If I say “the startup scene in India has taken off in a big way”, it’s probably the biggest understatement of this year! Startups are sprouting from every corner of this country fueled by big success stories. An eager online and print media are doing their best to fan the flames of entrepreneurship. That’s why India has now the third largest base of Startups in the world.
The glamour of starting a company masks a truly challenging task that every brave entrepreneur will confront and that is “how do you market your product idea in a highly competitive marketplace?”. If you are bootstrapping your company and have limited or no seed funding to rely on, you have even more challenges to deal with.
Assuming you have done the basics right, namely, identified a gap in the market that you can address or tap a unmet need and your target market has the required scale to fuel rapid growth for your product, the million Dollar question is how do you market your product or idea without spending money!
Let me narrate my own entrepreneurial journey. I started Jodi Logik in September 2015 with my own money. Till end of February 2016, Jodi Logik was a bootstrapped company and only recently a couple of individuals chose to invest to push my idea to the next level. For over 6-months, I was on my own but managed to move things along in terms of marketing without spending a single Rupee. Let me share 3 lessons I have learnt in my 6-month journey in terms of driving product marketing without spending money.
One of the easiest thing an entrepreneur can do is to help others and let good karma pay you back! Let me explain this idea. Let’s say you have an idea to sell mangoes online. You can just set up an ecommerce site for your mangoes. However in order to attract customers, you will need to spend a lot of money advertising your site through the internet or traditional media outlets. To further compound the problem, you will have to deal with other sites selling mangoes! You will have to outspend your competition even if you are convinced that your mangoes are better than that of your competition!
There is a simple way to get your name out without burning cash.
People are looking for answers and that’s one of the reasons Google exists. As an entrepreneur selling mangoes, all you have to do is to find and answer questions people have about mangoes!
The first thing an entrepreneur should do to get started with product marketing is to seek questions that your target customers have about your product or product category and make sure you make a genuine effort to provide the best answer possible.
Here is an example of what I did. The target audience for my company include young Indians who are single. Jodi Logik offers an online solution to create a biodata for marriage and hence my area of interest was to answer questions from single Indians about marriages, arranged marriages, love marriages, dating and relationships.
So here is what I did. I was already a member of Quora and it has millions of users and a lot of them are young Indians. I quickly figured out that there were plenty of questions on the topics that fall squarely in my product category and the quality of answers for many of the questions that I consider as important were below par. I decided to invest my time in answering as many questions as I can on Quora and in 6-months, the number of views for my answers have grown significantly as seen below.
When you answer questions on Q&A sites like Quora, Yahoo Answers or in Discussion Forums, make sure you follow these guidelines:
Here is a simple thing you can do on Quora. Create a headline that includes your brand! Every time you answer a question, you give your brand some free publicity and potential traffic!
An added bonus in answering questions is that you become very aware of your target customer’s need and expectations from the product category you are interested in and this feeds directly into your product road-map!
If you are selling a B2B product, LinkedIn and Industry forums / sites are a great place to demonstrate your competence and showcase your unique take on the subject matter.
Google is a great leveler! It provides anyone (with access to the Internet of course) the same information on any topic and this is a boon for bootstrapped entrepreneurs. All you have to do is to create great content that people would love to read and share and see traffic to your site grow organically!
While I am still in the early days of launching a company, I decided to focus on creating great content in addition to a great product. I shared the content I created in two ways:
Guess how much I spent to do both? A big, fat zero. But, it’s not easy. Here are the challenges I overcame to create awesome content:
Luckily, I was good at a few things that really helped me:
The reason I listed the challenges and my skillset above is that every entrepreneur is different. Some are good at churning out content and some are good at churning out code. But there is one key trait every successful entrepreneur has – i.e. to craft and sell stories! This is a skill that every entrepreneur should develop and improve upon. Irrespective of your own skills, here are some free tools and resources I leveraged to churn out great content:
Recently, I published a post on The TechPanda listing 11 free tools that every bootstrapped entrepreneur should use.
In summary, it doesn’t cost you anything to create great content as long as you are willing to put in the effort. At least in the beginning, great content is one of the primary requirements to build traffic to your website and you can do it free of cost.
While it is true that great content on your website can drive traffic, it’s not that simple. For a while, I was under the impression that churning out great content will get me noticed on Google. Boy! I was wrong. I had great content going up on my blog page every day of the week but traffic was just trickling in and the expected take off never really happened. There is nothing more demotivating than to see your effort are not producing the results you expected.
The reason is simple. Even great content requires a vehicle to be delivered to your target audience. Let me explain a few lessons I learnt on the topic of getting the word out about your content or product.
I am already seeing an uptick in traffic to my site. Check out the 6-month site traffic data for Jodi Logik here. Notice how increased focus on promotion in the last three months is boosting the numbers. For a first-time entrepreneur like me, seeing the steady uptick in traffic to my product with no external assistance is encouraging.
In summary, the three lessons I have learnt in the last 6-months has given me greater appreciation of the fact that the Internet is a great leveler! You don’t have to be a marketing wiz kid nor do you need an army of digital marketing experts to get your brand off the ground. If you are willing to put in the time and effort, you can certainly kick start your marketing campaign for your Startup at no cost! Of course, I have provided only high-level information but will be glad to share in-depth insights. I look forward to your comments
Guest Post by Srinivas Krishnaswamy, Jodi Logik