In today’s market, the phrase “Business Incubator” or “Tech Incubator” is so universally used it’s difficult to establish an exact definition. Do you know the origin of these idioms? As you may guess this is another Western New York innovation for which little credit is given. Recently, over coffee with Jon Spitz, the executive director of Z80 labs, a tech incubator located at The Innovation Center, powered by the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, Inc., we were discussing the recent SmarTech event and our vision for building a regional community of marketing and technology leaders.
An envisioned next step, would be to hold our next event outside of a densely populated city center, somewhere between Buffalo and Rochester, like perhaps, Batavia, NY. Ideally, the location of this event would attract leaders from both cities as Batavia, NY is centrally located, directly off the I-90, and approximately a 30-minute drive from both locations. Jon, in passing, said that he thought the first business incubator was created in Batavia, and sure enough it was!
The Batavia Industrial Center (BIC) was founded in 1959 when the Massey-Ferguson factory shut down leaving almost a million feet of empty space and 20% unemployment in the Genesee County area. I read about the history on Wikipedia (of course!) and there is a link to the founder, Joseph Mancuso, which states he was born in 1941 and lives in NYC today. This raised two questions: 1) Was he only 18 when he founded the first business incubator? 2) He attended college and post grad in Boston and now lives in NYC, what’s his connection to Batavia? A little more digging revealed that the BIC was founded by a completely different Joe Mancuso, so it’s important to always get several sources, and never trust Wikipedia alone!
Our Joe Mancuso found himself with nearly a million square feet of space to fill. Knowing that it would be difficult to find one company to occupy that much space, Mancuso decided to pitch small chunks of square footage to different companies, which would allow them to share services as a means to reduce cost. By today’s standards, this seems like common, but at the time it was revolutionary. Of the early clients, apparently, several were chicken companies which, according to legend, led to the early adopters calling the concept an “incubator” referring to the process of encouraging eggs to develop quickly and chicks to grow faster.
Recently, I met with a group of entrepreneurs discussing Block Chains and a new term was introduced to me, ‘Scenius’. I don’t know to whom it should be attributed, however, I like it and its definition, “the collective intelligence of a scene.” This of course lends itself to the follow-up question: “what’s a scene?” I think of it as synonymous to my original belief in community and the many ways we define our community. I live in Buffalo, work in marketing/sales, am an avid technologist, and obsessed with startup businesses. I’m just beginning to identify where all these communities (or ‘scenes’) intersect and it has been a fascinating journey. As previously stated, a goal for this series is to foster a community that is part of “scene” of sales and marketing technology enthusiasts, and to increase our collective ‘scenius’. For me, the history of the BIC is a great example of the benefits of being surrounded with focused individuals who learn from each other.
My previous article, titled “Know Your Customer: how to react to rapidly evolving buyer behavior,” which can be found here, focused on a companies’ Total Addressable Market (TAM) and how to grow that through Ideal Customer Profile (ICP). On a side note, It has been suggested that I establish a glossary of Three Letter Acronyms (TLAs) and I may just do that, but it will probably take some time. Either way, I want to continue the discussion of scaling and TAM with a hypothetical company selling IT services in the Buffalo area.
For companies in this industry, often the primary source of potential new clients is referral or word of mouth. Many times, an initial client-base is built through networking, however, this strategy is not really scalable, or sustainable for long. At some point, a company is going to want to garner broader interest and attract clients from outside their circle of contacts. Typically, they’ll start with some inbound marketing focusing on their ICP and limited geography. It’s important at this stage to have some serious conversation around branding. Create some guidelines around how you will represent your company in the market. Think at a high-level, who are you as a company? Are you hip and cool, or professional and conservative?
Two local companies that come to mind are M&T Bank and Bank on Buffalo, M&T Bank was founded in 1856 in Western New York, it is perceived as established, reliable, and perhaps even conservative in their approach. By comparison, Bank on Buffalo is a newer division of CNB Financial Corporation head quartered in Clearfield, PA and established in 1865, just 10 years later. However, since the company, Bank on Buffalo, opened in 2016, it has worked to establish a different type of local branding to separate it in a new marketplace.
Bank on Buffalo chose red as the dominant color in its brand, while M&T chose green, these decisions weren’t made by throwing a dart at a color wheel. They were conscious, though-out decisions that were chosen to represent the organizations. Bank on Buffalo’s logo is like a sports team or a brewery even, and chose a mascot. In comparison, M&T’s logo is simple, with the bank’s name in a specific serif font, which when used as a logo choice is perceived as conservative and traditional. In text, like on this page, it’s used to make the content more easily readable. Sans serif font, comparatively is seen as more modern. We could have a whole series dedicated to typography, but if you are looking for a quick run down, check out this link.
For the logo design choices, neither is better than the other, but they will likely appeal to different segments of the market. Color choice, logo, and terminology should all be representative of who you are as a company, your beliefs, and your differentiation. What are some words that would describe your company? Maybe you’re fresh and new, or professional, or driven, or disruptive event. Whatever it is this should be combined with your ICP to guide what content you use to attract new clients.
So, now we have our guidelines and are going to start producing content, it’s important to discuss “content marketing” and/vs. “inbound marketing” and/vs. “account based marketing (ABM)” We will dive deeper into each of these in the next article but it’s important to quickly cover these as I wrap up here.
Content marketing has been around for a long time, and is the use of content targeted at our ICP, in which they find value, and will drive them to my product or service. Jell-O (from WNY of course!) was an innovator in content marketing, as they drove their product sales using cookbooks that were aimed at housewives, their primary ICP, which encouraged Jell-O based recipes. Within the broad and loosely defined umbrella of content marketing is “inbound marketing” which is a newer concept started by Hubspot and encouraged by Buffalo’s own Seth Godin in his book “Permission Marketing” in 1999. The idea is to get your ICP hooked on your content and to lead them down a path to buying and advocating using different types of content in different channels throughout the buying cycle. If you’ve clicked a sponsored ad in Facebook for an e-book about anything, and it asks for your email address; this is inbound marketing. Once you provide your email you begin being scored and more content will be driven to you in an attempt to influence your buying behavior. ABM takes a very specific ICP segment and focuses highly personalized marketing and sales activity that you will find valuable and drive you into the sales process.
Next week, we’ll discuss the specific activities to set up a content marketing campaign and what you can do to get involved. Thank you to the many who reached out after the previous articles were published, as always, I welcome any comments, questions, or arguments to firstname.lastname@example.org.