Zero Budget Marketing For Startups

Starting your business is exhilarating, but getting your early adopters under extreme resource constraints, specially for the bootstrapped startups, can be like burning the candle at both the ends.

But luckily, there are still some ways to smartly market your product with least costs in order to break through the noise and let your target customers know about your presence through Digital Marketing, PR and Events (i.e. online and offline marketing).

But before we decide to market our product on any channel, be it online or offline, the foremost thing we need to do is — define your brand personality!

Brand Personality, in simple words is the keywords that best describe your brand’s character as if your brand was a person. You think about how your brand wants to be perceived by your target audience — how it wants to make them feel. Who is your brand as a person? It is much more than defining just a tagline for your brand. It is establishing brand guidelines and a communication strategy of what your brand be saying at what time.

As a startup, you must connect with your audience on an emotional level, where they start associating you with certain traits.

To do this, we need a well-defined statement of the type of business you are in, the type of customers you serve and how you serve them.

Let me give you an example.

Everybody knows Zomato. And everyone also knows how brilliant their marketing team is. But a few years back what they didn’t understand was the importance of defining ‘Brand Personality’.

Two years back Zomato posted that they were looking to hire techies. It was a quirky post, inviting job applications from Bangalore to its headquarters in Delhi. The post talked about ‘Why Delhi is better than Bangalore.’ And there was a line that read, “We are on a mission to make Delhi the official Tech Capital of India. After successfully becoming the political capital and rape capital, we wanted another one, because the trophy cabinet looks incomplete.

And you guessed it right; this offended quite many people and subsequently went viral, garnering hundreds of tweets and over a million likes. As a result, many annoyed Bangaloreans uninstalled the Zomato app. A lot of them even took to the play store and gave the app a single star rating, with the rating quickly trickling down from 4.5 to 4.3. For a company that bank upon mobile users for its future, this was an alarming situation.

So finally Deepinder Goyal, CEO of Zomato shared his perspective through his blogpost, after 24 hours. For a company which typically understands social media, the response should have been quicker. You can’t wait for almost 24 hours to respond to an issue where people across the web are criticizing you.

It may seem a waste of money in normal scenarios but overnight their rating on Google Play store fell from 4.5 to 4.3, with lots of negative responses.

What is needed for any mid-large sized brand today is to define their brand personality, their communication strategy-what are the things they want to talk about and in what tone. When a brand matures and goes global, they will need to evaluate what is accepted as humor and what is not, what will make people connect with them and get others to stand against them.

Now let’s take an example of an already established and one of our favorite brands: Nike. How they have sorted their brand identity through a brand identity prism.

Their logo is their brand symbol, which says ‘Just Do it’, believes in taking chances and doing things. The personality that they are portraying is sportive spirit, athletic and lifestyle. The culture and relationship that they are promoting is of fitness and leaving behind the laid back attitude. And what reflects to the customers is: Energy, aggression, youthfulness, competitive and brand conscious. And most importantly, the self image that Nike wants its customer to perceive after using their brand is that he/she is brand conscious, he/she is cool, he/she is fitness freak.

Now, let’s talk about marketing on digital platforms. But, before digging into the world of social media and other digital stuff, let’s talk about what supersedes all and which is more important than ever now:

Content Marketing

Content Marketing is not a new concept but it is increasingly becoming forefront of all digital marketing strategies and is a crucial element to reap big benefits.

Good content, whether it is in the form of a blog post, social media update, video encourages users to engage with the brand.

If the content is genuinely good, users will pause to consume the content, understand your brand message and perhaps even comment, like or share the content. If it’s not, they’ll continue scrolling past and your message will eventually disappear.

So how to develop engaging quality content that emotionally connects with your audience?

Let’s look at Story telling format for creating content. Everybody loves to read/ watch/ listen to stories, don’t we? Similarly, When you tell a story about your brand to customers, you create an experience that resonates with your customers. A good story is about emotions, experiences, needs and the relationship that your brand evokes.

While drafting your story, always illustrate why you started creating this product in the first place, why you are doing this, how you are doing this? So, How a person feels about your brand typically determines whether they would buy your product or not.

Let’s look at this video made by Abhijit for his crowdfunding campaign withBitGiving: Project DEFY. He wanted to bring a new generation of schools WITHOUT Teachers. Let’s see how is he doing this?

So you’ve seen, how he has portrayed his story of starting the maker spaces. And you wouldn’t believe his video touched so many hearts that he was able to raise 5,16,000 which is 103% of his initial target amount in less than 3 months. And if you observe it closely, this video has been made with least marketing budgets, say not more than Rs. 5000.

