With over 243 billion Internet users and 14% growth in 2014, India not only makes the third largest user base in the world but also drove dramatic revolution in business practices and economy. When it comes down to the business world, startups are the closest entities that can benefit the most from this bustling impact of online revolution.
There are several startup companies which have turned their small ideas into super revenues by the amazing use of Internet marketing, for example advertising on facebook or other social media platforms. To name a few; Chumbak, Freecharge.in, UrbanLadder, DelhiPedia and more..
So, I am writing this post to share some ideas on how Indian startups can expand using Internet at the fullest. You will be reading what 2015 has in pipeline and what startup owners and Entrepreneurs should do and expect to maximize the benefits from this continued digital revolution.
Prepare to be Seen
Before you’re ready to be seen and heard out there, the first right move is to be prepared with a strong foundation. Here is how in 7 essential steps:
1. Visualize the market:
You would either choose a market first or choose the product first and identify the market to promote. Either way, these 4 factors should help you get the first step ahead in Indian as well as global market.
1. What’s your market size? Whether it is regional, global, male, age specific etc. Your market decides your marketing strategy and the potential customer base.
2. Does your market have the money to buy (and maintain) your product? This will decide your potential revenue and growth.
3. What competition you’d face? Is there more room for evolution and expectations from audience?
4. Does your product carry value proposition unique enough to make a spot and sustain?
2. Money is in the Keywords:
When you’re sure that practically, you will sell your product or showcase your brand online, it’d be wise to begin with building your keywords list even before you create the website. Use this list extensively for your social media, content marketing, blog and SEO campaign to acquire as much traffic as possible from every possible place.
Start with a core keyword list that your prospects would enter into Google. These core keywords should summarize what a startup does and what people need. Then build all the variables and modifiers around it.
It is advised to ask for an SEO strategist help in getting your website and online strategy preparation that involves keyword research as the first step.
Note: After the keywords and market research, Website is the first place your prospect would like to visit before or after knowing about your startup. And this visit can make or break your impression. Right from visual elements to ease of use, if they had a great user experience and received your brand message then automatically half the battle is won.
3. What are your metrics?
Anything that cannot be measured isn’t done, someone said it right. Being a startup, your time, money and effort, everything is costing you. Make sure that your success and conversion metrics are specific, accurate and measurable. For example, you may set a conversion rate of five calls for one closed deal (signup, download, sale).
The aim is to have only a few but highly valuable metrics to follow and measure returns in investment (not only money but time and effort).
4. Define the budget
It doesn’t mean the lowest budget but the one which is effective. After all, it’s the money that matters at the end, whether to spend or to receive. Set an appropriate budget considering how much your brand promotion needs and how much you can afford to invest.
Remember that while inbound marketing leads cost 61% less than outbound marketing leads, they would still need a significant investment.
5. Selecting the right marketing channels:
If Facebook worked for your friend’s business, it doesn’t mean that it will be equally rocking for your startup too. But if you decide to use it, make sure you have the correct facebook cover photo size because first impressions count. There’re good chances that focusing on search engines or blog may bring you higher returns. Be careful in selecting your marketing channels. See where your audience hang out, that’s your place to be. This is another area where asking for a consultant’s help is worth.
6. Define and watch your brand sensitivities:
It comes down to your as well as your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses. There can be many who would have an edge over you but see where they are lacking that you can over deliver. Be creative to highlight your strengths and neutralize your weaker areas (while you’re working to minimize them over time). If you do some scraping data it can give you a better perspective on how competitors are working so you can understand where your strengths in the market lie.
7. Choose the right team:
A great core team is the heart of a successful business. And every business was once a startup. No one has ever achieved greatness without a team. The team can be inhouse or outsourced, you can never build an empire as a single individual. Other than your management and founder members, having this team in place will complement your strategy like a charm.
• Creative graphic designer to spice up your ideas and vision online with cool visuals.
• Social media executive and bloggers with good sense of humor and communication skills.
• A web developer to help you with technical glitches and updates
• A web strategist to supervise and give direction to your online strategy.
Note: Hiring a part time or full time good video person can offer an edge to your startup marketing. Other than handling their assigned roles and responsibilities, this team can also help a startup brainstorm new creative and innovative ideas to establish a unique presence among consumers’ minds. Use all your (online, offline, people, advisors, critics, personal skills) resources to create a collective strength and back your startup up.
