Eric is the co-founder of Blue C, a California-based brand strategy and creative marketing agency. Since 1998 Eric has been helping companies across both b2b and b2c segments. Eric is a second-generation marketer and actively supports clients’ growth dreams through the Blue C Brand PWR platform and the Six Systems To Success. On a personal basis, Eric spends 16 weekends a year in Baja California and is the co-founder of The California Love Job, which cares for frontline workers.
How important is brand strategy for companies that want to grow?
Well, what's interesting is that our company focuses first and foremost on brand strategy. The platform we have is called Brand Power and the very first step is always about brand strategy, brand messaging, clarity and positioning. It's interesting, because in the last 12 to 18 months, we have had so many more companies come to us and ask us to go through our Brand Power clarity process than ever before. A lot of people think that branding and marketing flow together, but they're almost like polar opposites, or maybe even like the Ying Yang, if you don't do one, you can't do the other. What happens is if you don't have complete clarity on your message, you're not going to be able to do your marketing well. So by going through our process, we're able to uncover everything, create absolute clarity, create massive success for both internal and external, as well as create the next step in our Brand Power process, which is called amplify. The system actually works really well as a roadmap and our first step is clarify, which is the brand strategy, amplify, which is the marketing strategy marketing plan, kind of our roadmap, and then infuse the creative campaign development. Then integrate is the digital marketing and sales strategies, and then engage is all the social media content and content marketing that flows in around the whole campaign. So to answer your question more precisely, how important is brand strategy, is brand strategy is a long game, but it's very, very, very important. You can't do one without the other.
What is the difference between branding and marketing?
I think the easiest way to explain branding is this is what people think about you after you leave your room. The marketing is how are we going to get that message out to the right people at the right place at the right time. So if you break it down really simple like that, that's the best way to think about it. The branding is always about the message. A lot of people are like, "Okay, well, we need our brand developed, let's do our logo," but no, it actually goes deeper into that. So when we go through our process, the brand clarity process, we really get down into the pillars, the tonality, the mission, the values, the words you say, the words you don't say, the visual direction, and keeping a very strong clarity in the message. So with that being said, the branding is that feeling, what they think about you, how everything is cohesive and everything works together, the marketing is how they're going to connect with you to get you to engage and be a fan of that brand.
What's the difference between b2b marketing and b2c marketing?
I think the easiest way to think about it, and I kind of want to take a step back before I go into that is a consumer will spend $100 on something, but a business will spend $1,000 on that same thing. The difference is that the consumer wants to know about the emotional connection of it, they want the emotional buy on it. So you're going to see a lot of marketing really targeted towards the emotional side, how you're going to feel, how you're going to be seen, how you're going to look, how this thing is going to change your life on it. Then on b2b, it's all rational and they're thinking what is it going to do for my company, is it going to save me time or make me more money. What's really interesting is that we have clients that have both b2b products, and the same product is been for b2c. It's really difficult sometimes because you have to change your thinking, and you really have to change how you're communicating when you're going to the consumer market and then all of a sudden, it's like, "Now what we have to do is we have to this campaign for the exact same product for the b2b channels." Knowing your audience, and really knowing what's important for them, and knowing their profile is the first step that we found. And if anyone wants to email me or connect with me on LinkedIn, I will send you our customer profile template, you can just fill it out, and you can have it it's a three-page document that's basically a lifesaver.
Can you share with our listeners one of your most successful or favorite networking experiences that you've had?
Well, first and foremost, do you remember years ago when networking was sleazy, you're going out there, and you're going to have a chicken lunch and hang out with a bunch of people and it was just like sleazy. It was really interesting because when I really started to understand networking, I felt the complete opposite and I love it. I'm an introvert by nature, but the idea is that being around people, and getting to learn their side of things and their conversations, and you never know where they're going to intersect in your life is most important. So I take the other side to it, networking is the greatest time ever. For those that don't get outside of their comfort zone, they're going to limit their growth potential, their financial opportunities, as well as just their lifelong depth of getting to know new and exciting things. I've networked through the whole pandemic and what's really crazy about the whole thing is I didn't know as networking, I thought it was just doing something to help out. So one of our clients is Wahoos Fish Tacos. They have 60 locations and they're an iconic restaurant in California, and they lost 85% of their business in two days. So let's kind of put this in perspective. For every dollar bill that was handed at the counter, 85% of that was cut in half and thrown in the trash. If you have 60 locations, 85% of that is a terrible thing, you can lose the whole business, as well as every other restaurant losing 85% of their business. But the other thing is that the food kept on coming in from their suppliers. So all their food is provided by suppliers on an ongoing basis on a monthly or yearly contract. So you can't stop the train it's going to come there if you have customers or not, you committed it to it so it's yours. So myself and Wing Lam who is the owner of Wahoos called me up one night. He's very philanthropic and he said, "Hey, I need some help, can you help me deliver some tacos?" I was like, "Okay," so basically, I got my car, and we made 300 tacos because he only had two people at one location, we delivered it to a hospital for the doctors and nurses there. The whole objective is to keep the doctors and nurses fed and keep them staying very positive, not calling in sick, because if you call in sick, then they have to do a freelance doctor or freelance nurse, which is called the traveling nurse. When you get that many people, it gets financially out of hand and then the hospital has to make a decision of having a short staff versus the actual size of the staff. So we did that and then we got a couple of calls from other people who said, "Hey, we can't do events right now do you want to partner up?" So Monster Energy called us and said, "Hey, we've got all this product that for sampling, but we don't have any events now so what are we going to do?" We got Monster Energy on board, a bunch of other major companies came on board and then one of the largest radio stations in Los Angeles came on board and they said, "We want to be a partner on this." So we created this thing called the California Love Drop. Corporate companies started said, "Hey, we really love what you're doing, let us pay for the food, and you just delivered to the hospitals and give us some credit for it." So we're approaching about 300 different drops now, probably about 25,000 meals. The greatest thing is, is that this was like networking in a box, where all these companies started wanting to come out and hang out with us, and on Friday morning on the largest radio station we have five minutes on every hour to talk about what we're doing. So the companies loved to be mentioned on it. So it was kind of like organic networking. So that is actually my favorite story and if anyone's interested in learning more then go to https://californialovedrop.org/ to check it out.
