Guerrilla Marketing tips for Startups

Guerrilla Marketing Tip for Startups and Cash Strapped Small Businesses.

Majority of the readership of this blog consist of aspiring entrepreneurs, probably in consumer Internet or mobile space . Every one of us have an idea for a service which according to him/her is exactly what market needs . This post is not about objective merit of your idea. If you are betting your reputation, money, energy and time [in that order ], I assume that you have good reason to do that .

This post is not about revenue model .You may or may not have a revenue model and may be secretly wishing that you will cause a blip on the radar of Google,Yahoo,Ebay,MS or HT of world and they will acquire you . There is nothing drastically wrong in your assumption . This may happen .

I am sure you have got an “A-Team”. You have gone to right colleges, your room mate have fairly good understanding of LAMP stack so it won’t be a herculean task for two of you to code it up. Your friend who is a usability pro is ready to help you part time in designing logo , UI ,workflow and everything “creative”.

What’s the problem then?Why we are waiting then? What’s stopping you to start? Why Ashish doesn’t find enough startups to profile? Don’t tell me you are married or you are above 30 , that’s just an excuse!

guerilla marketing

In most of the cases, real answer lies in one sentence “I am not sure about Marketing” .

Underlying assumption in our story is that “Build it and they will come” but we fear that this may not happen . And we are not sure how too get our message across to our targeted user base . We count on being discovered by world . And that rarely happens.
We need to go out and talk to our user , tell them about our product offering. But you may ask- how? You are not funded (at least not yet), so you can’t possibly run full page advertisement in national newspapers,you can’t do TVC like Desimartini and Fropper; neither you can do bill board bash like BiggAdda. So what can we do ?
This is what this post is all about

  • How to engineer word of mouth.
  • How to spread the word about your service ? How to make people aware that you exist ?

Its about street smart tactics of creating buzz . Not revenue ,Not sales, Not cash flow . Just how to make people know that you exist & make them talk about your service? & do it with little money .

I know some of you might be thinking “Here is Yet another armchair grandmaster trying to dispense his marketing gyaan. Why should I give a damn” . Very valid point.

Well……. I don’t have a series of successful venture exit behind me , neither I am running a cool startup . I have been a Software Product sales guy in past and I know a thing or two about how people react when exposed to new software or new way of doing things and how we can soften their reaction and use it for our advantage .

Secondly I am observing IT Consumer internet space for a long time now . thanks to my involvement in USENET I have been a mute witness to some ideas being discussed in those forum and than ending up being big time success.

Third is I have talked to few Jr guys in big PR Agency in valley about how they engineer a Word of mouth ? What’s their secret recipe? To my great surprise these are some basic common sense tactics This post my attempt to spark a discussion about the relevance and effectiveness of these tactics in Indian context .

A point of caution first, Operating assumption while writing this post is that

1) you are based out of a metro so you want to get early adopters from these cities only . 2) you are in Internet /Mobile space and your target user base is college Kid ,young or middle age professionals .

Your Sys Admin :

A startup in silicon valley wanted to make a Web based IM platform where you can log into your IM friend list at Yahoo Messenger ,AoL ,Jabber ,GTalk etc[ You know which company I am talking about ] . when they were about to launch Public Beta they started brainstorming way to spread the word . One of their approach was to contact System administrators community. Most of the BIG corporation don’t allow you to install messenger client on your computer .

Sys Admin knew it, they were good guys, they want to help their colleague but they were bound by corporate IT policy. With web based IM, it was possible for them to address this issue . Not to officially endorse the venture but quietly slip the word around . one cubic at a time . So founder called one of his friend who was a SysAdmin at a big IT service firm, showed him a basic demo and requested him to tell people about it .
Surprise ……server log showed that in next 3 days 500 people logged in to their service from a single building of that company. Very soon, every branch of that company started using it . Truth was that they were using Lotus Notes messenger to tell their colleague about this cool new Web Based IM . That SysAdmin probably had told it to few guys, may be out of sense of obligation.
But he started an avalanche. Next thing this startup did was to log on to a job site and find out all the guys in who were IT Admin, shoot them an email and rest as they say is History ….errr……History in making .

Now think about it . Lot of the Web2.0 stuff consist of making desktop application run inside a browser and similar stuff. I am sure your Sys Admin friend can help. Think about it .

