Most start-ups go through a dilemma. Almost everyone has limited resources and still they need to make their presence felt among target customers to create demand for their products or services. But before spending big, it’s in the interest of their businesses to chalk out a proper marketing plan to see what the return on investment (ROI) will be. Not all entrepreneurs are marketing experts, as marketing in itself covers a gamut of various skills. Therefore, it is imperative to understand the nuances of brand building better and see what every penny spent can do for the business.

India is one of the few digital consumer markets which depend largely on conventional marketing media. The amount of money spent on television and radio commercials, print and outdoor media is astounding. E-commerce start-ups typically make an operating margin of around 3 to 5 per cent while spending another 3 to 5 per cent on advertising and marketing.

However, in India, figures reach as high as 14 to 25 per cent for operations and 10 to 18 per cent for marketing. Even then it’s a highly unwise way of functioning.

The start-ups who aggressively want to attract and retain customers without giving a thought about their lifetime value incur huge losses. Some brands mimic other leading brands to build a brand perception by spending a fortune, rather than focusing on usage and quality of the products and services. Marketing strategies, such as providing promotional offers and discounts, should be well calculated before deployment, in terms of lifetime value of individual customers. Business should focus on driving usage and creating a loyal customer base where customers would purchase products or services even when there are no discounts.

Power of social media

Some of the places where it is wise to invest for better reach, sustainability and long-term relevance, instead of exaggerated ego-boosting initiatives, include the following options:

Although social media is not the alpha and omega of marketing, it has become an indispensable part of any good marketing strategy. Most people across the globe stay online for a major part of the day. To grab their attention, businesses use social media platforms along with search engines to reach out to consumers. They collect data on their search and purchase preferences, map their browsing behaviours and display ads that might interest the target audience. This results in popularity, which converts into sale of the products and services. Hence, having a social media presence is imperative in the present market scenario.

Paying a fortune for social media marketing has been a debatable proposition since the arrival of organic marketing strategies. While many relied on creating a buzz through social media platforms through posts and tweets without any marketing costs, most experts agree that paid marketing is necessary to reach the target consumer base, through SEO and AdSense. These tools help businesses display engaging, relevant advertisements on webpages most visited by their target audience. Personalised and curated content goes a long way in helping a brand create a strong presence in the consumer’s mind.

Using the power of multimedia creatively for a strategic selling approach is one of the oldest tricks in the marketing book. Be it a catchy jingle or a funny advertisement, market players often use audio-visual art forms such as comedy, music, dialogues, dramatics and eye-catching visuals to attract consumer attention. Appealing, quirky or fun campaigns can make all the difference to brand appeal. If you’re able to create an impression that the customer is proud to identify with, chances of winning his/her loyalty shoot up immediately.

To create a brand image for a business, hiring a media relations personnel or a publicist is a good idea. Sorting brand specifics helps a business maintain a consistent identity. Hiring a PR agency is a good move in terms of fine-tuning what your brand stands for. PR agencies follow a multi-channel approach to reach out to a wider consumer base through different channels.

Networking pays

Conferences and expos play a major role in augmenting business prospects and creating a brand image in the market. These widely-attended events are especially useful for B2B models where businesses get a chance to meet other similar start-ups for possible commercial transactions and partnerships.

Through these events, start-ups can also take part in knowledge sharing and widen their understanding of subjects such as business models, strategic growth and market dynamics, consumer demand and behaviour. Conferences and expos can also be a platform to showcase the viability of one’s business model to attract investors.

This approach is again more cost-effective than large-scale marketing blitz aimed at fund raising.