The semi-professional blog of Albert Ciuksza Jr.

Month: January 2013

BA323 #4: Bonus Journal – Value in Purchasing Decisions

What dimension of value do you use to make purchasing decisions? How will that change in 10 years?

What's the value?

What’s the value?

In last Wednesday’s lecture, we talked about the critical importance of value. Beyond simply the dollars and cents of it all, value is often defined by qualitative goals (how you feel) rather than something more quantitative (getting x amount of utility for $y).

Broadly, we identified four dimensions of value:

  • Performance – how well something is perceived to work
  • Price – what it costs vs. what one gets out of it
  • Relational – individual, personal relationship with the company/brand
  • Status – the reflected glory of owning/using the company/brand

In class, I asked what one dimension of value the students most often use to make purchasing decisions. I was surprised when most students mentioned performance and status rather than price (looks like the poor college student caricature might be waning).  At the end of class, I offered a bonus journal to further reflect on that question as well as share what they would expect to value ten years from now.

For me, price tends to be the first value on which I make purchasing decisions and that hasn’t really changed much in the last ten years. However, the way I look at price has changed, and has allowed me to also begin to look at the other areas more readily, particularly performance and relational.

Ten years ago, I was a year out of college and working in my first job trying to figure out how to pay bills. I left school with a mountain of debt, a car payment, and ancillary expenses like my cell phone and credit card debt. Like many recent graduates, I wasn’t making a lot of money and had to often settle for lower-quality, low-price products. In the following ten years, I had a few different careers, including one as a not-quite-successful entrepreneur, which made financial resources even more scarce. Even after getting a new job, it took years for me to settle the financial challenges that resulted from that setback.

Now that I’m a bit more established, I’m also aware of the importance of good quality, whether it be in vehicles, clothes, housing, etc. As such, I balance other areas of value, particularly performance, more heavily than I once did. I’m also incredibly loyal to certain companies or brands, especially in my community, so the relational value is more important to me now.

In a decade, I expect that I will still be financially prudent, though the other dimensions of value will likely be even more important or will trump price. Despite my experience in marketing, the status bug will likely bite me as I expect to have access to more financial resources, for better or worse. Even if I know I’m being duped, I likely won’t be able to resist.

What do you value now? Ten years from now? Do you think it will be the same?

BA323 #3: Journal #1 – What’s So Hard About Entrepreneurial Marketing?

As promised, I’m following the class with my own journal entries/blog posts about the subject. Our first is:

What’s so hard about Entrepreneurial Marketing?

As we covered in class, Entrepreneurial Marketing is (for better or worse) more than just the Four Ps (Price, Place, Promotion, and Product for those of you who can name three-of-four and inevitably forget one of them). Unlike traditional marketing, which can simply focus on who is going to buy the product, entrepreneurs must market to a variety of stakeholders: suppliers, customers, the end users of those customers, market intermediaries (gatekeepers that might exist in your market), investors/potential investors, and business partners/employees/potential employees. Each group requires its own strategy and tactics, all when resources are incredibly scarce.

Sure, the money problem is obvious, some of it can be overcome with good research, strategy, and tactical execution. What isn’t quite as easy is balancing multiple priorities among a diverse group of people who often have competing interests. Not only must entrepreneurs focus on selling their product or service, they must also be constantly thinking about how to market their business to raise money (through equity or loans). Finally, they must do this while promoting the overall image of the company, ensuring that suppliers and talent are both on-board as partners in the company’s success. Not an easy task.

Interestingly, most entrepreneurs seem to do this automatically. They work to build relationships with all of these people and tend to manage those relationships well. However, many entrepreneurs can suffer from tunnel vision — maybe focusing too much on sales while neglecting investors, or working hard to raise money without making sure the customers are happy. Coming back to the money issue, entrepreneurs often don’t have the capital to recover from a major error when marketing to any one of their diverse targets. This makes attention to all marketing strategies incredibly critical.

Personally, I find maintaining relationships with market intermediaries to be the most difficult, since they are acting as gatekeepers and offer third-party interference with your customers. When these relationships are good, they’re excellent. When they’re bad, they can make an entrepreneur’s marketing job much more difficult.

