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SME marketing in startup mode


AUGUST 17, 2021

SME, marketing, startup, mode, marketing strategy, emails, Instagram, LinkedIn, communication, newsletter, message, ads

India is in the middle of a startup boom attracting big investment but funds are hard to come by for smaller businesses. And most startups lack big hairy audacious goals (BHAG), as I see while mentoring many incubated ventures. Formulating BHAGs is a skill we help them with. Most startups do not have many resources for marketing.

Two friends (a husband-wife duo) started a creative shop for design and copywriting to supplement income while working in a software company. In a short time, they had a good number of satisfied customers—an ad agency and a couple of companies that could not afford a large agency.

As expected, they had growth pangs at that point. They wanted to reach out to more clients and wanted existing clients to take more of their services. Though the husband could not go and meet clients during office hours, he wanted to find an alternative way to reach out and develop business. He asked me how he could increase sales with limited resources?

Another person, inspired by a movie, started a home-based herbal and medicinal plants business and farming advisory services. Her problems were different. She wanted to get the concept accepted by people in her neighbourhood by changing their mindsets about farming in their backyards or terraces. How could she do it with almost no resources? Can behaviour be changed in this age when people have neither the inclination nor the time for such a hobby?

The two examples typify the situation many businesses face in the initial startup stage. The scale and complexity may differ for others but the fundamentals remain the same.

While there is no single answer, in this article I will broaden and generalise the possible ways to look at marketing in startup mode. Remember, businesses face a tough situation due to swift changes in the economy as well as a proliferation of media and technology. There is no single media channel one can use to reach the target audience. The complexity increases in India which is cultural a diverse country.

Here are four ways you can improve your marketing results:

1. The first step is to plan for creating a “solid” image. When potential customers call during business hours, will you let your answering machine handle the call or will you make them wait for several long minutes with IVR, etc and take time to return their calls? How can you handle this situation when you do not have resources for a telephone operator and receptionist

Switching to low-cost voice mail with multiple mailboxes will allow potential customers and clients to get information when you are unavailable and create a stable image for your business.

You should also plan to give a mobile number as a contact so that the calls can be taken and replies sent. The calls could be returned even when you are having a day job.

2. The second most critical step is planning a low-maintenance marketing programme. You should design a marketing programme that relies on simple tools you can prepare in advance. You should ensure that the programme requires minimal attention during business hours. It is wise to create a direct mailing series using cost-effective postcards (so that postage costs are low) that show some of your best work or value propositions, which should be at the core of your strategy.

Create all your direct-mail pieces, have them printed at one time and purchase a database of targeted businesses for multiple uses. Then have a neighbourhood computer centre send them at designated intervals, say a postcard every two weeks.

Do the same with small-space ads: develop all the creative elements at once, place the schedule well in advance, and leave it to the media to run the ads on designated dates.

Plan a social media presence with Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. Develop and update your website, all at a low cost.

The choice of media should cost the least but do some smart planning. Instead of advertising in a main daily, for instance, consider its supplements or special industry reports for a large reach and focussed target segments.

3. Continue communicating with past clients. A monthly broadcast of a newsletter by email will be a good way to stay in touch. It is less time-consuming and will also cost less. It is best to start with a simple one-page newsletter rather than a complicated four-pager. You can make use of email newsletter software, which comes cheap. You can create it yourself as templates are readily available, or you can use a designer.

Email broadcast software are also easily available (Mailchimp, MaxMailer, etc).

While you do your regular work, your computer will take care of the marketing part.

4. Finally, you should have some face-to-face meetings planned. You can think of partnering with someone who operates a similar business full-time. Your partner can attend networking functions and meet with prospects during business hours on your behalf and you can expand your business without adding staff. You can also meet some clients over a drink in the evening.

Courtesy/Source: money control