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Marketing with minimal resources for startups

September 1, 2020

Marketing refers to activities a company undertakes to promote the buying or selling of a product or service. Hence, a company can be a big Multi National Company (MNC) or a startup, it is inevitable that some level of marketing will be done at different stages of the business. The main difference is that for founders of startups, you have to constantly keep an eye on monetary budget, yet there is an imminent need to build your brand from ground up. Therefore, I would like to share how founders and marketing teams in startups can execute marketing efforts effectively and efficiently, even with the thinnest marketing budget.

These are some of the common questions that founders or marketing leads of startups have:

  • With the ever evolving technology out there, should I embark my marketing activities on all channels and platforms?
  • At this stage of my venture, should I change my marketing strategy as compared to earlier stages?
  • Should I bring in more marketing headcount, or outsource to an agency?

Honestly, there are myriad factors when it comes to answering all the questions above. Firstly, I do not recommend hiring a marketing agency, especially those startups that are too early stage. As approximately 15% to 30% of the marketing budget will be used for agency fees, optimization of your marketing campaigns will usually kick in only after a significant period of time (even though on the positive side, you need not do the optimization yourself). Therefore, while marketing agencies will definitely add value in the mid to long term, it may not be the most suitable for startups that have a thin marketing budget. Internally, you should identify and focus on strategic areas that gives a bigger bang for buck, by approaching and utilizing different channels and platforms on your own.

Be laser focused on your target audience

Identifying and targeting your target audience, this is usually the first rule in any marketing publications. However, this “rule” is exceptionally important if you are a start up that has minimal marketing resources. There is no luxury in wasting any resources (time, money, etc) and achieving efficiency is key! Do not make the mistake of trying to target “everyone”. Instead, identify potential consumers that have existing needs in which when you communicate your value, the conversion to customers will be seamless. Ultimately, that can only be done if you know your audience well and ways to do that well include (but not limited to) having a solid Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that synergizes both marketing and sales, strong data driven decision making culture supported by technology and being emphatic (putting yourself into others’ shoes) towards your target audience.

Be ‘picky”/“choosy” on channels and platforms

Even though it is necessary to do A/B testings to identifying the best campaigns that your target audience is responding most effectively to, do not run too many campaigns, on too many channels simultaneously. Focus on just one/two effective channels and marketing messages, and most importantly, on achieving the defined conversion performance.

Additionally, there is a real temptation to embark on any and every social media platforms out there, because, they are “free” to use, so why not? Ideally, to really optimize the performance of marketing efforts, the magic number is to embark on not more than 3 platforms. Do your due diligence, and relating back to my first initial point, choose and focus your marketing activities on the platforms that target audience is on which presents a higher priority to you.

As social media platforms evolve, it is easier to achieve organic awareness as you and your company can strategically “tag” and therefore tap on relevant networks to push your brand and messaging out. As similar/lookalike entities in social platforms are usually connected in an intricate web of networks, developing content that leverages on the preferred algorithm of these platforms can bring about tremendous performance, even if you have minimal marketing resources.

Don’t neglect branding

Branding is often disregarded and considered as an unimportant practice by startups. On the contrary, branding allows you to introduce your company, by allowing you to express who you are, your brand purpose and therefore, presenting the perfect chance to showcase a “personality” that your target audience and stakeholders can relate to and support. Even with minimal marketing resources, your company can establish itself with a series of well planned brand guidelines and aids, which will help set yourself apart from all the competition out there, including against the bigger and more established incumbents.

When your brand has a “personality”, your target audience is more likely to feel a connection with you which in turns increase the chance that they will do business with you. It enables you to appear more trustworthy and promotes feelings of reliability and goodwill. Do remember that for the most important metric — sales, the products and services that sell are more often than not, brands that consumers can recall, relate and trust most easily.

Earned Media (PR)

Earned Media/PR acts like a bridge between your brand and your target audience — helps you make your communications heard and build thought leadership for your brand in the industry. Unlike most ways of marketing, you do not have complete control over what is written about you — dependent in a small way on the relationship that you share with the journalists and editors from media publications. More significantly, the way your target audience reacts to earned media is very different as compared to when they engage with your ads. Positive earned media brings about tremendous credibility that no other marketing means can bring.

Earning media may sound like something daunting (and even scary due to the lack of control), however, it is something that you can definitely rely on yourself and it is not-a-must to employ a PR agency to execute this strategy on your behalf, especially if you have minimal marketing resources. Even before there is a story to pitch, start to build and develop relationships with journalists and editors, especially those who are covering stories in your sector/industry. Introduce yourself and your company way in advance, so that journalists will have the confidence and comfort to pick up your stories in time to come. When you know that you have a story for the media, use informal chat platforms to give a heads up to your media contacts before officially sending it to them via email, together with the important media instructions, such as embargoes. As startups, do note that a healthy accumulation of positive earned media is important when it comes to investing and fundraising.

It is true that most startups have to operate in a lean way, however you should not be lean for the sake of being lean. Startups should not be afraid to take risks and make mistakes along the way to optimizing their marketing strategy — eventually, you will find an approach that works for your company. Startups must experiment and pivot agilely to create new revenue opportunities and who knows, your next customer might just be a ‘like’ or ‘tweet’ away.

Recommended reads:

Meet the investor: Priya Banerjee

In Search of the Overlooked Entrepreneur — Raj Ganguly, Co-founder and Managing Partner, B Capital Group

The Last Dance: A Three-Pointer in Leadership — Menka Sajnani, Head of Investor Relations (Asia & Middle East), B Capital Group

As We Seek Certainty in Uncertain Times, B Capital Gives Back — Karen Appleton Page, General Partner, B Capital Group

B Capital Group is a global firm specializing in equity investing in venture and growth-stage companies that have achieved traction with customers. Through our extensive global network and exclusive partnership with The Boston Consulting Group, B Capital helps high growth startups navigate business challenges, raise capital and attract talented leadership at key points of their journeys to scale. With offices in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles and Singapore, B Capital believes innovation can come from anywhere. Our unique multinational presence and deep industry knowledge have enabled us to build a portfolio of startups in Enterprise application software, Infrastructure, Security, AI/ML, Fintech and Insurtech, and HealthcareTech and Bio IT that are transforming large traditional industries across borders and geographies.

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