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“Know your customers, build strong relationships with them, talk to them about your plans. If you know a few of them well, you’ll get an idea of who they are, what they need and how you can help them.”

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Brandon Ives is managing partner and marketing strategist at Brasco Design + Marketing. He is responsible for client services and works with Brasco clients on creative planning and implementation for their initiatives. As a “business development minded marketer,” he thinks about how marketing can be translated in to more sales for the client.

Brasco Design + Marketing is a top quality web marketing agency that helps companies design and implement creative strategies to springboard their growth. Armed with a client base in a variety of industries, Brasco Design + Marketing specializes in marketing strategy, creative brand design, web development, online/SEO marketing and comprehensive marketing management services.

MO: Can you give us an example of a recent creative strategy you implemented to springboard the growth of a small company?

Brandon: We have many great success stories from clients. One example I really like to talk about is Kinder Soles. They were a small start-up featuring environmentally friendly products, mainly flip flops. It was started by a graduate of the NC State University Entrepreneurship Initiative who wanted help in branding and marketing the products to consumers. We worked with him on creating the brand, online and print collateral and SEO. We even helped them plan and throw parties to promote the brand! He had a great idea and a solid management team, so what we did for them was hold multiple marketing and branding sessions to determine what consumers were going to buy the shoes.

Our study of demographics found they appealed to both younger adults, who were impressed by the use of recycled materials to make the flip flops, and mature buyers, who enjoyed the look and feel of the show because a podiatrist approved the design of it. We designed our visual brand and associated marketing ideas from those discoveries for three years. The brand performed really well among the target customers, and now they have been acquired by another local company, Feelgoodz. They’ve become a big success story of which we’re proud to have been a part.

MO: Have you always had an entrepreneurial spirit?

Brandon: I never really thought much about entrepreneurship growing up. I was mainly into music and sports. It was not until college, when I joined some other students in forming our own fraternity on campus, that the spirit hit me. There I realized we had to run the fraternity like a business for it to succeed, and invest our time in recruiting, marketing, events and so on. After college, a friend and I launched a business called Mediplay, Inc., which provided video programs in medical rooms and other technology needed at hospitals. We sold it in 2007. It was a great experience and really gave me confidence in being an entrepreneur.

When I joined Brasco Design + Marketing in 2007, my goal was to create a unique agency that combined sharp marketing ideas with creative branding and web. I knew clients were looking for a way to connect the dots in their marketing program. My partner was operating Brasco as primarily a design and web shop, doing great work. Then I joined as partner to bring our clients a more well-rounded offering that would help them show ROI and bring in more business. I was able to utilize the many skills I gained through working with start-up and high growth companies. My prior entrepreneurial experience armed me with determination and confidence, which has carried over to my position as managing partner and marketing strategist.

MO: What would your advice be to a start-up on a tight budget who needs a marketing strategy?

Brandon: You have to think about your customers as a start-up when on a tight budget. This may be considered more of a sales approach than a marketing strategy, but you must generate business first and put your funds where they will bring in people – and therefore money – through the door. Know your customers, build strong relationships with them, talk with them about your plans. If you know a few of them well, you’ll get an idea of who they are and what they want and where you need to proceed. At Brasco, we encourage our clients to focus on developing your business, and then use the money you earn to invest in marketing, branding, public relations, design and so on. Right now, we are actually working on a spinoff company, and we have been talking about how we need to have business for it in place before addressing other marketing issues.

MO: Can you give our readers two tips for increasing the visibility of their brand?

Brandon: These tips depend a great deal on what your company’s goals are and the customers you serve. But, at Brasco, we tell our clients that they must not lose sight of the consumer – their needs will dictate the direction you should pursue to increase your brand visibility. Do customers understand your brand? That ought to be your first question. Look at what your product is doing in three key areas – placement in online and traditional media (TV, newspapers, radio, etc.); business development; and sales. Always evaluate how your customers are responding to your messages in these three areas. After doing that, adjust your strategies so that they address what you want to say to consumers about your brand and how you want to express it to them as well.

MO: Every entrepreneur goes through struggles. Can you tell us about a challenge you have faced in your career and how you overcame it?

Brandon: When we launched Mediplay, like many start-ups, we were battling overhead issues.. This forced us to review both where we allocated our money and what approaches we planned to use to generate business. We overcame the problem by changing our sales plan to focus our efforts on what our customers really wanted as opposed to what we thought they wanted. That led us to become more successful. Currently at Brasco Design + Marketing, our struggle is that as a small business, every hire that we make is crucial to our growth. We know that our area has many talented professionals, but we want to find ones who understand and respect our work culture and need little effort to be trained on our work processes to save us valuable time and expenses. We have implemented a good co-op internship program to review possible candidates, and that has produced some success, as well as our intensive interview process, but we are still working on refining the process, as probably many other small businesses are today.

MO: If we went out to sing some karaoke, what song would you choose and why?

Brandon: That would be “Let’s Stay Together” by Al Green. I’ve done that one a few times at karaoke bars and weddings. I like his smooth solo R&B style. I try to sing as best as I can. My mother is a fantastic singer, and I play music and have written songs since I was 15.

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