Sangat Pedas

Marketing tips for Internet startups

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Before I start I need to make some disclaimers first. First, there is no formula for success, if there was everybody who has the formula would be successful which is clearly not the case, Second, I’m no expert, there are thousands of people out there who read way much more about marketing and know all the terms and theories. Reason why I don’t share a lot of knowledge, expertise and experience is because it simply makes me feel somewhat uncomfortable, it seems somewhat pretentious. However, I can consider myself as a serial startup entrepreneur and with every startup I was directly involved on the marketing side. The numerous tests, failures and occasional successes have finally led to my so far most promising startup in which our marketing strategy seems to pay off. Last disclaimer is that this has been definitely a team effort and I’m lucky to work with some smart and creative people.

Anyway, enough with the disclaimers and on to the core. The startup community in Indonesia and especially Jakarta is a fast growing, enthusiastic and passionate community with some promising startups. Often startups are created by geeks, and I mean no disrespect, after all, Mark Zuckerberg might be considered a geek but he also definitely had his share of luck. So for most startups the struggle begins once they’ve launched their platform their startup won’t just take of by itself, it requires marketing, most of the time lots of it. So this in this post I share some of my experiences and opinion in the hope that it will help startup entrepreneurs around the world and especially in Indonesia.

So, you’ve worked your ass off designing, coding and testing for months and finally your webshop is live and you’re hoping to sell a lot of cameras, so how to get your customers? Assuming you have a small to medium budget for marketing my first advice is “stay below the line”. Uuh? What? Yep, typical marketing term, you know, every industry has those terms to make things sound more intelligent. Anyway, marketing instruments are divided basically in two sections: “Below The Line (BTL)” and “Above The Line (ATL)”. Check the diagram I made in which I took the liberty to deviate a little from the official theory by assigning some instruments to TTL (Through The Line Promotion) since the official definition of TTL is that it’s a mix of ATL and BTL.

So basically below the line promotion is one that is aimed at direct sales which results in immediate results which can be measured with cold hard numbers. Everything above the line has to do with mass marketing, creating brand awareness, publicity etc. Results of above the line marketing are really hard to measure and generally ATL needs a lot of repetition and the effect is often more spread over a longer period.

# 1: When spending money stay below the line

When starting a company start with focussing on getting real, paying customers through measurable marketing. Adwords is a perfect place to start since it allows for relatively cheap targeted advertising of which the results can be easily measured, the same goes for email marketing, telemarketing and targeted bannering. Personally I strongly believe in that you should promote your website ONLINE since that’s where you have momentum, that’s where your promotion can lead to an immediate conversion, an immediate sale.

# 2: Start small and tweak & tune

Even if you’re lucky to have a huge marketing budget you’d be wise to start small campaigns in order to save a lot of money and get the most out of your budget. When you start with a small campaign mistakes or wrong strategies won’t cost you a lot of money. Starting small allows you to tweak and tune your ads, landingspages and the conversion process funnel to perfection resulting in the highest conversion rate and lowest cost per conversion. Once you have optimized your campaigns to the max you have reached a point which allows you to fine tune your business model and review your budget. Basically you now know exactly what your ROI will be and you can start upscaling your campaigns, provided the results show that your business model is profitable of course.

# 3: The best branding is a visit to your site

One can have a thousands banners on the Internet, have all newspapers write about you but in the end it’s about the product experience. So in a way below the line advertising just as well qualifies as creating brand awareness but so much more.

# 4: Focus on (a) specific target group(s)

Things get a lot easier and more effective if you manage to define your target group and focus on specific smaller target groups. A platform like Adwords or Yahoo Sponsored Search allow you to really focus on smaller more defined target groups but still a lot of common mistakes are made. Selling cameras and bidding on broad keyword “camera” seems to make sense but it doesn’t. The word camera can be used in all kinds of different contexts and will prove to be too broad to be effective, bidding on a keyword that refers to a specific camera model and letting the click land on the detail page of that exact product will have a much higher ROI. Remember, the more focus, the more specific your target group is the more effective your marketing will be and the less your competition will be.

#5 Traction creates traction

Often people who want to think big underestimate the small things. With every startup I was involved in I preferred to focus on “hard selling”, basically focussing on rather getting one customer than 1000 people seeing a banner or an ad. One satisfied customer is worth gold because this customer will spread the word. If you just bought a camera and everything went smooth as hoped for you will be proud of your camera and the whole sales process and proud people like to share and brag. “Word of Mouth” promotion is in the end the power that will make your company a success, traction creates traction.

#6 Don’t rely solely on Social Media

Social Media is the new buzz word in advertising and has been elevated to some miracle making marketing instrument. In my diagram I’ve defined Social Media as Through The Line marketing because it can be considered as both branding, mass communication as well as hard selling. Nice, but don’t expect that this will be your free ticket to success. Click through rates from your Facebook fan page or your Twitter will prove to be so low that you will need huge amount of like and followers in order to get some noticeable traction. With 5% of your followers per day visiting your site you’ll need 100.000 followers to have 5.000 visits in a day and 5% is really optimistic and the quality of these visits tend to be pretty low.

Now I’m not saying Social Media aren’t important or won’t help you and you should definitely spend time and money on it but there are only a few companies, if any, that were build on Social Media.

#7 Only go above the line when you’re already doing everything below the line

Going above the line without already doing everything below the line will prove to be extremely costly and even more inefficient. Todays newspapers are tomorrows fish wrapping and you can’t expect that people will en-mass visit your site because you have an ad on page 13 in saturdays newspaper, the same will go for TV and radio commercials. Some even say that above the line is “Speech of the past” but I wouldn’t go that far, ATL promotion can have a real boosting effect on BTW promotion. Suppose you run targeted banner campaigns that have a 1.2% CTR (click through rate), doing some ATL promotion will increase brand awareness which in its turn has a positive effect on your CTR. ATL promotion increases brand awareness and authority which contributes to more people responding to your BTW promotion.

#8 Promote your company, not yourself

Too often I see startup entrepreneurs doing a great job in promoting themselves but along the way forgetting that it’s not about them but about their company. Feel free to do keynote speeches, talkshows or participating in panels, being judge or do interviews as long as you realize that will grow your ego but not your company. Better is it to turn it around and always promote your company, once your company becomes successful and famous so will you, (un)fortunately it’s seldom the other way around.

  • Sony AK

    Great tips masterrrr :)