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.

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Building Houston

 
 

This UH engineer is hoping to make his mark on cancer detection. Photo via UH.edu

Early stage cancer is hard to detect, mostly because traditional diagnostic imaging cannot detect tumors smaller than a certain size. One Houston innovator is looking to change that.

Wei-Chuan Shih, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering, recently published his findings in IEEE Sensors journal. According to a news release from UH, the cells around cancer tumors are small — ~30-150nm in diameter — and complex, and the precise detection of these exosome-carried biomarkers with molecular specificity has been elusive, until now.

"This work demonstrates, for the first time, that the strong synergy of arrayed radiative coupling and substrate undercut can enable high-performance biosensing in the visible light spectrum where high-quality, low-cost silicon detectors are readily available for point-of-care application," says Shih in the release. "The result is a remarkable sensitivity improvement, with a refractive index sensitivity increase from 207 nm/RIU to 578 nm/RIU."

Wei-Chuan Shih is a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Houston's Cullen College of Engineering. Photo via UH.edu

What Shih has done is essentially restored the electric field around nanodisks, providing accessibility to an otherwise buried enhanced electric field. Nanodisks are antibody-functionalized artificial nanostructures which help capture exosomes with molecular specificity.

"We report radiatively coupled arrayed gold nanodisks on invisible substrate (AGNIS) as a label-free (no need for fluorescent labels), cost-effective, and high-performance platform for molecularly specific exosome biosensing. The AGNIS substrate has been fabricated by wafer-scale nanosphere lithography without the need for costly lithography," says Shih in the release.

This process speeds up screening of the surface proteins of exosomes for diagnostics and biomarker discovery. Current exosome profiling — which relies primarily on DNA sequencing technology, fluorescent techniques such as flow cytometry, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) — is labor-intensive and costly. Shih's goal is to amplify the signal by developing the label-free technique, lowering the cost and making diagnosis easier and equitable.

"By decorating the gold nanodisks surface with different antibodies (e.g., CD9, CD63, and CD81), label-free exosome profiling has shown increased expression of all three surface proteins in cancer-derived exosomes," said Shih. "The sensitivity for detecting exosomes is within 112-600 (exosomes/μL), which would be sufficient in many clinical applications."

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