Stop me if you have heard/seen this before. One plans to start a business. What is the first thing one does? Create an account on all social media platforms! And then? More often than not, there would be no activity for a really long time. The number of business pages you would find on Facebook that would be having no activity in their feed after when they were created is just too huge. And even when there is some activity, it is sporadic and looks all over the place. Why? Because there is no clear picture in mind on what the messaging needs to be about. So, the question naturally comes up — What is the best and the easiest way to start your marketing activity? Here are some pointers that you should etch in your overall marketing philosophy.
#1. BE AUTHENTIC AND GENUINE
This becomes even more true when you are starting up for the first time. It is easy to get influenced by brands who have had massive digital success — on or off social media. Those millions of followers and thousands of likes, retweets and shares are hard to overlook. It is natural to get inspired by these brands, but you must stop the urge to follow what they seem to be doing.
Be true to yourself, and your identity.
Ignore the need to be all things to all the people out there and focus on that one thing that makes you unique. That one thing that could be the defining attribute about you, and/or your business. Take any brand you have loved, respected and admired, one thing you would notice about them is their messaging is not all over the place. That is because these brands understand the power of being authentic and genuine, and when you have that in the foundations of your brand’s core believes, you tend to not miss out when putting your messages out.
Whether it is Nike, KFC or Levis, they were all able to build up a formidable brand riding on the back of authenticity.
#2. I SHOULD DO THIS BECAUSE SO IS EVERYONE ELSE. DON’T!!!
I am the last person who would advise you to be different just for the sake of being different, but at the same time I would never ask you to simply follow the lead of others.
I meet countless businesses and business owners each month, and almost everything that they tell me of their plans is a carbon copy of what they are seeing around them. This can be a recipe for failure. Unless you take risks, understand your business and your consumers and challenge yourself to do things the right way (even at the risk of doing it differently), you may end up in a place where you would be wondering why something that worked for others did not work for you.
In my last business, everyone wanted me to offer ‘new user signup vouchers’, ‘referral vouchers’, ‘discount codes’ and all sort of things. Why? Because every other e-commerce business they see around them was doing all of those things. Myntra, Jabong and everyone else offered new user signup vouchers. Uber would give you a ride for free on every successful referral signup. I did not want to do any of that. Why?
- ̶N̶e̶w̶ ̶u̶s̶e̶r̶ ̶s̶i̶g̶n̶u̶p̶ ̶v̶o̶u̶c̶h̶e̶r̶s̶ — The concept was new, and in relatively turbulent zone. My first consumers would have been the much needed market validation. I did not want to taint that validation by incentivising my consumers to avail the service. I have seen consumers who boast of having received their meal for free because of ongoing offers. I have actually seen people who were essentially paid for ordering a meal (if you factor in the cashback etc.) Is that a real metric you can count? No, right? That was precisely my point. I needed to be sure that I could count every single order as a genuine consumer — and a genuine interest in the business model and concept.
- ̶R̶e̶f̶e̶r̶r̶a̶l̶ ̶V̶o̶u̶c̶h̶e̶r̶s̶ — Did I want consumers telling their friends of this wonderful new service they could avail? Well, duh! Of course I did. But I wanted them to recommend us to their friends because they had fallen in love with what we were doing and genuinely thought their friends should avail the benefits as well. Your consumer is your strongest advocate, and arguably the most profitable marketing channel that exists out there, but for a consumer to get on a soapbox and recommend you, you have got to WOW that consumer. But, don’t you in any case want that? So, why not focus on wowing your consumer and then ask that super delighted customer to ‘tell a friend’.
- ̶D̶i̶s̶c̶o̶u̶n̶t̶ ̶C̶o̶d̶e̶s̶ — One simple question, why? Why would I want to offer discount codes? If I could have offered a more competitive price, I would have figured out a way to do that. And I was brutally honest with my consumers — A business needs to continue making money to exist, grow and continue serving them. To continue bringing to them the service they are falling in love with. If my business model doesn’t make sense, sooner or later I would end up driving the business in the dirt. And who does that help? Believe it or not, consumers do understand and relate to that reality. Why do they want discounts? Because businesses left, right and center are offering so. And who the fuck doesn’t like to save an extra buck wherever possible.
The result? We were able to achieve month-on-month operational profitability before we had completed two quarters of operations, and had achieved break even by the end of the eight month. Margins were wafer thin, but we had a loyal consumer base. One that would swear by our services.
There would be times when you would be at a fork in the road and you may choose to go in the opposite direction of what traditional wisdom may suggest. Go for it. If it seems like a logically balanced better decision, don’t shy away from taking unconventional, bold risks. Always remember that Netflix started in the era of Blockbuster and while Blockbuster continued with its ‘tried and tested’ model, Netflix was shipping DVDs directly to its consumers’ homes. Today, Netflix has a market cap of more than $150 billion (more than Disney or Comcast), while Blockbuster has now just ONE store in the whole of United States.
Is Netflix Really Worth More Than Disney Or Comcast?
Netflix passed Disney and Comcast in value this week. Is its single-minded focus on streaming media globally really…
#3. DON’T BE AN ASS. EMBRACE HUMILITY. ALWAYS
The internet is full of trolls, and it is easier to get pulled into that trap and fight fire with fire. But whenever you get that urge, resist it. Always be humble when you are representing a company — whether it is to your consumers or just an average troll.
This becomes even more important once you have tasted some success. As a business that has tens of thousands of consumers, one single consumer may not seem like much, but every single one of them matters. And even more importantly, once you do that, you tend to lose touch with what and who you are supposed to be as a brand and your ego takes over. Once that happens, it won’t take long for you to lose the audience that fell in love with your product, your services, and most importantly your persona.
#4. BE CONSISTENT
Don’t be all over the place. Be consistent with whatever content you put out there — whether it is on social media, your emailers or via your ads. Experimenting with different formats, different kinds of messages etc is all well and good, but let the central driving force of your communique remain the same.
#5. DO WELL BY DOING GOOD
Karma does exist, and it is indeed a bitch — if you are an ass.
Whether it is supporting a social movement or doing some basic good deed for someone else out there (whether an individual or a business), do it because you should and it is what you believe in. And when you do that, don’t let your actions be dictated by the natural question — “How does it help my business?”
Marketing is not just your ads, it is not just your emailers. When you embrace the essence of it, it pretty much shapes up your entire persona. Every single action you take is a marketing move. Whether it is how your last mile delivery guys behave to what the packaging looks like to what kind of tweets you decide to retweet — it would all fall under the purview of marketing. Let’s do it right.