Effective Marketing Tips for Startups & Small Businesses

Startup Resources

Effective Marketing Tips for Startups & Small Businesses

[Part of ‘Marketing Tips for Small Businesses’ series started by Mayank, head of marketing at Redbus.in. Read the first part : Demystifying Branding – Startups, Are you Reading this? ]

Most start-ups do action-oriented marketing rather than the create-awareness and then wait-and-watch marketing. The awareness creating route is a great one, but for those who have money and time. You and I have none. So, let’s see how we can look at ways of achieving a high impact in the most cost effective way.

Creating marketing multipliers

– Product excellence

– Relevance

– Demand harvesting vs Demand Creation

– Power of credibility

To weave these concepts together in one line, the basic principle is to build a product/service customers will love, to target prospects at a relevant time, to harvest demand before creating it and to get credible people to endorse you.

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Marketing - Entrepereneurs and Small Businesses better do it!


Nothing can compensate for a bad product and hardly any marketing is needed for a great one.

I don’t remember us getting e-mailers or watching ads about a site called “FACEBOOK”. In all likelihood, someone asked you if you’re on it or someone said “you’ve got to be on Facebook!” Either ways, it is a case of a product built greatly in an existing category of social networking.

Whereas, there are more and enough examples of products that spent millions, created high awareness, made big promises and gave away huge discounts only to realize depleting traffic (for websites) and bad reviews.

The other simple rule about product is to create simple, subtle and yet obvious differentiators. Nothing beats having knowledge-based, non-replicable features. Knowledge-based can relate to content and it’s important to stand out from the me-toos. More on product in another article.


Relevance is probably the most effective, yet most ignored concept of marketing. Let’s do this with a few quick examples:

– A person may appreciate a sales pitch on insurance at a hospital’s payment counter rather than when he’s watching a movie

– A person may pay more attention to a new train ticket booking site while killing time at the railway station rather than when he’s neck deep at work and gets a promo e-mail

If you can identify the most relevant time when you can reach out to your audience, then you must spend time trying to come up with the best way to talk to your prospects at that particular time.

If you’re a website that books movie tickets online, you need to figure out how you can get on the ticket counters of cinemas, show up on Google while people search for reviews on the latest movies, have an ad running during the interval, have presence at the food stall where people stand in queues or probably have funky stickers in the cinema rest room (if done tastefully, this can build your brand rather than negating it)!

Track the behavior of people in and around these relevant settings and try to be present there. It’s more effective to target 100 people at a relevant hour than talking to millions at an irrelevant one.

Demand harvesting vs Demand creation

Demand harvesting is tapping into existing demand where as demand creation is creating demand. If you’re a start-up, it’s best to identify how you can tap into existing demand before you think of creating some. Creating demand is very expensive and takes time.

So, let’s take the example of the movie tickets booking site again. You could tap into demand every time someone did a search for a movie review online. You could either show up in Google’s organic results (SEO) or you could be running a sponsored link (SEM) – read more on SEO vs SEM Tips.

Google is the highest-traffic site in the world and 30% of the population on the net visits it every day. You’d be insane to ignore it.

Someone may be looking for PVR, Fame, Fun or Inox’s address/phone number on Google or by calling Just Dial. If you can have a presence there, then you’re doing a smart job of tapping into existing demand. And by default, by tapping into demand you’re ensuring that you’re being extremely relevant to a pain point thus creating high impact.

Assuming that your product is great and you have been able to create impact among 50 customers by targeting them at a relevant hour, you can be sure that they’ll spread the word among their colleagues and networks either instantly or when someone else is looking for movie tickets. It’s very common to hear colleagues say “Hey, I checked out this site that does movie tickets online. Give it a try. It’s great!”

That’s how you can see the multiplier effect working for you.

Power of credibility

Can you identify the most credible people for your product? As a general rule, journalists are considered a credible source of information. So, needless to say, you need to get the word out to the media. How you get the word out matters. They get hundreds of calls and gimmicky releases and direct mailers every day from products as exciting as yours. Can you stand out?

Please remember that FREE is the only other F word that stands out in our world of cluttered media. You can always fall back on that if everything else fails. Offer a free trial, a discount. I wouldn’t resort to FREE unless I ran out of all creative ways of reaching out though.

Let’s say you want to prove that you’re the least cost hotel accommodation provider. You can either write to journalists claiming that you’re the least cost provider (boring) or you can invite them for cocktails and do a live demonstration of prices on your site compared to that of competitors. You may have an even better way to prove your point. Do it. Create the impact because they’ll help spread the word.

Are there any other credible sources that can endorse you? If there are, reach out to them as soon as you can and spend as much time as you can to get them to endorse you for the right reasons. If they don’t, you better be worried.

What do you think?

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