Beyond the Pitch

En Provider Blue Sky Creative Helps Startups with Branding and Marketing

Stephanie Butler, Blue Sky Creative senior account manager, describes her Expert Network experience as a breath of fresh air.

One of the most active EN participants, Blue Sky Creative, a full-service marketing firm, has worked with fifteen to twenty startups.

Stephanie meets with client companies several times a month. She begins EN engagements the same way she would any other client project. “We have an initial meeting, progress through the company’s needs, develop a project list, and then start chipping away,” she says.

Blue Sky Creative’s commitment to EN is to provide strategy and design consulting as in-kind services. Then the TechColumbus client company can implement the ideas themselves or can request a “next steps” proposal from Blue Sky.

“These are unique, new, innovative companies. It’s wonderful to have a partnership with people who appreciate you as much as you appreciate them,” she says. “Being part of Expert Network gives our graphics design team and other members of our company a fresh perspective of what is going on out there.”

Entrepreneurs always have ideas. Sometimes they are mediocre and sometimes they are great. When it comes to branding and marketing, Stephanie says it’s no different. She meets the entrepreneurs where they are.

“Sometimes a company is off to a great start,” she says. “They have nice marketing collateral. We check their Facebook and other social media, and they are doing it just right. They have the basics in place, but maybe are at a standstill on how to do target marketing. We have a brainstorming session, and I advise them on how to get their materials in the hands of people who matter. Whether or not they choose to take the next steps, the ball is in their court.”

And what about entrepreneurs who aren’t faring so well?

Stephanie isn’t hesitant to deliver the tough message.

“The most common thing I hear is that ‘I’m too busy,’” she says. “That the entrepreneur is doing this or that and wearing seventeen hats. The fact is there aren’t that many people out there who aren’t doing the work of more than one person. That’s the truth of the world today. We are all busy. If you want your company to succeed, you have to figure out how to make time to do the things you need to do and that is why strategy and implementation are key.”

Stephanie has more direct advice:

  • An out-of-date or bad website is worse than no website at all.
  • Be open, listen, take advantage of the advice you receive through EN. An entrepreneur may know everything there is to know about the product, but engineers don’t necessarily know marketing.
  • Make a plan to implement and stick to it. You have to layout the pavement before you can start running on it.
  • Marketing has a trickle effect. You may think that finance or sales is more important, but if you don’t make  social media and quality collateral a priority from day one, potential customers will be turned off when you finally do get their attention, and they search you out on the Web.
  • ExpertNetwork can help entrepreneurs be more efficient with all their resources, whether money or time.

“Some of the entrepreneurs I’ve strategized with have more hustle than anyone I’ve ever met,” Stephanie says. “Now that I’ve been part of EN for more than a year and have observed things, they are the ones who are getting the exciting news and covering the ground.”

For Blue Sky, participating in EN has been a two-way street.

“It’s been a fantastic investment for us,” says Stephanie. “We’ve established some great relationships with these new companies, and we’ve met other service providers who have turned out to be valuable resources for our company.”

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