MARC USA’s marketing mission helps start ups succeed

There are all sorts of way to give back to the community and MARC USA has rallied marketing leaders to join their mission to help startups succeed by providing them with expert marketing knowhow.

The agency created Marketing Sparks, a series on intensive, three-hour marketing hacks that pair the leaders of local startups with seasoned marketing experts recuited from Kraft, McDonald’s CDW, SC Johnson, United, US Cellular, Caterpillar, HSBC and more.

Marketing Sparks has a partnership with 1871, Chicago’s digital entrepreneurial hub for the best and brightest startups.

Sessions are held at 1871’s Merchandise Mart offices. Each session is comprised of four startup teams of six to eight participants.

Programs announced for 2016 thus far will focus on startups in the fields of financial technology, travel and tourism and retail.

“Our goal is to help the startups define their value proposition, identify key targets and messages and come away with actionable marketing strategies,” says Jean McLaren, president of MARC USA Chicago, who exported the program from the agency’s Pittsburgh headquarters to Chicago last year and is its biggest champion.

“While there are lots of programs to help entrepreneurs incubate new businesses, what’s missing is marketing guidance at the right point in the startup’s life,” McLaren comments.

Startups have put the guidance received to immediate use. Recent participant Kristen Holman, co-founder of Pay Your Selfie, says the counseling her group received was “invaluable.”

“That night we realized that our primary target should be college students and completely shifted our marketing investment to create a college ambassador program. While it’s still early, it looks like we’re going to meet our milestones ahead of schedule.”

And the marketers love the opportunity to flex their mental muscles on challenges outside their day-to-day issues, notes McLaren.

Says Caterpillar’s Global Marketing Manager, Paulo Oliveria, “It’s invigorating to help innovators and to learn from different perspectives from fellow marketers.”

“We all know that a thriving startup community is vital to the local economy, as well as attracting new business and talent to the region,” says McLaren, “and that’s what our program aims to achieve.”