“No business is so good that the wrong people can’t mess it up. And no business is so bad that the right people can’t fix it…so if you don’t get the people part of the equation right, everything else is really immaterial.”
–Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures
Marketing your startup
Once you’ve worked on your foundation, it’s the time to get a hold of marketing ideas, trends and expectations that will get your brand the needed exposure and limelight.
1. Smart devices are the new desktops. With the ease and addiction of devices and the Internet, people are getting utilizing and depending on their handsets more than ever. It makes sense to focus first on the responsive UI and user experience. Let the design speak a story about your brand and how it solves their problem. Make user engagement as your primary KPI and the conversions will begin.
2. Mobile web has connected everyone with anyone. And now, people trust people (users) more than brand advocacy. As brands, a startup needs to create a customer-centric marketing strategy instead of a brand promotion. With this digital disruption, focus more on the voice than noise. Even though Indian users are getting used to the virtual experience but they still rely upon believable near real time experience and success stories of other users. Startups should encourage real reviews, feedbacks and conversation about your brand whenever, wherever and whichever format possible.
3. The era of reading and text is being replaced by visuals and videos. People want instant information and tend to make impulsive but informed decisions (positive or negative). As a startup, people will be more responsive to a new brand and startup with an expected innovation. Use their preferred mode of communication such as whatsapp,vine, instagram, youtube etc. Not just the consumers but the social networks are equally hungry and ready for challenges and disruption.
4. This is the time of communities now; the time when network effect works, where people listen to the consumers. Build communities, participate and encourage conversations between customers. Such communities are even creating influencers and brand advocates. Which eventually have changed the meaning of marketing from marketing to them to marketing with them. Let the customers, consumers, audience speak their thoughts and concerns; loud and clear. From linkedin, Facebook, Google+, and Forums, communities are are becoming a huge contributor to startup revenues recently.
5. Act, reassess and adapt. As a startup and a lasting brand, you’d need to react to the changing dynamics of not only consumers’ behavior but also online marketing. And if you’re the first to assess and act, you win. You become the pioneer who lasts longer if act earlier. But if too late, things would be already changing again and you’d end up watching others or following their old processes.
Other than SEO, social media and blog, newsletter marketing is one of the fastest and highest converting direct marketing method that works without fail if handled right. On the other hand, Affiliate marketing can prove to be a boon to retail startups with double benefits of returns and marketing.
Startups have a competitive edge
Because they are smaller, cautiously aggressive, fresh and mostly lean, Startups can generally play their cards fairly quick and gain better grounds on large competitors. From decision process to implementation times, you as a startup can win over several situations.
11 Tools that every startup must have
1. Mailchimp. With easy to use Interface, awesome features and ready templates and auto-responders, Mailchimp makes email marketing playful and time saving.
2. SurveyMonkey. From market research surveys to service and product feedbacks, SurveyMonkey helps startups stay informed and take better and data driven decisions
3. Dashlane. Highly secure tool to secure all your passwords easily and for free.
4. Hootsuite. A powerful, feature rich and easy to use social media management and monitoring tool.
5. Sproutsocial. Another popular and frequently used social media management tool with an easier and rich user interface and reporting system.
6. CrazyEgg. One of the most effective heatmap tool you’d love
7. Google analytics. Every web user should take this awesome analytics tool by big Google itself for granted.
8. Mouseflow. Watch your website users travel through with amazing recordings.
9. BuzzSumo. To find influential networks and bloggers based on your products target market keywords.
10. Infogr.am. A super simple tool for creating interactive graphics
11. Flipboard. An absolute time saver app to handle social media and content sharing on the move, especially for individuals and team members.
Remember that in online marketing and Social Media things are never static. What works today can be totally useless tomorrow.
So along with innovative thinking, timely measuring and taking right conclusions, staying alert and agile indeed makes an important factor for success in online marketing. Startup portals, blogs, real-time networking events and forums can be a great contributor to a startup growth.
Hope this post will be of some use in preparing and planning your startup marketing strategy. Additionally, you may want to read the kindle edition of my recently released new eBook 101 social media notes and answers for entrepreneurs which is quite a handbook to answer almost every question you may have about social media. Feel free to ask any question in comments here or visit on my blog and we make sure that you get a prompt answer.