The internet is a wonderful paradox. While the world is smaller now with everything but a click away, the task of reaching out to the right sort of audience has become more demanding. There are so many ways to communicate that it can sometimes be overwhelming, especially as a start-up.
For a start-up, it is important to have a proper marketing strategy in place when reaching out to the right audience. This particularly holds true when a startup cannot afford to spend on marketing. The start-up will have to decide whether or not to opt for paid marketing, which can be quicker, or whether it should let its target audience grow organically, which takes time and requires a tremendous amount of patience and perseverance.
There is no foolproof one-size-fits-all marketing strategy that works for everyone. What works for one, may or may not work for another. However, there is always a lesson to learn. It is critical for a start-up to identify their target segment, pinpoint influencers, analyse user behavior and tailor their digital marketing strategy.
CIIE portfolio company, Thrillophila.com for example, has heavily invested its time and energy in understanding its user-base. “We are a travel marketplace that provides a platform to bring together vendors and consumers. Our page relies heavily on SEO (search engine optimisation), which is integral to website building,” says Abhishek Daga, co-founder, Thrillophilia.
The company has grown organically and now has over a million unique monthly visitors on their page, of which, over 40% is through SEO.
“We have over 15,000 pages (optimised for SEO) and have analysed keywords to help us better understand and use the right set of long-tailed keywords to cater to exactly what the end user would be looking for.” says Daga.
In a rapidly progressing technological world where, according to some estimates, over 50% of first time internet users are mobile phone users, one needs to be mobile friendly too. “We have integrated SEO into our mobile-friendly websites, where about 45%of our traffic comes from. In fact, all our pages are mobile friendly” states Daga .
Thrillophilia’s SEO success has been organic and no money was paid. “We do not do traditional link-building or posting on forums as this tends to come across as spam. We focus on smart technology and getting everything automated knowing it will work out,” says Daga.
While digital marketing as a marketing tool has gone mainstream, there are unconventional ways of digital marketing as well. Rohit Agarwal of Framebench, an interesting tool to view, annotate and collaborate over files, opted for SlideShare to reach out to their audience. “There are two key areas, creating content that is distributable and figuring out how to distribute this content. SlideShare has millions of daily visitors looking for relevant content and we have spent months building slides to see what people may like, assessing user behaviour and using the same to our advantage,” he says.
It was all about trial and error for Framebench. “After our slide got over a million views in less than 20 days, we were trending on SlideShare, this increased traffic on our blog which consequently widened our readership base. Till now we have stayed away from paid marketing because as a start-up, you hardly have resources to spend on marketing. Nonetheless, we are now looking at paid marketing options as we want to grow at a faster rate,” he says.
In the age of social media, one wonders why Framebench chose SlideShare over social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter. Agarwal acknowledges this, but states that “we tried, but it didn’t work for us. Our target audience does not look for our products there, however, we still have presence on these networks,”.
Content remains the focal point of the company’s strategy. “A lot of our traffic also comes from websites that have written about us. We try to keep our blog content interesting and engaging and some humour in it also helps,” he says.
But, if your platform and target audience are clearly defined, Facebook marketing may just be what you are looking for. Senthil Kanthaswamy, founding member of Frilp (short for friend’s help), believes in choosing only one channel of marketing and making it work for you before moving on to an alternative. Frilp, based in Chennai, is a platform that helps you discover shops and services which come recommended by friends, colleagues and the community.
“We needed a specific audience with high potential for engagement. Facebook helps in both targeting the right audience and reaching out to them. If you are looking for IT employees living away from home or a newly engaged woman in North India between the age of 22 to 26, Facebook will help you reach out to them. We had our target audience very clearly defined” says Senthil.
As attention spans get shorter, sustaining audience interest is key. “You need to resonate with the audience. We created hundreds of different posts for each small target segment as Facebook allows to refine your specific audience depending upon age, gender and location. This is a huge advantage as other marketing channels tend to be more generic” he says.
Facebook, as a marketing tool, is still emerging in India and is fast turning out to be an important channel for demographic targeting. “Graphics, headlines and using high quality images are important to create a good impression of your product. This ensures that a viewer lands on your page, and it is up to your content and product to turn him/ her from a viewer to a user ” he says.
As you can probably surmise, user interaction is both important and crucial for success. Selling your product in the language your users converse in is central to growth because no matter how good the product or the engineering is, success depends on reaching out to the right set of people using the optimal marketing channel.