Startup marketing: 10 things to watch out for

Startup marketing: 10 things to watch out for

Thursday October 06, 2016,

7 min Read

Starting your own business could be the best or worst decision you make in your career. It could be extremely rewarding on the one hand, but also rather stressful on the other. Your company will make demands on your focus and time unlike any you’ve experienced before, but in the end, whether you succeed or fail, it should all be worth it.


Image Credit: Shutterstock

While many factors go into building a successful startup, building an effective marketing campaign for your business is perhaps the most important element in achieving success and scalability.

Here are 10 things you need to consider when you devise your startup marketing plan:


  1. Research

It goes without saying that you should ensure your campaign is worth the time, effort, and money you invest in it. However, the starting point should almost always be research, research, and research! You have to learn from the successes and failures of others. Look for campaigns that speak to you and use those as inspirations to develop your own. Blend those inspirational elements while keeping your own company’s ideals and values in mind and create a unique point of view.

If you aren't sure where to start your research, then we'd suggest these two innovative campaigns that proved a little goes a long way!


  • OPSM’s ‘Penny the Pirate’ campaign helps mothers test their child’s vision through a freely available storybook and app.
  • WestJet’s ‘12,000 Mini Miracles’ encouraged 12,000 WestJet employees over the world to perform mini miracles or acts of kindness and submit videos of them via social media. The campaign was mentioned in 400 media outlets in 214 countries with over two billion media impressions, while employees went on to perform over 31,000 miracles!


  1. Clarity

When you’re navigating the marketing jungles, avoid the murky waters. Clarity and consistency is another critical piece of the puzzle. Before you start developing your marketing campaign, it’s important to define your objectives, select your target group, set your budget, and map out your strategy.

When building your marketing campaign, remember to:

  • Choose the right platform
  • Know your audience
  • Keep your content relevant

One company that has managed to pull this off well is Relatas. This B2B customer relationship management company was chosen as one of the startups to attend the NASSCOM Product Conclave. Unfortunately, they were unable to secure a booth for themselves at the conclave, but that didn't mean they weren't going to make the most of being there. Using sound guerilla marketing tactics, Relatas left their flyers on every seat in the auditorium while it was empty, during lunch. After the evening session, a lot of people were eager to enquire about Relatas, and their flyer campaign had succeeded in letting people know they were around.


  1. Objectives

What would you like to accomplish for your company? Your marketing campaign should have a mix of simple and complex targets such as improving visibility and sparking conversation. Develop your campaign strategy and communications, and choose the ideal platform to put your ideas to work.

Use these tips to emotionally connect with your audience and drive conversation:

  • Develop a unique brand voice and create content that appeals to many, but speaks to one — i.e. your buyer persona.
  • Provide valuable insights that your audience won’t find elsewhere.
  • Appeal to their human side with humour, compassion, and empathy, but don’t overuse these themes.
  • Ask questions that make them think.

Groupon India managed to do this superbly by taking advantage of bad market conditions. When onion prices were through the roof and being sold at Rs 50 per kg, they slashed their prices and sold them at Rs 9 per kg. The rising price of onions was a popular conversation topic, and by significantly reducing its prices, Groupon managed to create a lot of buzz for the company. They also placed a limit on the delivery quantity for each address, to ensure that nobody took advantage of their scheme. Their marketing campaign paid off, and they were able to increase their brand search on Google by 400 percent as well as spark a debate around a significant issue like food prices.


  1. Achievement

Once you’ve set your objectives, go after them! Make an expected timeline of your goals. Factor in the delegation of work and make sure that individual roles are well defined. Coordination is the key to meeting your objectives.


  1. Building blocks

All marketing campaigns are built using the building blocks of assumptions. An assumption could be anything such as user mentality or behaviour that’s required to be accurate in order for the campaign to be viable. And just like you would build a tower starting with the biggest blocks, you’ll need to identify your riskiest assumptions and work those out first.

Food delivery and review company Zomato decided to try something new with their late-night delivery marketing campaign. They realised that buying ads on Facebook and Twitter was fairly expensive, so instead, they decided to put up comparatively inexpensive ads on porn websites. Their creative teams worked on interesting ads that would generate clicks, and the risk paid off, with Zomato enjoying decent CTRs on their low-cost banners and ads.


  1. Breathing room

Nobody’s perfect, and chances are that your marketing campaign won’t be either. But that’s okay. If after all the careful planning and consideration something does go wrong, what really matters is how you remedy it. Keep your campaigns flexible and leave room for improvisations.


  1. Raw basics

Your marketing campaign must cover all the rudimentary basics like highlighting your company enough so that it ranks higher up in online search rankings. Make certain the marketing campaign itself is engaging to your target audience and that its operations are scalable.

Leveraging the importance of women's safety, RideSafe decided to market their live-tracking app in the most innovative way possible. The two-month old startup couldn't afford the money they needed to book an exhibition stall at Bengaluru's Comic Con in 2015, so they decided to market right outside their venue. They printed their logo and USP — that every auto and taxi ride can be made safe — on a few hundred helium balloons that they tied up right outside the entrance. The balloons were handed out to the women and children entering the venue. Even if the balloon was let go of, the helium would keep it floating near the ceiling, so visitors could still see the brand and message if they looked up. The company also smartly targeted the people who were waiting at the exit for their Olas and Ubers. This light-hearted but smart campaign created a lot of buzz about the company, and they engaged with their target audience beautifully.


  1. Longevity

Rather than building a campaign that simply boosts your visibility for a short period, invest in longevity. Don’t hesitate to put in added time or resources, because creating something that can withstand the years is definitely worth it all.

ModCloth is a company that actively seeks to integrate their users with their advertising efforts, so the company names their dresses after featured bloggers. In return, the bloggers suggest other ModCloth pieces to complement the namesake clothing. Similarly, One Kings Lane invites bloggers to showcase their pieces on their blogs. These companies directly engage with users, and reach out to a wider base, improving their longevity.


  1. Receptiveness

Monitor the progress and outcomes of your marketing campaign. It’s important to stay alert and be on the lookout for opportunities for feedback from the target audience during the campaign. After all, it’s all about catering to what your audience wants to see.


  1. Future plans

While it’s important to look ahead, it’s sometimes equally important to look back and conduct a post-mortem on your strategy. Make data collection and analysis part of your core plan so that your campaigns improve as you move along.

It is wise not to get caught in a web of half-baked marketing campaigns that will lead your company to be perceived as a low-value startup. Do not blindly throw money at advertisers in a ploy to gain more customers or garner more attention. Holistically consider all the facets involved in your marketing campaign. Think about if your marketing campaign is indeed something that is worth paying for. Ensure that the dimensions to your marketing campaign lead to progress and prudent exposure for your startup.


(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)