Your Job Portal :

When we were starting out Delhi Chapter or Mobile Monday, we faced a problem. Where can we find people who might be interested in attending this group? So we checked to find out which company is hiring for Mobile specific Skill set and found out our friends in that company to spread the word. In some cases we even called the HR of that company and make her send event notification. So, you see that Your is a rich repository of Internet savvy people. I am sure you know at least one recruitment consultant , you can borrow his login id for a night and do some data mining. You can do a very targeted marketing . you can say some thing like

“Prashant , its been 6 years since you left college , i m sure you miss some of your friends , find out where are they and may be some of them are working with you at infy Bangalore .Join ”

” Prashant , last year I Quit my job as Mobile Developer to follow my dream , we bootstrapped a little company and our product is in Public beta now , as a fellow mobile developer i would like to have your view in this . please join our beta prog . if you like what we did please tell your friends about it ”

Chances are that reader of these emails will respond to your campaign . but for god sake please be careful and don’t send an email starting with “Dear Candidate ” .

Your HR Guy:

HR is not just for recruitment . there is one more responsibility of HR , Training . As you are a startup so I am sure you must have heard of some latest Buzzwords like Agile, Scrum, Rapid Prototyping ,Test driven development etc . and thanks to your training in Traditional IT Service companies I am sure most of you don’t understand it fully . But that doesn’t matter much ,you can read about it . Borrow a copy of Getting Real from your friend . Lobby with some HR or Training firm, arrange for a workshop to dispense gyan about somethings like “Making a High Performance Web based Transaction server with two people team ” or whatever is relevant , share your experience .

Truth be told ….some guys in Bangalore have actually done it. Not once but three times . Each time they were paid 25K . Few more such session are in pipeline for them . Their initial motivation was purely financial [Cash strapped venture] but later on they infused more and more marketing angle to it . And why not? On Each occasion time a focused audience of 500 saw , listened and interacted with their product for 20 Min . if you can not get some one interested in your product after 20 Min then….either the guy is not worth it or your product .

Those of you who are doing startup would admit that 1 year of work in your own venture gives you more opportunity to learn that 5 years in a CMM Level 5 IT Firm . I am sure you can use it., Why not share it and share it well. call your Boss and HR at the company you used to work for ..tell them you did one such training for a client you can’t disclose i was wondering if you would like to do it .

MBA Colleges

You can do the same for Guest lecture at MBA college …any MBA college with good student strength. Just add some entrepreneurship spin to your pitch and tell your story. If you are in a Metro I am sure you must be having one in next block- get in touch with them … Biz school depend big time on case studies,guest lectures ,summer training etc. You can be a case study to them . there are more than 20 MBA colleges in Jaipur itself . I am sure not all of them have their guest lecture schedule full. You can surely help . Do it while Web 2.0 is hot J

PTA Meetings

This might sound a little weird to some of you. Go to your local affluent schools, talk about the internet domain in context of your product. This will help parents who see their kids spending a lot of time online on Facebook , Orkut or P2P. Parents want to know more about it, but they don’t know whom to ask.

Introduce them to cult of Poke and scrap – they want to be cool or they simply want to connect with there kid by a common pursuit. You can surely tell them a thing or two and I bet these parents would go and boast it to their kids and you know a social network site endorsed by your dad is a excellent way to make it stand out. I am sure it won’t do much harm either. Key here is to balance between talking about your domain and your product. Worth a try. Isn’t it ??

Night Out @ College Hostel :

I am yet to find a person who doesn’t like to talk about romance of startingup , But at the same time i am yet to see a startup who actually capitalize on this romance . When it comes to marketing that is your best weapon . Don’t sponsor annual cultural fest of the local engineering college . Instead try this go to hostel one night on some pre text [b’day ,visiting your cousin , alumni etc].

Show them your Product . Tell them how much fun you guys are having in doing this. Show some pics of your team in bean bag and some of your pics with Narayan Murthy at some conference and tell a good story over beer . If you are able to pull a good show, you will have some good number of crusaders in that campus next day .Make sure you have everyone’s email id; and as a follow up, ask them to relay your message to college mailing list. Avoid sending a direct email to list- let your crusader relay it and take glory of introducing a cool thing.
In India, startup is still a novelty and having a chance to talk to entrepreneur is bigger novelty. I don’t see anyone capitalizing on this.
On the other hand, what are Indian startups doing ? Spamming Orkut??

There are few more tactics. Some of them too whacky, some of them too specific to application that they don’t need to be mentioned for the purpose of a generic discussion; and of course some of them too good to share. I am sure you can come up with few of your own!

What do you think about these type of guerilla tactics? Can it work in India ? Let me know your thoughts .
Lets talk about it

tags: guerilla marketing tips, img

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