Smart Marketing: Tina Tuccillo speaks on branding and marketing for small business at Princeton SCORE’s October 15 workshop at Princeton Public Library.

Understanding the value of your product or service is key to surviving and thriving in the marketplace. Although there are several ways to define your value, the one that matters to your customers is what counts. How will your brand help them solve their problems or improve their lives?

Asking questions and listening to your customers is an important key for promoting your business, says marketing professional Tina Tuccillo, who will speak on “Branding and Marketing for Small Business” Monday, October 15, at 6:30 p.m. at the Princeton Public Library. The event is sponsored by SCORE, a nonprofit group offering business mentoring, workshops, and an online library. Register at princeton.score.org.

Tuccillo finds that regardless of differences among various marketing approaches, they all have at least one thing in common: the use of data. She recommends technologies especially useful for marketing, including web analytics, e-mail campaign software, online surveys from platforms like Linked­In and Facebook, search engine optimization and search engine marketing.

Using a tool like Google Analytics, you can learn how long customers are staying on your website, what pages they visit, and if they return. By providing a feedback option on your site, you can learn how easy or difficult it is for them to find the information they are looking for.

The data you collect from these tools can give you a deeper understanding of customer needs and perceptions, referred to as “Voice of Customer” (VOC), as well as the effectiveness of your campaigns and messages. Digital marketing gives you the ability to determine the strength of your message. If it’s not effective, you can change it quickly, she says.

Marketers should also pay attention to people who affect purchasing decisions, known as influencers. “Research shows that over 81 percent of social media users seek recommendations before making a purchase,” she says. One of Tuccillo’s more useful experiences with influencers occurred when she was working for a company that sold hardware solutions to other businesses.

“I discovered the IT audience had their own online community. Within it they shared articles, blogs, surveys, lead generation, message testing, product ideas and recommendations. I discovered it included every possible way to gather VOC information and reach the influencers. By reaching [them], I could introduce or re-introduce my brand, creating followers who could influence others,” she says.

Furthermore, Tuccillo was able to generate leads and uncover information for future product development and ad campaigns. “Take time to build relationships with influencers. They can have a significant impact on your business,” she says.

Smart marketers will be well versed in both traditional and digital tools. It’s not a “one solution fits all” situation. Some customers may respond to a TV ad or billboard, and others may want to visit a brick and mortar store to hear the message from the sales rep.

Tuccillo, who has worked with several companies to achieve their business goals, says she has learned and applied valuable lessons from each project she has led. As a lifelong learner, she says it is important for business owners and marketers to stay abreast of trends in the industry.

As one who walks her talk, Tuccillo has earned black belt status in Six Sigma (a data driven approach that strives for perfection), and certified master status in Scrum (an approach for delivering products in short cycles, receiving feedback, making improvements and adapting to change). She is experienced in Lean and Kaizen (management styles that focus on continuous improvement and collaboration with all employees).

Tuccillo says she discovered her knack for connecting customers to products on her first job while in high school. Working at a store where her mother was a manager, she discovered that she loved talking to people, learning what makes them tick, and what was important to them as they made their purchases. Later, she volunteered on weekends, showing up with doughnuts and coffee, and running sales contests.

After high school, she pursued her love for marketing, earning degrees from Rutgers, the College of New Jersey, and California State University, where she earned her master’s degree in business administration. She held executive positions at several companies including OKI Data Americas, Brother International Corporation, Toshiba America, Glory Global Solutions, and Noritsu America Corporation. Continuing her education, she earned a Mini MBA in digital marketing from Rutgers.

Growing up in a multicultural home, Tuccillo had learned to speak English and German and developed a respect for other cultures. Early in her career, she landed positions working for Japanese headquartered companies, which led her to study and become fluent in the Japanese language. It was from these companies that she learned the Kaizen approach to management.

When planning to introduce a new product or service to the market, Tuccillo recommends creating a roadmap. Based on her experience working with several engineering teams, she has developed a set of guidelines:

Gather information from market research and customer interaction.

Access resources you will need to complete the project and determine whether you will have to partner with others.

Prioritize the findings. Define customer needs versus wants and what they are willing to pay for.

Organize development steps and create timelines.

Communicate the plan if working with a team and other stakeholders.

Test and pilot the product for consumer feedback.

Launch the product and begin planning for its next generation.

At every stage of your business plan, Tuccillo recommends that you communicate with your customers.“Customer interaction is the key in any marketing plan today,” she says.

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