Social Media Marketing: Let’s talk social!

So I assume most of the people here already knows how to put up a post on FB/ Twitter/ Instagram/ Linkedin etc. But, what not many people many know is whether a particular platform works best for your product or not.

Facebook may have over a billion users, but if your potential customers don’t make up a big part of that user base, it’s not the right social network for you.

Then how do we decide whether this platform suits our product or not?

Identify the target age group of your audience, the location of your business, and the nature of your services.

For example, if your startup offers B2B advice, it should seek out business leaders on LinkedIn. But if your business revolves around fashion e-commerce, Facebook Ads or Promoted Instagram posts should be your first choice.

I’ll give you our example. Gameloft has both B2B and B2C solutions. For game publishing we rely heavily on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram, while for in-game advertising solutions, we only have Linkedin page and no FB and Twitter, because our target audience of brand marketers and media agencies are centered more around Linkedin than FB / Twitter/ Instagram.

Also, remember to encourage conversations on your post for maximum engagement. What I have observed in most of the brands is that they just give out product information and leave it there. They themselves leave so scope for communication then how do you expect your consumers will engage with you?

Encourage open ended question. Ask how they feel about this new update? Ask for their feedback? Ask their opinion. In this way, you are not only making them valued and engaged, but also you are giving an impression that your brand hears its customers and go up to turning your consumers into brand advocates. And mind you this is not one time activity but should be carried on a continuous basis on get the desired results.

Also, be frequent and consistent with your communication. The optimal number of posts to Facebook is between five and 10 times a week, Twitter is five tweets a day and LinkedIn and Google+ for one time a day.

Also, tailor your content for every social media platform. For instance, Facebook and Instagram are more visual mediums. Linkedin favors long and professional content. While real-time instant bite sized content works best for Twitter.

Also, remember to tap on current viral topics to engage your consumer base. For instance, Game of Thrones was a rage on every social media platform and many brands left no opportunity to utilize it for their marketing strategy. Like take a case of Spotify ( a digital music service)launched a campaign ‘With Whom Do You Listen?’ For the launch of season 6 of Game of Thrones, Spotify teamed up with the show’s music supervisor, Evyen J. Klean, to create music profiles for 31 of the most well-known characters from the show.

For the campaign, Spotify offered users the chance to see which character’s profile best matches their own musical tastes. No wonder it was a huge hit and #SpotifyGameofThrones campaign hashtag received 14,800 mentions.

Here’s another case study of Chumbak, wherein they used its popular character Bobby head for launching their Delhi store. The campaign #BobbyMissing started with candid images announcing the spotting of the missing Bobble Head at various places. The campaign ended with Bobby finally deciding to make Delhi its home and thus announcing the Delhi store launch.

E-Mail Marketing

In the time, when promotional emails are becoming synonymous with spams, it is very important to intelligently market your product through e-mail.

Foremost, choose an email marketing software that gives you better analytics and also check if they can help prevent going your email into promotional or spam folders.

Another important aspect is the ‘database’. Request email from people who want to know more and be kept up to date about your product/service. Nurture that list as it grows, making them feel like the cool early-adopters they are. Also, remember segment this database into groups as this list grows for better email campaigns.

Test out everything. Do not go by your assumptions. Do A/B testing with smaller list. Try testing out with different Subject lines, content, Image vs no image, timings, personalization etc. Then carry out the full fledged campaign going by the better results that you received by testing. This will also give you in-depth knowledge of your target audience’s email consumption patterns like what time they would usually open their emails, what kind of subject lines interest them to open the emails, do they like to read witty content or more of informational content etc.

Do not choose more than one call to action per campaign, as your customer might get confused. Also, the length of the content shouldn’t be more than 2 scrolls, otherwise your customer might get bored and would not follow what you intend to say. Always put yourself in your customer’s shoes before sending any campaign.

Subject lines form the most important aspect of drafting an email. 70% of your open rates depends on the kind of subject line you choose for your campaign. Although its a very subjective matter, a subject line which I liked, might not be much appreciated by my parents.

So how can you draft best subject lines?

· Keep them as short and crisp as you can

· Personalize it, like, Hey Ridhima, Winters are right around the corner!

· Try and make them feel special. For instance: An exclusive offer for our first 100 customers.