What do you think? What would be your biggest marketing challenge?

BA323 #2: The Sound of Your Own Name

Customization done well…

In Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, he says that the sweetest sound in any language is the sound of a person’s own name. In entrepreneurial marketing, it’s even more true.

I was reminded of this when I received a catalog from pc/nametag, a small company that makes custom name tags for events and sells other premiums that are often handed out at trade shows. As you can see in the image, the front cover was printed with my name on it as it would appear in one of their products (they also assume I’m an All Star, #1, and an Achiever … that’s just pure flattery). This would be the first time my name has been on the front of a catalog and, I have to say, it’s well done.

When running a start-up or small business, it takes a lot to cut through the noise and overcome natural skepticism from customers who are likely being courted by a multitude of vendors. However, with market research and a little creativity, this company was able to get my attention rather easily (and tell you about them as well).

Advances in digital printing technology have made individual customization cost-effective, presenting an incredible opportunity for companies looking to make an impact. And, despite the advances in email marketing, there is something much more remarkable about a well-developed custom print piece (anyone can create an email blast with a name form field). The lone exception was a marketing piece I once received from the American Marketing Association that made my name part of their url (i.e., but it is no longer active). I thought that was an excellent way to get me to visit their website.

For companies that don’t have the financial resources to make a big splash, it’s important to remember that you don’t always need to make a big splash to be effective. Sometimes, you have to play to your target’s sense of self and say the sweet sound of their own name.

BA323 #1: Preview of My Entrepreneurial Marketing Course at St. Vincent College

Yikes. A bowtie.

I’m only an adjunct, so I won’t be required to wear one of these.

I couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to engage the students at St. Vincent College, my undergraduate alma mater, in the newly-minted Entrepreneurial Marketing course that has been added to the Entrepreneurship minor under the McKenna School of Business. To some extent, I’m incredibly jealous of the students pursuing this minor and wish I had the chance to integrate this track into my studies when I attended 11 years ago.

One of the ways that the students will explore the material is through nine journal topics that will be submitted over the course of the next four months. In the spirit of fairness, I will be exploring those same topics here on my blog and will adhere to the same deadlines (though not for a grade). You’re welcome to follow along and critique my own thoughts through this journey in the comments section.

Finally, I thought it might be useful to mention a few of the themes that will be sprinkled throughout the course. Regardless of the tactical discussions we will have, there are a few takeaways that are absolutely critical to marketing in the entrepreneurial context:

  • I use the phrase “marketing in the entrepreneurial context” because I believe that these principles are as applicable to the corporate world as they are to early-stage and small ventures. Despite often blockbuster budgets, corporations are beginning to realize that they can’t just throw money at their marketing departments and expect customers to open their wallets.
  • Entrepreneurial marketing is different than traditional marketing in that there are more targets and, therefore, more people to consider when building and executing a strategy. While many marketing professionals in more traditional roles can focus on the customer alone, entrepreneurial marketers must consider customers, end users, suppliers, competitors, potential and current investors, the current team, and talent attraction.
  • Resources are somewhere on the scale of scarce to non-existent. This requires a completely different and creative approach. This means being personal and selling yourself as well as your concept. This is an unavoidable aspect of new or small ventures, and one of the most challenging aspects of entrepreneurial marketing.
  • There’s a common assumption that entrepreneurial marketing instantly means using social media. It’s just not so. While the entry costs to social media are low (platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Pinterest are free), the time costs associated with those platforms can be prohibitive. Like any other tactic, social media has to be analyzed on a strict ROI basis.

A few other random things:

  • After arguments with editor friends, I use the Oxford comma, regardless of how little care Vampire Weekend might give to it.
  • I will likely drink four cans for Diet Dr. Pepper each class.
  • I’m going to experiment with Skype to virtually bring in speakers who have had their own experiences and successes in this space.

I’m looking forward to the adventure and hope the students are as well. Class begins Wednesday, January 16th and ends May 8th.