"One-woman revolution" Ja-Naé Duane stormed into the limelight at age 13 as an opera singer and an award-winning public speaker. She spearheads numerous ventures as the co-founder of the Massachusetts Artist Leaders Coalition and founder of The Revolution Institute, a pop-up institute focused on the intersection of creativity, entrepreneurship, innovation, and social change.

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Ja-Naé is also a faculty member at Northeastern University and Emerson College, and she is the lead entrepreneur-in-residence at Clark University.

I invited Ja-Naé to Marketing Smarts to talk about her latest book, The Startup Equation, due out early in 2016. The book, co-authored with Steven Fisher, details an equation to help entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses.

Here are some highlights from my conversation with Ja-Nae:

A principled brand is a profitable brand, so develop a corporate conscience (05:15): "[Social good] seems to be a hard sell for brands and I don't...understand why, because there's a lot of evidence out there that indicates that brands that are authentic and really have a purpose or a mission actually grow faster than those [that] don't...and don't connect with their customers.... It's part of their story, and it's also a commonality that makes their customers more emotionally bonded to them. And when you have an emotionally bonded customer...through ongoing interactions, that leads to customer satisfaction, to loyalty, and also engagement. And when customers are engaged with an organization or a brand, they feel passionate about their products and services. So, to me, co-creating something with your customers around something that everyone believes in...is this no-brainer. It's a way to really engage your customers.

"A really great example is Patagonia.... What they've done is sort of looked at this trend of the sharing economy and said 'we stand on the quality of our products, and instead of us pushing and selling our products why don't we create a marketplace so that our customers can sell to one another.' It's been huge for them and huge for their storytelling, as well."

For insight into your business, dig into your data (12:30): "I don't know why companies don't look at their data more. Your data is going to tel you exactly what you need as far as any growth in sales, if there's any dips, why there are dips. What's going on in the market at that time? What's going on in the news? Take a look at where you are in comparison to your data, but also what's going on globally, and you're going to start to see patterns. So, really, it's just pattern recognition."

To connect with your audience, humanize your brand (13:33): "We don't do business with companies. We do business with people. So the more that you can...humanize your brand and allow for [customers] to help tell your story.... If you're building out a new product, why not grab a group of your customers and use them within your alpha and your beta testing? Allow them to help tell your story or promote your new product or service. Let them know what you're working on and let them help you hack it, because the more you can find those holes and the quicker you can find those holes, the quicker you're going to save yourself money. There's a ton of open innovation tactics that brands can use, and I think that they're afraid. Vulnerability is a scary thing."

Learn more about Ja-Naé at Ja-Nae.net, and follow her on Twitter: @thesunqueen. Learn more about The Startup Equation at StartupEquation.com.


Ja-Naé and I talked about much more, including the importance of community for brand marketing and the role creativity plays in business and personal success, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by the 2015 B2B Marketing Forum, October 21-23 in Boston, Mass. Register today and join us to make some marketing magic!

Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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