Make your business stand out from the crowd with strategic marketing
Always sharp, thinking big and ready to help you stand out so you’ll get more customers.
BY MARC RODAN
Posted: 9 February 2021
Every Tuesday, we put one KREW Member in the Spotlight. This week it’s business and marketing strategist Marisa van Velzen.
Full name: Marisa van Velzen
Business name: Meridaux
Currently lives in: Almere (NL)
Grew up in: Mainly in Urecht (NL)
Entrepreneur since: Early 2019
Who is Marisa? Well, I always felt different from a young age. Of course it was annoying to feel different, but it was also something that I was proud of. I always felt like that it’s not good if you try hard to fit in. You lose yourself in that. It’s good to stand out from the crowd, to be yourself and to have your own opinion. Now that I’m in marketing, I find that it’s actually a very good thing to think that way. Because, well, as a brand or as a business, you do need to have something that makes you different from what the others are doing. Something that helps you stand out with your unique value and voice.
So after a long journey, which involved many years in IT actually, I found that my particular talents are pretty suitable for marketing. That’s why I’m a business and marketing strategist now. I help people uncover their goals and find something shiny about their company, which we can use to build a story on that sets them apart in the marketplace. How you’re going to tell that story is of course important and I think video is a great way to truly be visible and to gain more trust with people. So I usually incorporate something with video in my communication strategies. Well, that’s me in a nutshell!
🎄 Fun fact: I have a little Christmas tree and Christmas lighting in my living room all year around. I don’t mind listening to Christmas music at any time of the year. I just really like the songs and the atmosphere. Oh, and I also like Persian carpets! Haha, I even have three mouse pads that look exactly like the real ones.
What is your biggest superpower? Somebody once told me that I’m able to get to the core of things fast. I have this unusual combination of being able to look at the bigger picture, but also looking at a lot of details at the same time. I just can’t help to think bigger about things, thinking about the best it could possibly be.
For example, if you would ask me ‘Marisa, can you help me with this little piece of text on my website?’, I’m going to give you an analysis of the whole website and tell you how the whole business concept should be improved. And then… you will have a perfect piece of text! That’s just the way I think, you know. It’s like: go big or go home.
“Thinking strategically is the only way for me to approach things. Maybe that’s my superpower.
And executing on that of course! Execution is everything. It’s an unusual combination actually. There are people who can execute well and there are people with a lot of ideas. Usually they are not one and the same person. But with me, you actually get both.
What can be your kryptonite? I’m someone who is about making a big improvement or change. When things get to a point where it’s just about maintaining something, I get really bored. I can’t do that.
Conservative people are also hard for me. When they say things like ‘it’s fine the way it is, let’s not change too much’, that gives me a rash. I want to do bigger things. If people want to take things very slowly, don’t want to change too much or don’t have much imagination… these kinds of things just kill my spirit. I like to work with ambitious and creative people instead.
Just so we can refer them to you: who are your typical clients? Entrepreneurs who are selling a service — usually something that’s a little bit more complex. For example, IT and finance are typical areas where you just have to try a little harder to explain what you’re doing to potential customers and why something might be a good solution for them. If you don’t do that, your sales would probably suffer. When entrepreneurs are struggling with their communication, that’s a clear sign to me that I might be able to help them find out their hidden goals and how to tell a better story about it.
Also, my clients are typically entrepreneurs who are a little bit further ahead. They have had their own business for a while and maybe they have worked with some marketing people before, but now they feel kind of stuck. They realize that they want to move up a step from just another campaign or new logo. They want to think more strategically about their business.
Which products and/or services do you offer? What I offer is a combination of two things, basically. What I start with is a strategy part, which is to help people get insight into fundamental areas of your business and your marketing. ‘Who is it that you’re helping, what value are you providing to them and what is the story we’re going to be telling them about it?’. The whole package needs to come together. You need that kind of clarity before you rush into all kinds of marketing activities and save your business a lot of money.
The second part is marketing management. To make sure that the strategy and vision that we created for the company get executed properly, I provide guidance to marketing professionals the company works with. These could be in-house specialists, external freelancers or a combination of the two. I can work with any specialist you bring in and make sure that we measure everything correctly and that we keep learning from all that we do. After all, strategy is just a starting point. From there on out, you have to keep iterating. That’s what I help companies with over a number of months, starting with three.
^ Marisa van Velzen
What does success look like to you? My dream would be to do the kinds of activities I just described for companies that really dare to make a difference. And to be recognized in the field as ‘if you really want to make a big difference — like a big jump and stand out — then you have to go to Marisa’. It would be even better if I could help entrepreneurs that are making the world a little better at the same time.
And personally, well, I still work part-time as an employee now. Being able to quit that job and become a full-time entrepreneur is definitely my biggest dream right now.
