health day? It's 24-hours where you take the day off work or dedicate a Sunday to writing down the balances of your investment accounts, renegotiating your auto insurance, and deciding if you should roll over that old 401K. A financial health day is not going to magically wipe away your student loans or solve your spending problem, but it can give you a plan for paying off debt or your mortgage three years early.

There is growing consensus on what being financially healthy means: you should maintain a four to six-month emergency fund, carry zero credit card debt, and contribute 10 to 20 percent of your monthly income to a retirement fund. Additional goals, like buying a house or paying for your kids' college, don't come until you have achieved a stable foundation.

Along with knowing what "financial health" means, there is also general agreement among financial experts on the best ways to achieve it:

  • Know your money situation. Physically write out your loans (credit cards, auto loans) with their interest rates, and all of your savings (including retirement). Seeing it all in one place will help you figure out your priorities.
  • Create money goals. Set multiple goals and prioritize them (you can also fund more than one goal at once). Is it saving for the down payment on a house or becoming debt free?
  • Track your spending. Where is your money going? There are budgeting apps from Mint or YNAB to help you keep track. Are there places where you can tweak your spending habits to fund your savings goal? Can you cancel a recurring expense you aren't using? Could you negotiate a better rate on your phone bill?
  • Automate to achieve your goals. Set up recurring payments to your debt and savings. Automated monthly transfers from your checking account to your savings goals make sure you aren't as tempted to spend that money. Schedule monthly and yearly calendar alerts to check your spending, rebalance your portfolio, etc. One advanced tip is to enroll in your 401K plan's "save more later" option. This will increase the percentage of your paycheck you put into your 401K annually.

These items seem simple. Yet, why are so few people doing them? It takes a LOT of work to get this money infrastructure set up. At the end of a long day of client meetings, chasing a toddler, or some combo of the two, it's difficult to muster the mental energy to address your finances – especially if you have the option of outsourcing this responsibility to a capable partner. That's where a day dedicated to your financial to-dos will help. You don't need to be solely in charge of your money, but you definitely need to understand the plan.

While we feel that everyone can benefit from a financial health day, the first pHERsonal Finance Day targeted to millennial women is scheduled for August 23. Check out our schedule if you want to get started. If taking a whole day off feels like a long-shot, take this quiz here to help you prioritize your financial to-dos. Whether it's a daily money minute or an appointment with a financial adviser (pick one who is a fiduciary), what are you doing to own your financial future?

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Eryn Schultz is the co-founder of pHERsonal Finance Day.