An absolutely unavoidable to-do-list you cannot afford to ignore before you launch your business
We are marketers and we love our job of promoting promising ventures, creating buzz around outstanding products (and at times, not so promising ones) and we are the best go-to professionals for brands who intend to create market share through right marketing approach. In short, we excel in creating accentuated brand personas for brands that already exist, be it in whatever cycle of their existence. But how do we create buzz for a business proposition that so far has not been there in the market and customers are completely unaware of it. I am talking about promoting an idea- market it and create buzz for it, before the public knows about the proposition; because that is what your business is at that stage of your business life cycle- an idea. It is during the gestation period when brands must ideally gear up to create their first impression on the existing and potential stakeholders- including the consumers.
So, is there a marketing plan for startups that are yet to take off? Do we have a guide to give away the exact formula of creating a buzz for the yet to be launched startup?
A typical challenge while doing this could be the dilemma in sharing the right amount of information before it is finally launched. You cannot spill all the beans and neither can you go completely silent about the business idea. When Google+ was yet to launch, there was a hype that was created around it. Good marketing stunt. But it took a little long for Google to bring it open for general consumers (3 months) and that’s when the audience got bored and lost interest. So we also need to anticipate the right amount of time between the start of the marketing efforts and the official launch of your startup. However, more important is to start laying grounds at the right time on which you will later have to play very smartly.
Therefore, planning is the key to any effort that you make. Plan you budget, your due-date to launch the business or the product of an existing business and do a thorough research of the market, which your startup must have already kept in place, For you as a marketing expert, it requires a different approach to research for starting off. Create a marketing plan. I never realized the importance of a marketing plan when I worked for fortune 500 companies, before I entered a startup. Why? Because you have so much to do that you often tend to lose focus of where you started and where in the course of your operations are you moving towards.
Identify your stakeholders. Seems like a simple process, but this is the most difficult part of creating a marketing plan. In my first blog post- Simplifying Big Data analytics and marketing analytics for marketers I have discussed about creating niche markets and marketing segmentation through micro-grouping. This becomes extremely important for conveying your tailor-made messages effectively to different segments of your stakeholders.
Much after these fundamental grounds have been laid, here is a quick guide to some extremely simple marketing techniques you may use to get to the required amount of buzz to deliver the right message for a product or a venture that people have never seen or heard about before.
- Networking and Word of mouth. When Flipkart started off in India, it relied its energies and efforts only on networking and word of mouth before it became the largest online retailer in India. For something to start off well, you need to have your networking in place. Here again, social media plays a crucial role. And you cannot say that if you have a B2B business or a product, social media isn’t a great idea for you. LinkedIn for say has been rated as the best social platform to generate returns on the networking that you do, specifically for B2B companies.
Create presence on all the social platforms that are actively used by your target audiences online and it also helps your web SEO. Reach out to groups on social platforms like Facebook, twitter and LinkedIn. If your product or business has a visual proposition in some way or the other, Instagram and Pinterest can work wonders for you. But, do not, and I say this with experience, do not ever create a page and leave it unattended. You would never want to go to a restaurant after a long day of work and get your glass of wine half-filled or poorly made. Dedicate intelligent resources or handle it yourself. You will reap benefits of it in future.
Additionally, a good idea is to attend annual networking events from the industry to do your background networking to work towards building sustainable business relations with peer businesses. I have spoken much about collaborative marketing in my last blog.
- Web presence– A web page with limited information saying ‘coming soon’, a banner outside your site saying ‘XX coming soon’ or if you have budgets, an advertisement in the relevant newspaper (depending on your target audiences) with an initial brief of the concept saying ‘coming soon’ is a great way to lay grounds of the actual brand presence on web for your organization or your product to be launched. You can also think on lines of starting a blog. But, I have a major disregard for companies that create a blog just for the heck of it in order to do SEO for their website. Always remember, a blog, once gone wrong, can deteriorate the image of your company to an extent that the reader can never again think of coming back to your brand. Hence, if you do not have the time to pay attention to it, better stay away from it. Do not over do your promotion. There is always a spin to what you say.
- Resonate the belief that you have in your brand through your communication, over and above, your small actions and gestures like I remember a friend of mine at the PR agency where I worked in Delhi had the logo of the brand that he serviced on his laptop. This is a very small gesture to say that he believed in that particular brand from the other 6 brands that he serviced; which led me to think of that particular brand differently from others while I had absolutely no idea of any of those 8 brands initially. But, it registered in my mind. Nobody will believe in it, till the time you passionately believe in it. E-mail signatures, logo placement through different accessories (but do not overdo it seeming to look weird going for meetings or for outings), business cards, all make-up a complete must-have branding tools before you start off
- Allocate marketing budget. Bootstrapping as far as marketing is concerned is an extremely common mistake that almost 80% startups commit. Your business will absolutely die without attracting customers; not reaching out there in the market to the right stakeholders. You might think that marketing ‘will happen later’ and that the budget excuse will save you your already tight finances but If you do not do it now, you won’t set the right base for your business aspirations and infact will reciprocate in preparing for a failure indeed.
- Have a story to tell. I read a book recently that advocated the theory of our mind linking back events and even names with stories that the mind related them to. That is, that when we try to link the name of a person or a brand with a story either attached to it already or a story that the mind creates to basically recall the same; there are chances that our mind registers and recalls it for a longer duration of time. This seemed to make sense to me. I tried to practice this for a couple of months with the names of people that I met during the time period and it started to work for me while I had a major issue with remembering names. Now this can very well be applied to businesses, and if you do it at the very beginning of your marketing efforts, the job will become a tad bit easier. A tip to make it even more interesting- make it audio-visual, will stay for an even longer duration.
6. Get personal. Create a close group of evangelists in the press before your startup launches. Bring them in confidence and over and above that, keep them engaged. This is imperative if you are really trying to get some free publicity. Everyone needs it. Everyone wants it. Quite a few invest time in it. You need to be a press friendly organization. But this cannot happen unless you really have a great solution to a problem that exists in the market or potentially exists but has not been recognized yet by the market or if not, you have a great story to tell that differentiates you from your competitors.