Meet Nabeel Ahmed (@nabeelVA), co-founder and leader of AppealCulture, an innovative and creative marketing firm that serves entrepreneurs, start-ups, small businesses as well as government agencies. As a thought-leader on social media, new media marketing and entrepreneurship, Ahmed explains to WashingtonExec how a start-up company can successfully market on a large scale with “Low Cost, Full Access.” Ahmed also goes on to discusses how to meaningfully network and create a lean company branding model.
WashingtonExec: How can the average executive use social media to enhance their brand? What’s the entrepreneur’s biggest challenge in regards to this new wave of marketing?
Nabeel Ahmed: I believe it’s important to understand the core principles of social media which for the most part is built around “Networking” and “Human Engagement.” It works when it’s authentic and it’s a pointless distraction when it’s fake. Having thousands of Facebook friends, or thousands of followers on Twitter may not be as valuable as having a handful of deep relationships you can count on and make things happen.
I believe in general, we are becoming too focused on breadth and not depth of relationships. In a solid business environment, empty metrics will produce absolutely nothing and will have absolutely no impact on your ROI. The problem I see is that most companies still think like traditional marketers where their core focus is pushing their message. The challenge is to shift from traditional push messaging thinking into the storytelling thinking that’s required of social media engagement.
At last, I will refer you to Chris Brogan’s blog entry “100 Personal Branding Tactics Using Social Media” that offers some incredible tips and resources.
WashingtonExec: You are known for introducing “innovative” ways of marketing small businesses and helping entrepreneurs. How do you define innovation and how does it help entrepreneurs?
Nabeel Ahmed: “Innovation is the ability to see change as an opportunity – not a threat” and I believe that marketers have been missing that boat for many years. To me marketing is all about innovation and creativity. In 2011, marketing is not about pushing your messaging at masses – It’s about being relevant and being authentic. People know when you are not being authentic.
How does introducing new ways of marketing help entrepreneurs and small businesses? Well, first of all it provides them the flexibility and options that otherwise didn’t exist. At AppealCulture we offer an entire team of specialized marketing experts at a cost of hiring one employee. In order to be successful a business may need multiple marketing people i.e. Someone to manage their marketing strategy, branding, positioning, online marketing, social media, PPC campaigns, SEO campaigns, PR and more. An entrepreneur or a small business owner simply can’t afford a big team especially in these challenging economical times. We have solved this intricate problem by introducing a subscription based model where we allow the companies to buy a block of hours on monthly basis and have access to an entire team of specialized marketing experts. Small businesses and entrepreneurs absolutely love the “Low Cost, Full Access” options as it helps them grow faster.
WashingtonExec: What’s the entrepreneur’s biggest challenge in regards to this new wave of marketing and social media?
Nabeel Ahmed: Also often entrepreneurs make the mistake of thinking that they can do it all. My suggestion is that if you are relying on your accountant to do your numbers, your lawyer to look over your contracts, your business mentors to guide you in business; work with a marketing expert or a reputable marketing firm to guide your positioning and marketing strategy. It’s well worth the investment. I often see entrepreneurs who end up investing thousands of dollars in self-guided failed marketing efforts before coming to us. Work with a company that makes you feel safe, is respectable and can help you with your marketing on your budget.
WashingtonExec: What do you say to entrepreneurs who have already invested money and resources into marketing initiatives and feel “stuck” because they don’t see any impact on their bottom line?
Nabeel Ahmed: I say stop marketing now and act like the IRS walking into a business to conduct a full blown audit. The only difference is, this time around you are the auditor conducting a full blown marketing audit. In simple terms, a marketing audit is a review of your marketing objectives, strategies and activities in order to identify areas for improvement. This will require you to do an inventory of everything that you done within the scope of your marketing program. A successful marketing audit will help you pinpoint your marketing strengths and weaknesses so you can make good decisions about where to put your marketing resources in the future. Without this kind of check-in, you may be wasting time and money on marketing activities that are producing few results without even being conscious of it.
WashingtonExec: What is something people don’t know about you?
Nabeel Ahmed: A lot of people don’t know that I came to United States (20+ years ago) as a political asylee escaping a brutal regime and political chaos in South Asia. A lot of people also don’t know that I am self-taught in many aspects of my professional and personal development and that I have worked as a professional DJ, an artist, writer and I am an excellent cook. I see all these areas as my creative extensions of my personality.