AIB Start-Up Academy Coach Lisa Hughes on Mastering Start-up Success

Coach and facilitator at the AIB & Irish Times Start-Up Academy Lisa Hughes.

15 Dec 2015

Posted in:  Business Support

As a coach and facilitator in the AIB and Irish Times Start-up Academy, Lisa Hughes knows exactly what it takes for Start-ups to market their new business and she advises that when it comes to pitching to investors or to impressing potential customers, getting your marketing mix right is key to success.

Lisa explains: “I’m coach and facilitator and my role in the Academy is to facilitate the marketing module and the pitch module at the end. It’s really about guiding the Start-ups through marketing to their customers and also, about how you market yourself in terms of raising funds and selling your product.

“The marketing mix is the engine of the business. For a Start-up the first thing I’d recommend is to step back and say who are my customers? What are they interested in? What problems am I solving for them?

“It’s important to know who your customers are, what they care about and how your product is differentiated from your competitors.”

With applications for the next Academy now open, Lisa says taking part is a very enriching experience.

“The great thing for all the Start-ups is that they have so much access to a lot of different speakers. They have modules from finance to marketing. It’s a really well-rounded Academy with a strong range of speakers and expertise, and they learn so much from each other as well.

“I love being involved in it. I ran a Start-up myself for a little bit. I had a lot of corporate marketing experience and then ran a Start-up. So I really understand it, the energy and excitement of Start-ups is so brilliant because they are so passionate about what they do.

“But there are so many challenges and to be able to work with them and get them to step back and take a breath and decide what the most important they have to do, is really rewarding. You can really see they can take away learnings and implement it straight away, so you’re adding value.”

Read on for Lisa’s expert advice on how to master the marketing mix for your Start-up:

Listen first, then talk:

We’ve seen a real shift in marketing for Start-ups. It’s moved from pushing messages out to co-creating. Now, you have a real dialogue and conversation with your customers. It’s not just about talking to your customers, it’s about listening to their needs and feedback. Customers really want to collaborate and love when you take on board what they have to say. Their feedback is the single most important factor that you’re going to have in terms of really moving it forward.

When you look at someone like LuLulemon all of their product innovation is customer-driven. They sent a whole pile of samples out to yoga teachers and gym teachers and from their feedback, they built their product offering. If you have people who love your brand, they will sell your brand for you. They will be so invested in what it is you do and will be as passionate about it as you are.

Win advocacy

The reality of it is, people don’t really believe us (advertisers), they believe each other. When you have people who have bought your product and recommend your products, they become advocates, and sell your product for you. They are the best marketing plan and sales force you can have. And being there and being part of their communication mix and lifestyle is incredibly important and effective. It’s really about frequency of community and listening. If you think about how you build relationships, one to one with people whether it’s with your kids or work colleagues, it’s about spending time with them, and listening to them and understanding what their needs are. Then you’re in a position to be able to respond in a meaningful way. When you know what’s important to them you can frame your product and your messages in their context.

Three C’s

There are lots of marketing theories out there. But I believe knowing your Customer, Connection and Community is key. Ultimately it’s about your customers. Knowing who they are, and how you can connect with them. You need to then connect with them, wherever they are at, and then community is about building a community of advocates. If you look at what Burberry have done on social, they’ve built this great community of people that’s great to be a part of.

Invest in Marketing

Marketing is an absolutely key investment. People see it as almost an afterthought but it’s absolutely the engine of your business. If you can get your marketing strategy right and understand who your customers are and where you’re targeting them, you can get a lot of other information right. It’s the thinking behind the marketing that is so important, knowing what will drive sales. It’s absolutely crucial to invest in it from the start. It’s such an iterative process, what you want to be constantly doing is looking at what’s working and what’s not and looking at what’s giving you results. That feedback loop is so crucial and because you have to be so focused on a minimal budget. Set your objectives from the start and then measure against that.

Find out more about theAIB Start-up Academy and how you can apply to take part for a chance to win a place on the training and mentoring programme. Watch Lisa Hughes discuss the first steps as the Start-up below and check out our AIB Start-up Academy YouTube playlist for more insight and great advice.

Find out more about the AIB Start-up Academy and how you can apply to take part.Submit your applicationnow for a chance to win a place in the next AIB Start-Up Academy, applications closing January 4th.

Check out more on how We’re Backing Brave, follow us on Twitter@AIBBizor check out the conversation at#backedbyAIB.

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