Congratulations! Thanks to an excellent business plan, you have got the funds. Now is the time to take that final leap into the big, bad world of marketing! So here is tons of advice from people who have either made it big or are helping others to make it big.
To begin with, what does marketing mean for a start-up or for another entity? It is all about analysis and understanding your customer.
And remember, all promises have to be backed by actual performance, performance of your product, your services, and please note, your after-sales services. There is nothing more to it and nothing less.
The first hurdle to cross is obtaining your first customer, or first set of customers. Listen to Subhas Menon, president and CEO, Subex Systems.
With a loan of Rs. 20,000 from his ex-employer, Menon launched this company in 1992, together with his classmate. Today it is a global-telecom software product company listed on Indian stock exchanges. Says Menon: "Honestly, there is nothing called an ideal marketing strategy. The first step is to identify the potential market and the entry barriers in each market. Then find a geography which might accept a product from a start-up (some developed economies/ industries that rely on high-tech may not do so). This identified market must be addressed in a focused manner by selecting potential customers."
Ganesh Natarajan, chairman of Nasscom's SME forum for the Western Region and Dy Chairman & MD, Zensar Technologies, quips: "A start up should start up only after it has its first anchor customer. This ensures that somebody who believes in the idea has the faith to commit business, before money is spent by the start up in capacity building."
Sudha Kumar, CEO, Prayag Consulting points out that, "It is not only essential to identify specific companies to target, but key people within these companies. The entrepreneur should initiate the process of building a network of contacts, while the product is under development."
"The first customer could be a 'beta' site. The start-up must be inclined to that concept and should offer a value proposition that is attractive to the potential first customer. Some differentiation can be shown by way of technology, support or price," adds Menon.
And if you find yourself pitted against the biggies, should you just run away? Definitely not, you can actually turn tables on them.
Kumar has several tricks up her sleeve to deal with this issue, "One approach could be to choose a niche that is less attractive to larger players. Another, to build a value proposition around personalized attention, nimbleness and agility. An obvious approach is to offer a better price, but this needs to be done judiciously."
In fact, an entrepreneur who is currently trying to acquire his first set of customers has this to say: While it is always tempting to cut your price to gain a foothold, a price cut is a double edged sword. You cannot subsequently raise the price without repositioning the product."
Menon draws on his experience, during the early days when Subex was pitted against MNCs: "MNCs no doubt had an impressive market standing and were able to bundle their products with other offerings, taking full advantage of their size. Subex turned this impediment into an advantage by focusing on customer support - something the bigger rivals found hard to replicate, since the telecom software product space was only a small part of their overall business. Customers found that they could turn to Subex as a focused and specialized business partner."
But a word of caution from Menon, "Do not bite off more than you can chew. Hyped sales talk that cannot be supported by the development team will seriously affect your credibility and future business,"