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Ag Voice:The exhilarating experience in startups called marketing! :Seal

Marketing plays a role like no other in the startup community. After the product team, if any other department is critical within the company, it is marketing. Many a times, it’s the reason behind the make or break of the startups’ future with its consumers. The chaotic, impulsive and aggressive environment within a new company can be anything from exciting, to a hair wrenching experience for the marketing department. But eventually, quite rewarding!

The dynamics however do change slightly compared to a well-established set up. The core focus of any marketing initiative or plan is to create a brand out of the property in possession. Though this needs care and nurturing like a new born baby. Working on instincts probably calls for quicker action than research. And rearing this little one through the challenges of unforeseen circumstances while adapting to changes in prevalent situations, requires marketing to play the dual role of a mother and father simultaneously. 

Most often, the question is always how much a startup should invest in marketing? Let me tell you, no one has figured it quite yet. For one, most startups are offering new products/ services  that may or may not be need based. The approaches to each of these companies vary in respect to the geographies and demographics they are catering to. And secondly, the founders who come from different backgrounds and schools of thought, differ in their opinion about the necessity for heavy marketing investment at an early stage. How much of the raised funds should go into the marketing plan, whether to go for an aggressive high-decibel push or maintain a low profile with a tactical strategy in place, are questions that call for serious deliberation. Sometimes, it’s smarter to be Sehwag and other times, doing a Dravid on the field can take one a long way. 

Nevertheless, there’s no arguing that marketing is crucial right from day one, simply because these companies have to push their neck above the water levels and fight it out with other new fishes in the sea as well as old biggies who are swimming with open jaws.

When a new service is introduced in the market coupled with a new brand name, the challenge of marketing is primarily to educate as well as create awareness. Strategies and action plans need heavy brainstorming and execution demands a high risk-high result approach wherein tractions are measured consistently and conversion rate optimization is effective.

Being a startup, there are no pre-conceived notions or expectations from consumers. This gives every company the flexibility and fair opportunity to innovate while engaging with their audience. A good balanced mix of online, offline, social, digital, PR and guerilla marketing can create the noise to stand out amongst well established companies who have the resources to silence those around. A key role here is played by the workforce of the company who are the evangelists and ambassadors in the initial months. Making sure the employees understand the core values of the company and are in sync with the larger vision will convert them into your marketing advocates, and better than any form of media spends.

Startups also have the chance to pick up where bigger companies have disconnected with the consumer. All they have to do is listen very hard. Listen to feedback from customers on the product, the service, the marketing, the spoken needs and the unspoken needs. That’s the cue for any marketing team to construct a successful campaign.

Yet again most companies work wondrously on the design but ignore consumer engagement. The meaning of consumer engagement is more profound than what is understood generally. Engagement is the key. Involvement in the mind, in conversation, experience or simply recall, the consumer must ‘feel’ the brand. Anything less than that is just static. Much like having an uninteresting Biryani at a fancy Mughlai restaurant, that leaves no desire for the subjected individual to review, recommend or revisit! An experience that’s forgotten as soon as the customer has stepped out of the restaurant. Nothing could be more fatal than that for a brand. 

Most often, people presume marketing a well-established brand is easier than a working for a startup. Well both have its own advantages and disadvantages and neither is easier than the other, is a lesson from personal experience. But, ask any marketing executive, one thing for sure, the euphoria of creating a brand out of a product in a startup company is like no other!

About the Writer - Pratik Seal, CMO at Housing, joined the popular start-up from Star TV, where he was the Channel Business Head for Star Utsav. With over 16 years of experience in Marketing, Brand Building and Business Leadership, his passion lies in creating start-up brands, and furthering challenger brands.  His prior assignments have included creating the Micromax brand from scratch and propelling it to the leader board in the global telecom space; and Life OK - the Hindi GEC channel. He has also worked on the Samsung and Vodafone brands as well. Prior to that, he had stints in established advertising and media agencies - Lowe and FCB Ulka. During this time, the most notable clients he worked for were Compaq, Whirlpool, LG and Maruti, among several others.

When Pratik is not busy having a blast at work, he likes to read and watch movies. He also loves dogs and has 3 canine sons!

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