What is your favourite way to celebrate achievements? I think I’m just going to have something nice to eat, haha. I don’t celebrate enough I guess. I should probably do that more. But well, I like all kinds of cookies, snacks, and oh… oliebollen! But they are not available all year around, so I cannot always treat myself to an oliebol unfortunately.
What is a major challenge you have faced as an entrepreneur and how have you overcome it? Well, my major challenge is really about confidence. I was not an entrepreneur. I was born into a family with parents who always said things like ‘don’t take any risks’ or ‘don’t do something crazy’. But then I came out of IT and thought that I should probably do something different. So I completely changed careers. Now my challenge is that I don’t have any marketing education or resume, I just have talent. It can be hard to deal with that. Even now sometimes.
What has helped me is that I once heard a business coach talk about the phrase ‘you have to fake it until you make it’. However, I am a very honest person and I think that if you’re faking things, people will notice. I also want to be real. Then the business coach said that ‘confidence comes from competence and competence comes from learning and doing things’. And then I was like ‘well, I can do that!’. That’s very much what has helped me so far. To just keep doing. With every client that I have I learn something new. I get confidence from just seeing the evidence of a client that is happy with my work. Or that people around me are confident enough about my skills to refer me to new clients. The fact that they believe in me helps me to build my own confidence as well.
What do you love to do when you’re not working? I like to walk in the forest, especially when the corona time was starting. I like the exercise and to be surrounded by the green. Sometimes I go inline skating in the forest as well. Oh, and I love to read!
Who is your superhero (fictional or real)? Philosopher/neuroscientist Sam Harris. I just love that guy, because he is so sharp in everything he argues about. He wrote a great book about why we don’t have free will. Also one about religion. He’s really critical. But the way he can build an argument while looking at things from all angles just makes him super inspiring.
I would also like to add Richard Dawkins, a scientist that’s also absolutely great when it comes to arguing with religious people. He is like a knight and his words are like the best sword ever.
^ Marisa about her way of working and the importance of finding systems
Which book has made a major impact on you? The Blue Ocean Strategy helped me a lot to think about how to see yourself in the marketplace. It gives you tools to look at yourself and the competition and see how you’re overlapping and what you could do to stand out in a very methodological way.
A book that’s very similar is Value Proposition Design. This is also one of the building blocks that I use in terms of the focus on the customer mainly. It provides you with a nice system through which you’re bound to create something that should work. That’s what both books have in common: they provide you with systems to make you creative, so you’re able to create more value for your customers. They have helped me a lot to develop myself as a strategist.
Which tools do you love to use for your business? Well, I love to work with video for myself and my clients, so I would say a camera. Handled by me or someone else. I personally own the Sony A7 Mark III. When it comes to the communication side of what I do, this tool is very relevant for me. Video is such an amazing way to earn trust and build relationships online.
👉 For an example of one of Marisa’s own videos, click here.
Why did you join KREW and what is the value that you got out of it so far? I liked the original slogan on the website: “Your tribe of fellow weirdos”. As a person who naturally stands out from the crowd I was like ‘that sounds like a club I should join’, haha. I also joined because I know Marc and the kind of energy that he has and the kind of people that he attracts with his energy. So I thought ‘if Marc is doing that, I’m on board’.
So far KREW has been valuable in getting more insight into what other entrepreneurs are doing, insights from Masterclass and online courses. And I’ve been making some nice new connections. It’s just nice to have this regular club that you’re part of to feel a little less lonely as an entrepreneur of course.
What can KREW Members reach out to you for? To everyone I provide free Eye Opener Calls, because I found that usually when I call with people, they are getting some new insights out of it. So KREW Members are definitely welcome to get an eye opener from me in terms of their marketing and business strategy. And of course, if you want to brainstorm about how you could use video in your business, I’m always enthusiastic to talk about that.
Next to that, I also like investing in stocks and cryptocurrencies. Feel free to ask me about that. I’m also really good at helping people improve their business plans and pitch decks, which I’ll happily do for KREW Members of course. And, you know, I’ll always be an IT person. I’m still running servers, developing applications… so if you have questions about that, ask away.
Where can we best find your business and you online?
Via my website. The current website is in Dutch, but I love working with international people as well. You can also find me on LinkedIn and YouTube.
Thanks for reading the weekly KREW Spotlight! Don’t hesitate to reach out to Olivia and start a new meaningful connection or collaboration.
Marc Rodan is the Founder of KREW and Chief Editor of KREW Stories. In 2015 he started his first business as the tallest (mini) pancake baker in Sweden. Since then, he has travelled the world to start businesses in both branding and online education. Marc loves penguins, UFOs and anything blue and orange, always makes up songs while doing the dishes and dreams of one day living in a tree house as big as Jake and Finn’s. Connect with him on LinkedIn.