Headshot of Bobbi Brown, founder of Jones Road Beauty.
Bobbi Brown, entrepreneur, makeup artist, and founder of Jones Road Beauty. — Jones Road Beauty

Three tips for entrepreneurs on engaging and retaining customers from Glossier and Twitter executives, and beauty industry icon Bobbi Brown:

  • Lean into consumers’ heightened appetite for small businesses by embracing your brand’s quirkiness. “Always remember that your smallness and your personality are your superpowers,” said Roya Shariat, senior manager of impact for Glossier.
  • Tap social media to provide educational content that offers value to your followers. “That is going to convert followers to buyers a lot better than if you just go right for the sale,” said Kirstin Lawrence, associate manager of customer success for Twitter.
  • On short form video platform TikTok, skip the hard sell. Customers there “don’t want a pitch on your company,” said Bobbi Brown, founder of Jones Road Beauty.

At Yelp’s recent Women in Business Summit, executives from companies including TikTok, Glossier, and Twitter shared their experiences and advice for business owners and entrepreneurs during a day-long series of sessions. Following are a few of the highlights:

Reflect your personality on social media: ‘People don’t want to follow a business; they want to follow a person’

Consumers are interested in interacting with real people on social media. For small companies, this presents an opportunity for founders to express themselves and let their personalities shine through.

“People don’t want to follow a business; they want to follow a person,” said Gabriela Lopez-Bucio, founder and owner of Gabriela’s Group, a restaurant and nightclub operator in Austin, Texas. “People want to see me, and they want to see our staff.”

Madison Utendahl, founder of agency Utendahl Creative, who is also vice president of social strategy at marketing company Known, agreed.

“Be human — don’t sound like a robot,” she said.

She also suggested that a company’s image on social media should align with its overall branding in terms of appearance and messaging.

In addition, rather than focusing on trying to drive sales through social media, brands should think first about providing educational content and other information that offers value for followers, said Kirstin Lawrence, associate manager of customer success for Twitter.

“That is going to convert followers to buyers a lot better than if you just go right for the sale,” she said.

 Headshot of Danielle Johnson, head of SMB account management, North America for TikTok.
Danielle Johnson, head of SMB account management, North America for TikTok. — TikTok

Tapping TikTok to drive business: Favor authenticity and consumer education over polish and ‘perfection’

Similarly, TikTok is about content first, said Danielle Johnson, head of SMB account management, North America for TikTok. Brands should focus on content that their social media community can become engaged with, and worry about product sales secondarily, she said.

“Your purchasers might not always be your followers,” Johnson said.

She agreed that business owners need to be authentic on TikTok, and should not worry too much about posting polished, professional-looking videos.

“It doesn’t have to be perfection,” Johnson said. “Don’t be afraid to test and try and learn.”

Bobbi Brown, the iconic entrepreneur, makeup artist, and founder of Jones Road Beauty, agreed that social media followers are looking for information and educational content.

When she reached out to her followers on TikTok to find out what they were interested in seeing, “They requested makeup tips for women over 40 and women over 50,” Brown said. “They don’t want a pitch on your company.”

Consumers are interested in small companies and understand that they are driven by real people who have their own quirks and interests. Always remember that your smallness and your personality are your superpowers.

Roya Shariat, senior manager of impact for Glossier

Similarly, Alicia Scott, founder and chief executive officer of Range Beauty, said she uses social media to provide tips for people seeking to treat their skin conditions, rather than focusing expressly on the company’s products, in order to build community.

“You want people to come to you because they feel comfortable,” she said.

Consumers are interested in small companies and understand that they are driven by real people who have their own quirks and interests, said Roya Shariat, senior manager of impact for Glossier. “Always remember that your smallness and your personality are your superpowers,” she said.

Trinity Mouzon Wofford, co-founder and CEO of Golde, said her goal on social media is to showcase the lifestyle around her company’s products.

“At the end of the day, it wasn’t that they wanted to drink a Golde turmeric latte,” she said. “It was they wanted Golde to be a part of their lifestyle, and they wanted to be someone who used the products.”

[Read: Social Commerce and Loyalty Drive Key Marketing Trends]

 Headshot of Kirstin Lawrence, associate manager of customer success for Twitter.
Kirstin Lawrence, associate manager of customer success for Twitter. — Twitter

Take the time to diversify your network: Carefully build business relationships that could yield collaboration-driven benefits in the long term

Business leaders should get to know both their competitors and leaders in other industries who could become partners in collaborative projects, panelists said. By joining industry groups and other business organizations, businesses and entrepreneurs can expand their networks and build relationships that could prove mutually beneficial.

Businesses with differing products or services that share some overlapping customers could potentially work together for certain initiatives, for example. A company that provides linens for parties and another that sells festive balloons might be able work together on weddings, for example, said Zanade Mann, founder and managing director of the Black Women’s Business Collective.

“If you want to tap into these networks, you need to really dig in, find out who is who, find out where there’s some adjacent collaboration that can happen,” she said.

Both Zanade and Cate Luzio, CEO and founder of Luminary, pointed out that building collaborative relationships through networking takes patience and consistent effort.

“It’s the long game,” said Luzio. “If you are thinking super-transactionally … that’s not going to work for the long term. It’s an ecosystem. That’s how the magic happens.”

She pointed out that companies that appear to be competitors at first glance could end up being collaborators, as well.

“When you look at them, [consider]: Do they have something that you don’t have, that you will likely never have?” said Luzio. “And can there be ways for you to come together?”

“When you collaborate, you have to figure out how one plus one equals three,” she said.

Both Zanade and Luzio suggested that business leaders should take advantage of Zoom calls to network.

“Take the opportunity to introduce yourself, even if you are not speaking,” said Luzio. “Put it in the chat — who you are, your LinkedIn, and where you want people to follow you.”

[Read: How Startups Are Tapping TikTok to Build Buzz and Drive Sales]

 Headshot of Gabriela Lopez Bucio, founder and owner of Gabriela's Group.
Gabriela Lopez Bucio, founder and owner of Gabriela's Group, a restaurant and nightclub operator in Austin, Texas. — Gabriela's Group

Understand your financing options, while nailing down the ‘why now?’ behind a potential business venture

Businesses seeking outside investment should understand the differences between venture capital, seed funding, and other forms of financing, each of which are associated with specific expectations on the part of the investors.

For many businesses seeking financing, venture capital is not necessarily the ideal route, according to Kathryn Weinmann, vice president, Norwest Venture Partners. Venture capital investors are looking for massive growth opportunities — companies that are poised to expand their value exponentially, as opposed to the steady growth that most companies are likely to be able to realistically forecast, she said.

Weinmann said when her company evaluates opportunities for seed funding, it is looking for founders who have “a clear and strong vision” for their company that’s compelling. Companies should be able to articulate the opportunity, whether it is from a technological breakthrough or an unmet demand arising from a shift in consumer trends, she said.

“Really nailing that ‘why now?’ question is very important to us,” she said.

In addition, founders should also not be afraid to articulate the risks that investors face. Investors want to know that founders are aware of the risks, and that they have a plan to minimize those risks, Weinmann said.

“It boils down to the founder being able to tell the story,” she said.

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Published May 02, 2022