With limited resources and an enormous need for growth, Indian startups need lean, effective, and promising marketing strategies to stay afloat. This means they need to take advantage of the online marketplace, where their reach is global, their campaigns are targeted, and the return-on-investment (ROI) is high.
How can Indian startups leverage the web to pull ahead of the competition? Here's our five-part plan to get you started.
1. Start With a Killer Web Presence
At the core of your online marketing efforts is a robust website that offers visitors a sleek and professional experience. Your website is what consumers perceive to be your “home,” so the impression that it makes will have a huge impact on what people think of your brand. When designing your site and producing content, put the focus on:
- Unique, modern, intuitive UI – Visitors interact with your brand primarily through your user interface, so it's crucial to get it right. It needs to be compatible on all devices, both mobile and stationery. It also needs to be easy to use, regardless of the device. Use modern convention and intuitive mechanism so that nobody needs an explanation on how to use your website. And don't forget, your site design should be attractive as well.
- Top notch user experience – Visitors should enjoy interacting with your site and should find the experience pleasant, at the very least. Ideally, the experience should be entertaining, and memorable enough to share with others.
- Low bounce rate – Pay attention to which pages draw people in, and which cause visitors to leave without exploring the rest of your site. Look for patterns, and focus on emulating the pages with the lowest bounce rate.
- Decrease load time – Your pages should be designed to load rapidly on any device. It is a good idea to estimate the user's connection speed and respond with the appropriate level of multimedia (giving users an option to switch, of course).
2. Pull Traffic From the Search Engines
Most users who want to make a purchase turn to the search engines in order to research the topic. That makes visibility in the search engines incredibly lucrative.
- Take advantage of search engine pay-per-click (PPC) advertisements, such as AdWords. This places your advertisement directly above the search results, or just next to them. Better yet, you get to choose which keywords the advertisement will display for, allowing you to target the most promising buyers. PPC ads are a great way to earn a profit quickly. However, it's important to recognize that they are not a viable long term marketing channel, since the traffic disappears as soon as you stop paying for the ads.
- Take advantage of search engine optimization (SEO) services. SEOs who know what they are doing can get your site to appear prominently in the unpaid search results, which most users feel are more trustworthy. It's important to understand that this can only be accomplished long term if SEO consists of genuine marketing efforts, not cheap tricks. Updates like Google's Panda and Penguin updates penalized sites that used spam to manipulate search results, so focus on SEO firms that use ethical marketing techniques.
- There is some debate about whether startups should invest in SEO, but we feel it's one of the best ways to leverage your resources for long term growth. See this guide about why every startup should take advantage of SEO.
3. Leverage Social Media Appropriately
Social media marketing has become tremendously popular and mainstream businesses are finally jumping on the bandwagon, but it's important to recognize how it is different from other marketing channels. People use social networks to entertain themselves and communicate, not to buy products, so it is not the best place to drive direct conversions. Instead, use social media to:
- Build relationships with influential people online who can help improve your brand's exposure on social networks, their own sites, and in the search engines.
- Retain existing customers by entertaining them with a steady stream of content that keeps your brand on their mind.
- Expand your reach through the use of viral content, the kind of content that people love to share with their friends.
- Eventually transition your social followers over to your own properties like your website and email newsletters, where conversion rates are typically much higher.
- Don't focus too much on the number of followers, since it is already possible to buy followers (although they are fake profiles). Instead, focus on how frequently your followers are sharing your material, responding to it, and transitioning to your other properties.
- To reach a large enough audience to get viral activity started, it can be helpful to use Facebook ads. You shouldn't, however, focus exclusively on this as a strategy for building an audience.
4. Capitalize on Content Marketing
This is closely related to both SEO and social media marketing, but has its own intrinsic benefits. All of this makes content marketing an incredibly powerful part of your marketing strategy.
- Focus on producing content with a “unique selling proposition,” so to speak. Each piece of content should solve a set of problems that aren't already solved by other content providers.
- Produce content with the aim to attract influencers who will share it on social networks and link to it from their websites, activities that will send referral traffic as well as boost visibility in the search engines.
- Use your content as a reason to get people to subscribe to your newsletter and subsequent blog posts. This keeps you on their mind and is great for customer retention.
5. Get Involved In Offline Events
Offline events, seminars, and meetups are an incredibly powerful resource, especially if you can use them to build relationships with people who have an online presence. Events can be especially helpful if you get the opportunity to speak on stage. Another way to take advantage of these kinds of events is to sponsor them.
In addition to the exposure, events are a great way to get involved in startup culture. It's not a good idea to try to tackle all problems on your own. Meetups can help you build your network, learn from the mistakes of others, and develop the contacts you need in order to hire new talent when you need it.
Online relationships that started offline are also extremely powerful, since they can be leveraged again and again for exposure and resources.
According to ComScore, the number of Indians who were online grew 41 percent between July 2011 and July 2012, reaching almost 63 million people. These early adopters are also the trendsetters who decide what's going to be hot next year. By tacking global reach and narrowing your efforts on the most promising prospects, online marketing is the most promising way for Indian startups to grow while using their resources efficiently.
By developing a strong presence online, you will position yourself to attract and retain customers where your competitors are unable to reach effectively. Handle it properly, and you can effectively launch your brand on the road to success.