· Create a sense of urgency: Last 2 hours to grab this deal

· Your subject line might be or might not be related to your campaign. Add some humor. For instance, last year in BitGiving around Christmas we did a campaign for Chennai floods, asking people to come forward and donate. So the subject line was: Your parents lied, Santa exists! And the opening line of the email was You can be the Santa for Chennai this year. The subject line did not talk about Chennai floods or donation, yet it was so quirky that we received around 47% open rate for that campaign. Otherwise our usual open rate for the campaign was 15–20%.

So let’s look at some of the most interesting subject lines

You can experiment with as much different subject lines as you want, but make sure it doesn’t offend or put your brand or customers in bad light.

Online Community Building

I am sure everyone must be part of some online community or the other. So why do you think online community building is important?

To simply put it, community building is perhaps the route to make your users fall in love with your brand.

And when done right, members feel like they’re part of something important and they’re proud, they feel special. Their experience with your brand then becomes so much more than just products and features. They develop strong emotions around your brand. They build relationships with other members.

So how to go about it? To start with, identify where your community is or the users that are excited about your product. You can use Twitter search to see who is posting about your company, competitor or about a topic that is relevant to your company.

You can use that to follow people, start a conversation and engage with them. Make a community that helps each other, a community for like-minded people to network. Have a ground for them to talk to each other.

You can probably make a Facebook group, Linkedin group or add them on slack, wherever or majority of TG lies.

Or you can also create your own website for your community. For instance, Xiaomi launched a dedicated website for Mi Community in India 10 days ahead of its MiMax phone launch. It allows registered Mi fans to contribute ideas, share feedback, take part in contests, and be a part of their launch events too. They also did a PR around it announcing the launch, so that more people can join them.

Now, lets come to Public Relations.

Most startups face a major challenge when it comes to public relations. They know buzz needs to be created through PR channels, but they don’t always have the connections or resources to get good press.

And the right PR doesn’t only help early-stage startups build user bases but attract interest from venture capitalists as well. So how to go about it?

Firstly, identify your target media and journalists: This will help you to identify the person that is most likely to be interested in your story or pitch. For instance, for tech start-ups in India, the main media includes YourStory, Inc42, TechinAsia, iamWire, Entrepreneur etc.

Give a good story angle with an interesting headline. You need to make the story newsworthy to make them cover your story. Tell them about your USPs, why you started this in the first place? How it is benefiting your consumers at large? What change are you bringing? Include data and statistics in your pitch. For instance: “Our new mobile phone cyber-security app received 2,345,335 downloads in just four days.” Or “We are bringing our product to market after raising $2.4 million — a very successful crowdfunding effort, which was 980 percent of our initial goal.”

Remember the story telling style we discussed while content marketing above. You follow the same here.

Always know the journalist that you are sending your pitch email. His designation, the beat he/she covers etc. Accordingly customize and send your email pitch. And never ever copy paste the same email to all.Journalists and editors are very smart species and can spot a copy/paste pitch a mile away. If they even suspect your pitch is a copy/paste to every email address you could get your hands on they will delete it immediately.

Also, remember to highlight any awards or recognition that your startup receives. For instance, you got 100k subscribers in just 1 month or grew from 10 orders a day to 500 a day in matter of a few weeks. Highlight your achievement.

And when you have moved from introductory phase, establish yourself as thought leaders in your niche as a long term vision. Share insights, trends, new launches from your company etc. Just stay ahead from your competitors.

Here are some outstanding startup stories/headlines example:

Lastly, let’s talk about Events

Why events are so important to a startup, specially the entrepreneurs?

Becoming a regular attendee of tech events in your area is a great way to meet angel investors and VCs.

They are also a great way to quickly gather tips and advice for dealing with common situations new businesses face.

So how to go about it? Make a quarterly calendar of the events happening around you, which will suit best to your interests. See if you can participate in it as a delegate or a sponsor.

Grab an opportunity to be a key speaker and share your brand story. This not only gives a brand visibility for your company brand but also helps establishes your own personal brand. For instance, Look at Ritesh Aggarwal, the founder of Oyo Rooms. He is the new poster boy of the startup world. And how? Because he not only focuses on brand visibility of Oyo Rooms but also his own, by regularly participating in startup events as speakers. People not only know Oyo Rooms but also know the face behind it very well.

Last but not the least, keep experimenting till you get the perfect balance for your startup. It could be possible, something that is working for other startup in similar field of expertise, might not work for you, or vice versa. There is nothing right or wrong in marketing. Just focus on adding value to your customers !

This was recently discussed at a marketing workshop by HelloMeets

For upcoming events, checkout www.hellomeets.com

Blog Credits: Ridhima Kapoor, Digital Marketing Manager, Gameloft & Community Builder at HelloMeets