Customers buy solutions, not products.
That was a message Nelly Roach, president of marketing agency Caledon Virtual, delivered Tuesday at an entrepreneurial bootcamp put on by Columbia’s Regional Economic Development Inc. and the Missouri Small Business & Technology Development Centers.
The two-day training session was part of Global Entrepreneurship Week, a worldwide series of events taking place this week to celebrate entrepreneurs and spur would-be business founders to act on their ideas. Collin Bunch, who works for the SBTDC in Columbia, put the bootcamp together with the goal of providing local entrepreneurs “practical ways to improve their business,” he said.
Roach served up some practical tips during her session. As she talked, she looked down at her Starbucks cup and said her morning coffee is an example of a solution. Coffee is a key ingredient to her functioning throughout the day, Roach said, and it’s a solution to early mornings and presentations.
In marketing, a product’s mechanics and methodology don’t matter as much as the solution that product provides, Roach said, and entrepreneurs need to keep that in mind.
The day featured workshops and talks on a range of topics. Matt Murrie, the Columbia entrepreneur behind event and education startup What If…? 360, led one session. Gene Gerke, a Columbia-based consultant and investor, gave a presentation on startup capital.
Later in the day, James Niemann, director of the University of Missouri’s Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic, led a workshop highlighting one resource for area entrepreneurs: the free services his team of MU law students provides to startups.
“Students are some of the best researchers you’re going to find,” Niemann said.
While the students gain experience working with clients, businesses that come to the clinic have the opportunity to learn, too, Niemann said.
“(Clients) get a more step-by-step process, which you won’t get when you pay high costs by the hour to get things done,” he said. “That experience is integral for an entrepreneur getting started.”
Niemann said the clinic is looking to expand its services to include a patent attorney and other legal services. While student learning is the No. 1 priority, Niemann said, he also wants to help accommodate a growing need in the entrepreneurial community.