‘Great Product + Great Marketing = Great Startup’
In Dec 2015, we had an idea of creating a platform and open community for discussing challenges faced in marketing a startup – and this was the birth of “Digital Chai pe Charcha”. It got off to flying start in its first edition at our office on 8th January 2016. With limited promotion, we had a full house with 30 participants. The open discussion threw up interesting questions and insights from the diverse community comprising first-time entrepreneurs, seasoned professionals, digital marketers, journalists, PR professionals to social media influencers.
We discussed 7 broad topics and have summarized them below:
1. Validating Your Product
- To kick things off, we first discussed how entrepreneurs can get a quick sense of the market and customers, without spending months on building their product, website or ecommerce store.
- While we usually recommend Wordpress as the platform for most businesses – this can take anywhere between a few weeks to months to build. The quickest way to start off is to create a landing page for your app, business or store. Tools like Unbounce and Instapage allow you to develop landing pages within a day. They can also be a great medium to understand whether customers would like to take up your product/service and at the same time start building an emailer list. You can even get low cost images from platforms like PhotoConcierge.
- Another way the digital medium can validate a product is to get feedback via platforms like Product Hunt, BetaList & Inbound.org or survey tools like Get Insights, Survey Monkey. Platforms like GetInsights have an existing audience panel so it helps in getting the survey results quickly. Some participants did raise concerns on the authenticity of these audience panels and in these cases, sending a survey (via Survey Monkey or Google Forms) to your own personal network might be worthwhile.
- Reach out to your personal network for validation tests. Don’t hesitate in asking for initial feedback as it will help shape your product.
2. Acquiring your First set of Users
- Leverage your Personal Network in acquiring your first set of customers. Reach out and ask for referrals and test users.
- LinkedIn, if leveraged properly, can be a great tool for the purpose. The premium LinkedIn account allows In-mails to your potential customers. Moreover, directly targeting relevant customers on Linkedin & Twitter can be very beneficial in not only getting first time users but also getting valuable feedback on your product. If it’s a consumer business even sites like BetaList can help.
- Offering free trials to induce usage can help in showcasing the value your product adds to your customers. If they like it, then they might want to turn into paying customers. Many SAAS based companies do have a freemium model to cater to this.
- Contrary to belief, Email Marketing is still very effective. Build a database of email ids, but avoid purchasing databases – it doesn’t work. Effective ways to build your own database can be to have a prominent email/lead collection mechanism on your landing page. You could also use tools like SumoMe, attend networking events and create good content on your website to induce newsletter signups. Platforms like MailChimp can be used for Emailer Marketing and they have integrations with Wordpress, Unbounce or other email collection platforms.
- Adding a Live Chat feature on the landing page, app or website can also help directly interact with customers and build on to your emailer list. This way you can also find out what questions customers have, before they take up your product/service.
- Quora is fairly popular in India. Search for people looking for solutions where your product can fit in. Answer questions with backlinks to your product page/website. It will help in the long term.
3. Marketing on a Shoe-String Budget
Startups do not have big pockets for marketing activities. In the face of budget constraints, how can they build a brand and acquire customers? Some ideas discussed were:
- Create User / Google focused content to help your product get discovered at the right place & time. Long-form content has excellent SEO value as well as drive relevant traffic to your website. If you are interested in understanding the basics of SEO for Startups then do check out this slideshare. There are a bunch of SEO tools as well, which can be of use.
- Creating Unique & Fresh content is important. Avoid creating duplicate content as you might not get much traction. It would be prudent to instead focus the time and energy on developing content that will be interesting for your users. Amplifying the content is also critical as there are millions of content pieces out there.
- Plan well ahead of time. Nothing beats strategic planning. Develop a content marketing calendar with different placeholders for blog articles and social media content – this could be around relevant themes e.g. Valentine’s Day, Launch of a Movie etc. You can check out an investment & wealth management company leveraged Star Wars to showcase Investment Lessons from Star Wars. Be interesting, be regular.
- Some interesting points that came up for discussion like the ideal number of hashtags to use and how to get your social media profiles verified.
- Digital Advertising, while integral was not discussed as it warranted a separate discussion of its own.
4. Save Time with Free Tools
There is a whole host of tools out there that can be leveraged to help you amplify your marketing efforts. Some tools you can explore are:
- IFTTT is a useful tool to create automated actions across a wide variety of platforms from Twitter and Facebook, Youtube to Gmail and Instagram. You can use it for different purposes by building your own custom recipes. One useful application can be to create automated twitter lists in area of your interest and track people in your domain. A sample recipe can be – when someone tweets in my area with #Offers hashtag, I add him to my list “OffersNearMe”.
- Hootsuite can be a one stop solution to schedule and track your social media posts. It saves you the hassle of logging into different accounts every time you want to post. The Instagram post schedule feature was recently launched by Hootsuite and does not have automated posts functionality. For Instagram, Schedugram or Stribr can be a better tool to use.
- BuzzSumo is the best in-class tool for content research. You can track the best performing content in your industry that will help devise a strong content marketing plan for your brand. It is also useful for tracking influencers in different domains based on geography and interest area.
- Feedly, It & Twitter Lists can be explored to track curated content. They fetch content in your interest areas and present it on your feed which can be shared on your social media channels.
- Many other free social media tools are available – you can check out a complete list here.
5. Build an online brand persona but strike a balance vis-à-vis traditional marketing
- You need to be clear what your startup or product stands for. It will help you in creating the brand persona – this is important for online as well as offline branding for your company.
- Brainstorm and come up with your brand colors, tone and maintain the uniformity across channels. While this may change over time, uniformity across channels and mediums is critical.
- Not all of your customers are online hence, traditional marketing is here to stay and would be wise for companies to go for a balanced mix in their marketing budget.
6. Traditional Vs Digital Marketing
- One of the questions that got asked during the discussion was, how do you split the marketing budgets between traditional and digital mediums. We are already seeing brands spend atleast 15% of their budgets on social media, but in our experience many of the forward looking businesses are going to spend as much as 50% on digital marketing in 2016. This of course depends on the industry and business model as well.
- You can also see what trends we predict for digital marketing in India in 2016.
7. Track & Measure the results
Here's what some of the participants had to say:
Based on the suggestions from the participants, we are going to make this a monthly initiative with each month having a focused topic. You can check out the hashtag #DigitalCPC for more details on the next Digital Chai pe Charcha meet.
Please feel free to comment below or tweet to us, in case you would like to add to the existing list of pointers for startups. We would love to add them in the article.