Nilesh Bhojani and Unmana Datta are the founders of Markitty, an online marketing company. Involving himself in the startup events in Pune organized by Pune Open Coffee Club (POCC), Nilesh was That Lonely Man to start off with but slowly he became embroiled in the system and then decided the implement the idea of Marketing Office Hours in late October 2012.
The concept was simple: Bootstrapping start-ups need marketing advice but usually don’t have a budget for this. Markitty took up the initiative via which startups could book a two hour slot and get free consultation. Here, Nilesh shares some thoughts from this 5 month long experiment with 20+ businesses…
1. Don’t use the community as a sales tool
We were not out there to sell. It helped create the much needed trust between a marketing consultant and business owner, and we had healthy and detailed conversations. These conversations had insights that we might not have got if it were a sales meeting.
While end goal of all networking efforts is to make profit of some kind, it’s important to not use a community as a sales channel. This applies to not just start-ups and tech communities but also to social media – your twitter, facebook or linked in communities. If your sole objective is to sell your product or service, you will harm not just your own reputation but also that of the community.
2. Create Value- Contribute in any way you can
Continuing from the first point, contribute to the community you want to be part of. There are many ways of adding value – you don’t have to be in the organizing committee to do that. Reach out to the people who are running things and they would be more than happy to get a helping hand.
Find things you can do well – we knew that we would not be able to help much with organizing community events and we like more focused conversations than open ended gatherings. Office hours gave us that opportunity and filled an important gap.
3.Respect others and their time, and they will reciprocate
We hadn’t worked with Indian clients earlier and had heard not so positive experiences from friends who did. Starting out, we weren’t sure what to expect- even small things like turning up on time for the meeting.
We prepare for each meeting in advance, prepare our notes and set up calender requests for the meeting. And our clients didn’t give us a chance to complaint either. Except in one case where a client cancelled the meeting at the last minute, all our meetings started on time and any one who couldn’t make it informed us in advance.
4. There is nothing wrong in following processes
We had decided in the beginning that we will only offer this to small business and meet the founder/owner, not a marketing/sales person. Anyone interested in booking a session needs to fill up our questionnaire and then only then do we offer them a slot.
This helped us in collecting the required information in advance and made the discussions more productive. There must have been some people who didn’t apply because of this process, but that’s probably good for them as well as for us.
Not just for marketing, now free consultation is available for a number of different areas due to the efforts of POCC organizers and willingness of the community to contribute. While there is probably a long way to go before Pune can compete with Bangalore or other international start-up hubs, this gives me hope that it’s not a matter of if but only when.