FLIGHT. 9 | NO. 37 | Saturday, September 10, 2016
ACCENT: Small business
By Don Wade
Even if you haven’t heard of Trust Marketing & Communications Inc., you’ve seen their work.
They’ve had an influence on everything from redesigning public housing in Memphis to providing advice for NBA Now, the movement behind the Vancouver Grizzlies move from Vancouver to Memphis, and they’ve even had their fingerprints on the “No Deals”. , Gun Time is Jail Time âthrough the Shelby County Attorney General’s Office.
In fact, their market research even made it possible to offer hot sauce with a McDonald’s fish sandwich.
In sum, the 25-year-old firm headed by Howard and Beverly Robertson (you may remember her for her longtime role as head of the National Civil Rights Museum) has had an impact in many ways.
Among the ongoing projects of Trust: program development and execution of the Protected Mentor program through the Greater Memphis Chamber; strategic marketing and development work with One Family Memphis, Tom Shadyac’s Soulsville redevelopment project; public and community relations and development work for Planned Parenthood of Greater Memphis; and the Memphis Heritage Trail development strategy.
Decades ago, neither Howard nor Beverly Robertson would have predicted this career path. Both were “born and raised” in Memphis, Howard likes to say, and Beverly is a graduate of Melrose High School and Memphis State. Howard is a graduate of Catholic High School for Boys and Lincoln University in Philadelphia.
Beverly has made her professional mark for 19 years at Holiday Inn Worldwide headquarters here. Howard had been accepted into several law schools, but never went there after having an “epiphany” he was supposed to get into advertising. Within a week, he had two vacancies: publicist at Stax and copywriter for another Memphis-based company.
âSmall fledgling company called Federal Express,â said Howard, 64, president and CEO of Trust. âEasy choice in 1973.â
He only worked at Stax for a few years, but left lasting memories.
âI was on the road with The Staple Singers and Isaac (Hayes), everyone,â he said. “We even had a comedy label at the time with Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby.”
By the time Howard started Trust Marketing in 1991, Beverly was faced with a career choice. Holiday Inn Worldwide had been bought out and offered a job with the new company, on the condition that she moved. Howard and Beverly’s three children were 13 and under.
In the end, she stayed in Memphis and joined Howard in the business. Very early on, they realized that in order to be competitive, they could not grow as big as their biggest competitors in the market. They also knew they could offer what other local businesses couldn’t.
âWe have often said that black people are not black whites,â said Beverly, vice president and chief operating officer of Trust. âThere are cultural differences. For example, I wouldn’t assume that I would know how to market Hispanic culture without seeking advice and guidance from someone who is Hispanic.
Howard said, âThis is what we tell customers. If you look at Memphis as if it is a medieval village surrounded by a large wall, and there are people inside the village, and you have to enter the village, there is several ways to enter it. You can attach a message to a rock and throw it into it. You could hold a large sign and let them read it. You could shout with a megaphone. But the best way is to be entered by a villager. We are villagers. We know this market. We accompany our customers in the village.
All kinds of customers.
Years ago they worked with the McDonald’s regional office in Nashville; the territory included Memphis, Chattanooga, Huntsville, Alabama, and Tupelo, Miss McDonald’s, says Beverly, was waking up to the reality that African Americans were frequent customers and what they wanted on the menu – hot sauce for a fish sandwich , a rib sandwich – was perhaps different than what other customers considered a preference.
Another current customer is First Tennessee Bank, who turned to Trust Marketing in an attempt to learn more about the black customer.
âThey recognize that this is a growing segment of the market here,â Beverly said. âCertainly, many banks have changed the way they do business after 2008. Loans have become more difficult to obtain. Even small business loans.
Beverly says they’re also committed to staying up to date – you can’t take clients to the village, so to speak, if you’re not in touch with millennials.
âAnytime you can message on Facebook and tell people to meet on the bridge and you have 400 or 500 people on the bridge, trust me, that’s a marketing tool,â he said. she declared. âA lot of millennials don’t care that much about money. Do you know what they care about? Their time, they care about causes, they care about fairness and justice – and these are things that other generations, who were so busy taking care of their families and making money, focused on more material things.
Although they may soon take advantage of technology to work exclusively from home, they are not ready to stop working.
âWe love Memphis,â Howard said.