How do you stay in front of and best nurture all these relationships that you're creating?
First and foremost, as soon as I meet with someone, I think about how I can help. I grew up in the restaurant business so I kind of has this mentality of wanting to help people. Each and every aspect is that I don't come from the perspective of well, first and foremost, I'm not a salesperson. I'm always here to help people get what they need, but on the other side, I always want to help them first. So I always connect with them on LinkedIn and say, "Hey, if there's anything I can do, just let me know!" But the other aspect is that I always try to keep them connected to the fun things we're doing. Last week, Blue C does a big thing every year called the Distinguished Gentleman's Ride. It's a motorcycle ride for men's prostate cancer and men's mental health, where it's 900 rides worldwide on the same day with 60,000 people. So I run the Orange County one and we actually sold out the first time in 10 years which was great. It's really cool because all the men and women get dressed up and their Sunday best, the suits the whole thing, we go we do a coastal ride up the coast so everyone gets to see the beach and comes back down. Then we have the triumph, we have Wahoos fish tacos and at the final stage, we had barber stations there. So as soon as the guys and girls got off, the motorcycles and took their helmets off, they actually got their hair done. The festivities were only supposed to last till four o'clock and actually lasted till six, we had a great time. But I also invite my clients to go and then all of a sudden, my clients want to be involved in it, too. So we actually integrate them into it. So I think of it as like the party that keeps on going.
What advice would you offer that business professional is really looking to grow their network?
Consistency. You can go and do 10 different networking things and you're going to burn yourself out. You're going to sit in the middle of the night, and you're going, "I went to 10 different things and I didn't get one piece, one project, one relationship, nothing." Instead of doing 10 different things, focus on three that you're really passionate about, that are like-minded, that you have a passion yourself for, and focus on that and be consistent. Don't just go once, and that's it, don't go twice and that's it, continue to go. The other thing I always encourage is don't be the person at the bar. Dedicate your time and work at the front desk. The best part is at the front desk, you meet everyone and they will remember you. If you're the person behind the bar, or the person at the bar holding the bar up is you've probably met three people and that person is probably a life insurance salesperson, a mortgage broker, and a dog groomer. On the other hand, if you have 100 people that came through, you're going to know every single person afterward, you can actually go up to that person and say "Hey, I would love to learn a little more about your industry." So I always say it's about consistency, showing up, and being active.
I wish I would have started networking in my 20s. But I also wish I had built more strong relationships between my 20s and 30s. I was a working guy back then, and the thing about it is that if you work for a company right now if you're in your 20s and 30s, is those are your growing years. Those aren't your earning years, those are growing years, you're just figuring stuff out. The thing about it is that from that you get mentors, and mentors are great people that you connect with that are ongoing, and you have to have those between 20 and 30. Otherwise, the 30 to 40 years are your earning years where when you're actually earning money. Then, 40 to 50 is when you actually are earning more money, but also between 40 and 50 are your giving back years, you have to pay it forward. So the circle of life starts is the 20 to 30 but ends at 40 to 50+ on a giving back. So I didn't realize that and one of the things that really made me realize this is I met this guy when I was in my 30s. I was invited to it was actually the foundation room in Las Vegas and it was for the SEMA Show. This guy was this Las Vegas guy and he goes by the name of The Godfather of Las Vegas, just a real strong enigma of a person. He was so connected in Las Vegas on the business side, everything connected with him in one way or another. Everyone that was moving around in Las Vegas from a job standpoint was connected to him. So I looked at him and said, "Wow, you know everyone," and he goes, "Yeah," and he actually was the one that introduced me to LinkedIn many years ago. I think he was my LinkedIn contact number one. So going back is that's one of those things that changed me because in the early era of Blue C we got business and clients would come to us, but those clients eventually go away. Once a client, not always a client, so you always have to refill the system and help more and more people and the only way to do it is to meet new people. What I would say is even if you're an introvert make sure you work at that guest table, make sure you go up to the people that are putting the event together, and ask how you can help. They'll give you something to do and you will also become better.
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