Marketing expert hosts discussion inspiring young entrepreneurs

June 05, 2023

Seth Godin speaks with student entrepreneurs

Three teams of student entrepreneurs looking to launch their businesses, with help from Quinnipiac’s pilot summer accelerator program, received valuable insight from American business marketing guru Seth Godin on June 2.

Godin, a best-selling author, entrepreneur, marketing thought leader and pioneer of ethical online direct marketing, joined the Quinnipiac student teams via Zoom for a 45-minute discussion at the M&T Bank Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE). Godin was invited by colleague and Quinnipiac game design and development program founder Gregory Garvey.

“Seth Godin and I worked at Spinnaker Software in Cambridge, Massachusetts, during the mid-1980’s," said Garvey. "We have kept in touch since."

The idea for the pilot accelerator program was conceived and fostered by Garvey and supported with funding from a Provost’s Faculty Scholarship and Creative Works Impact Fund. Garvey partnered with the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship director Patrice Luoma to open the 3-week pilot program on May 22. David Tomczyk, School of Business professor of entrepreneurship and strategy, is assisting with mentoring and coaching the student teams.

While the types of businesses the student entrepreneurs described to Godin varied, he said similar rules apply when it comes to realizing success.

“The hard part of almost every project we have heard about here, and I bet it’s the hard part for basically every project - except nuclear fusion - is customer traction,” said Godin. “If you get customer traction, you can solve the rest of your problems.”

Customer traction is a building process which starts small and can grow with what Godin termed “good marketing.” He said marketing has a bad name because people don’t understand what marketing is.

“The entities, the organizations, the brands, the games that work, didn’t spread because they had a good publicist," said Godin. "They didn’t spread because of their elevator pitch. No one ever bought anything in an elevator."

“What is going to make it work is if the marketing - which is the true story that people hear and tell themselves about the change you make in the world - if after they hear that true story, there is so much tension that they have to engage with you, buy from you and tell their friends, then you have good marketing,” said Godin.

Godin heard from the three student teams participating in the summer accelerator, which concludes on June 9.

Little Loaf Studios, LLC team members include senior Brendan Berg ’23; and alumni Tyler Gorman, ’23; Horacio Valdes, ’23; Matt Camerato, ’23; and Matt Gumprecht, ’23. They want to launch their indie game studio and have already developed a virtual reality game, Trewel Towers.

Student Ari Wolf ’24 and Sonny Pico, ’24, make up the partnership team of Timeless Attire, LLC. They want to introduce to the market a line of clothing which brings awareness to endangered animals, with a portion of sales proceeds earmarked to support these endangered species.

Lifestyle LLC Service, developed by Shanilya “Nilly” Bush, MSW ’23, offers wrap-around health, wellness and social services to assist individuals, families and communities overcome challenges.

Bush sought advice from Godin about building word of mouth to build her business. Godin shared what works and what doesn’t.

“Some things people use on their own and they never talk about them; and other things people use and they talk about them all the time,” said Godin. “So you can’t just say, ‘We need word of mouth.’ You have to say, ‘Word of mouth makes this work better for the customer.’ That is how you get word of mouth.”

Asking the right questions will create the path to follow to success, said Godin.

“You just have to ask yourself the right questions because you will find the answers if you get the right questions,” said Godin.

When it comes to the concept of creating brand loyalty for the clothing line proposed by Timeless Attire, Godin asked a telling question, “Why are they interested in the brand?” He also supplied the answer: a successful brand provides affiliation or status.

“Human beings want connection and safety which I call affiliation; or they want status,” said Godin. "So are you selling status or affiliation? When you show up with an idea that nobody needs, because nobody needs the T-shirts you’re making, why do they want it? Is it because they don’t want to be left out, they want to be part of something? Or is it because they want to show they’re better than others."

Godin also cautioned that the clothing line’s socially-conscious message needs to be “baked in” to good marketing in order to succeed.

“The work you’re doing is really important; but you are falling into a trap which is very common; which is believing that if you do important work and a good job, the word will spread," said Godin. "And if you don’t, the word won’t. But in fact, I can give you many examples where substandard stuff spreads, and really important good stuff doesn’t. And so what we’re trying to do is bake into what you do the dynamic of it spreading."

Wolf asked Godin whether guerilla marketing could help to launch the clothing line. Godin has authored three best-selling books on guerilla marketing.

“Guerilla marketing is widely misunderstood," he said. "It’s not annoying marketing. What guerilla marketing was is that you don’t have to be Chevrolet, or Ivory Soap, or Coca Cola to tell a story to the public. What you have to do is find the smallest viable audience, not the biggest possible audience; and not pay a media middleman to be able to interact with this small group of people who want to hear from you." “What you have is the ability to show up in the right place for people who are eager to hear from you. That is what guerilla marketing has become.”

Speaking to the Little Loaf Studios team, Godin said recognizing that the big video game publishers of the world have different constraints, and then aligning a prospective new game to fit a certain publisher’s constraints, opens a set of questions which could land a deal.

“And now you say, ‘This publisher is going to publish five new games next year. How do I show up? When do I show up, so that they pay me to build the game that’s going to be published?’ And if you can’t do that, you shouldn’t make the game," said Godin. "Because the thing you think is hard; making the animation engine or whatever it is, is not hard. The hard part is coming up with a game that’s going to be a hit.”

He suggested taking a weekend to build story boards to show a publisher who may then decide to finance some initial work to see if the proposed game develops. Godin encouraged the team to take the risk of reaching out despite any fears that may be holding them back.

“You’re postponing it. Don’t do that. Put it at the beginning,” said Godin.

Garvey shared with Godin that some of the teams are researching crowdfunding as a possible source of start-up income. Consider that as a slow-building effort, Godin advised.

“Kickstarter should not be called Kickstarter. It should be called Kickfinisher. Because the last step of crowdfunding is you get $100,000. The first step is two years before that, when you get two people who want to hear from you every week; and then it turns into six people, and then into 12 people and into 1,000 people. And when you are narrating your journey and people are interested, now there’s a chance people are rooting for you,” said Godin.

In June of 2022, Garvey received a College of Arts and Science incubator stipend to write a fully developed proposal for summer business accelerator program, which garnered $5,000 from the Provost’s Faculty Scholarship and Creative Works Impact Fund to launch the pilot program.

“The three-week accelerator is designed as a 'runway' to help student teams launch their product, invention, game–intellectual property, into the marketplace,” noted Garvey.

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