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GIST TechConnect Emphasizes Role of Community in Branding and Marketing

October 23, 2017

For an entrepreneur, branding and marketing a startup can be challenging—particularly for entrepreneurs working in emerging economies or on a small budget. But financial limitations do not necessarily correlate to branding and marketing shortfalls. A panel of experts on GIST TechConnect: Getting Your Name Out There: Branding and Marketing for Startups emphasized that founders can turn to their local communities for help.

During the discussion, the panel emphasized the need for entrepreneurs to create a marketing plan for their startup. Ray Sanchez, managing partner and co-founder of Ghostlight Creative, said a marketing plan can help a startup prioritize needs and remain relevant to its market audience.

“You need to stay relevant to your audience, and without a plan, you’re going to get [so] introverted and focused on your day to day mission—that you lose sight of what your service or product really means to the people you’re trying to talk to,” Sanchez said.

For startups in emerging economies or with limited finances, a strong marketing plan starts with the local community. Sanchez explained that word of mouth is sometimes the best way to generate interest and attract a loyal customer base. According to Sanchez, entrepreneurs should lean on their communities to talk about the products or services their startup offer.

“The best form of advertising is word of mouth and it’s not advertising that anyone can sell you,” said Sanchez. “When someone believes in you and they start telling [their] friends and relatives about you, then that is advertising -- it’s just on a person to person basis.”

Customer discovery is also a critical part of understanding the needs of a startup’s market audience. Jane Sugiyama, marketing specialist for the University of Michigan Center for Entrepreneurship’s Technology Acceleration Programs, said interacting directly with consumers is the best way to create an effective marketing plan.

“Go out and interview your customer segments. That’s the only real way that you’re going to get data,” she said. “Don’t just interview the first 20 people that you think of. It takes a lot of data.”

In fact, Sugiyama suggests conducting at least 100 interviews.

“That is the only way that you can get solid data,” she said.

Steven Rodriguez, moderator of the TechConnect and startup community manager for the Global Entrepreneurship Network, said there are several opportunities around the world that let entrepreneurs take advantage of the marketing benefits a community can offer. Rodriguez pointed to Global Entrepreneurship Week, a global celebration of entrepreneurs that runs from November 13-19 this year. During the week, ecosystems, stakeholders and founders all over the world organize events that highlight, support and encourage entrepreneurship.

“It’s a celebration of the entrepreneurial community, so anybody who wants to get in that celebration, this is a good opportunity to start engaging that local community,” said Rodriguez.

Both Sugiyama and Sanchez also offered specific advice for entrepreneurs, including common marketing mistakes and ways to keep a startup’s branding and marketing focused. Clips of their advice can be found below along with the full TechConnect.


Common Marketing Mistakes


The Three C’s of Marketing


The Full TechConnect


Viewing groups for this TechConnect Included:

  • CVA de las Mercedes (BNC - Caracas) Caracas, Venezuela
  • CVA del Centro (BNC - Caracas) Caracas, Venezuela
  • CEVAM (BNC - Mérida) Mérida, Venezuela
  • CEVAC ( BNC - Valencia) Valencia, Venezuela
  • CEVAZ ( BNC - Maracaibo) Maraaibo, Venezuela
  • IFISA (American Corner - Lechería) Lechería, Venezuela
  • U.S. Embassy Guatemala