The best thing that has happened to the entire ecosystem is that digital has brought certain amount of equality and right to access the Internet not just for masses but also for start-ups. So if you have a great product and customers are looking for it, you don’t really need marketing on platforms like WhatsApp,
Twitter and Google to build a brand online. The benefit of digital and mobile is the viralability of a great idea.
In fact, there are instances of brands being built on Snapchat (photo sharing app) and Periscope (live video streaming app). I have a lot of clients who have built audiences by using the telco data to know their customers, what devices they are using and whether they are roamers and this can be helpful for travel start-ups. But that doesn’t mean great products don’t require online marketing. Nontheless there are some key areas that start-ups should study to build a digital brand.
Building an brand online is not a question of marketing but of product discovery, differentiation and its desirability among people. For example, delivering food only from top restaurants cannot be a significant differentiator for a food delivery start-up. Differentiation has to be fundamental, and more brilliant the product is, the easier it becomes for a start-up to scale up and build the brand online.
Get the basics right
To start with, first, get yourself a light website, which is also mobile friendly. Second, the website should always be simple with diagrammatically represented icons, etc, which engages customers in a better way. Third, hire a good user interface designer so that the navigation on the site is smooth. Fourth, decide whether it should only tell about your company or it has to be a transactional website. For example in latter’s case, when a customer clicks on a dress with a banner on the main page, then it must take him to the page where he can buy that dress.
However, the most important thing for start-ups today is customer discovery. You should first know
whether there are customers for you or not. There are few smart start-ups that have crossed a certain
threshold of customer discovery and have started using digital marketing to enhance their customer connect.
Study consumer behavior
Nonetheless, using digital marketing tools like SEO, content marketing, social media and e-mail to acquire new customers is actually a mindset because lots of companies in India don’t even understand how to use data analytics to improve digital marketing. Many e-commerce companies I work with try to wrestle with data reasonably inadequately even as their understanding of customer is fairly basic. So, while consumer insight can be derived from data analytics, it can also be derived by looking at consumer behavior far more closely. For example, a consumer at a mobile shop looking to buy a phone would also check Amazon, Snapdeal and Flipkart for the price and haggle with the shop owner for an acceptable price. This kind of consumer behavior won’t show up in any kind of
Flexibility in customer relationship
Often in the quest to find new customers online, start-ups don’t adequately focus on the existing ones. Today, a problem with start-ups is that they don’t lose existing customers, they just lapse customers as the average half life of an app today is three weeks in India. They start with using it thrice a day but end up deleting it after three weeks. So digital marketing offers you better flexibility in terms customer relationship/loyalty management. For example, as a Citibank card customer around 20 years back, there would be booklets and pamphlets you would get through mailers, but today all that can be done digitally.
This article first appeared in the Indian edition of Entrepreneur magazine (April 2016 Issue).