The DOs & Donts of Startup Marketing

One of the major problems identified in startups in India especially, is in the marketing part. More than 90% of the startups in India fail in the first 5 years itself out of which at least 30% have described their reasons as marketing, either high cost per customer acquisition or a burnout of cash on useless advertising. Marketing your startup is one of the most important step which would and has to take away a lot of the founder’s time.

With our four years of experience in the marketing industry so far, we’ve prepared a holistic approach to the  marketing of startups and have come up with a few Dos & Don’ts that would certainly help you while planning marketing strategies for your startup.

The DOs

  1. Start slow:
    Concentrate only on your product/service and let that do the talking for your brand. If your customers aren’t talking to at least five others about your startup, you’ve to rethink and rework on your product immediately. Be a WhatsApp, not a Wechat, which spent millions in marketing in India, before bowing out of the Indian market. Compared to it, WhatsApp spent only a negligible amount of money, with its customers doing the job for them.
  2. Ignite the Matchstick only:
    Limit your marketing to only getting the initial word out, to the minimum people. Ignite the matchstick and let your product/service be the fuel to spread the fire. This is also the best way to get the right feedback for your startup. Also, your customers would become your best sales people.
    When Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook, he ignited the matchstick by sending an Email across to a few email ids, who then experienced the product and helped to spread it across.
  3. Always add context to your Marketing Campaigns:
    As your startup grows, you would be required to brand yourselves and advertise, definitely to grow faster. But if you want your campaigns to be effective, make them connecting to your target audience. Provide them with a context to feel your brand.
    Tapp Me, a home maintenance service that provides on demand plumbing, carpentry, electrical services etc, had launched in its second city Visakhapatnam. Their target crowd was the housewives at homes, generally who take care of such issues. The team at Alloy decided to ditch the traditional marketing of hoarding or newspaper ads, and innovate a little. We got covers printed with Tapp Me branding on them, clearly explaining it’s advantages. We then distributed these covers in vegetable and grocery stores for free, who were only too happy to use them for their customers.
    Their conversion rate boomed and they saved a lot when compared to hoardings or other print ads.
  4. Blind Marketing:
    If you’re really passionate about your startup, take passion in getting known through your startup. Be a dad who takes pride in being known through his son and not the other way round. Don’t tell people that it’s your startup but keep them guessing instead.
    This way, you would get the honest feedback and at the same time have your own friends talking about it without knowing it’s yours. The best part is that you can initiate a conversation without appearing to be biased at all, and in fact change people’s minds about the startup. You would appear more like a customer, till you announce yourself as the founder later on (which could then add on as a PR story as well). Blind Marketing always works.
  5. The Four Ps:
    One of the most important lessons of Marketing is the four Ps: Product, Price, Place & Promotion. Follow that order, making your product great first, launching it at the right place & the right price. Only after you get the first three Ps right, go for the last one, which also can be limited to basic PR in the initial stages.
    Ultimately make sure that your product at the right place is enough to pull your customers to you. If you’ve to consistently  promote to get in customers, increasing your customer acquisition cost, you’ve to rethink on your product or location or its price.
  6. Adwords/ SEO + Instagram > Facebook
    Ideally, we would suggest you to go with all the online platforms available. But it’s a bootstrapped startup that you’ve just begun with minimal budget, always prefer Instagram over Facebook for social media. The reason is that you get to build a loyal following on Instagram as compared to Facebook, whose page likes are nothing more than just numbers. Plus, Instagram offers you with a variety of ways to connect with your followers, through Stories or Live and so on, which are comparably harder to execute on Facebook.
    Spend money on videos and interesting content like blogs on Facebook & Youtube. Go for Adwords only if you’re sure that sufficient number of people in the particular area you’re targeting, would search for a field that’s similar to yours. If not, Adwords is not at all advisable. You can however use Adwords to run Youtube Ads for interesting content though.
  7. Sell the experience of your product:
    Instead of blind advertising or distributing pamphlets, it would be worthwhile to sell the experience of your product/service to your target audience. Make them feel your product, and hopefully, fall in love with it.
    When Wow Momo! first began their journey, they gave away free Momos to the people who were in the area, to get in the right feedback. More importantly, they built customer relationships with their brand, which resulted in more sales and connect with their customers, something that’s essential in the longer run for your startup.

Marketing makes up the face to your startup. It’s one of the most sensitive part and hence, one must take proper care of the content being put up anywhere and the pros & cons of each marketing campaign undertaken. Here are some Don’ts that we’ve listed down from our own experience.


  1. Never get desperate for attention:
    Don’t pollute your customers sight with your advertisements all around. If your product is great, you don’t need too much of advertising anyhow. Bold advertising or mass advertisements often don’t win you great customers. Your product/service does.
  2. Don’t be over dependent on the power of media & marketing:
    AskMe Bazaar was an e commerce application that had Bollywood’s leading actors Ranbir Kapoor and Kangana Ranaut as their brand ambassadors. They had their advertisements everywhere, on TV, on News, in cricket matches, hoardings, newspapers and literally everywhere. But we all know their fate now.
    The lesson to be learnt is that true marketing cannot be done by anyone except the product itself. Do not waste your money on getting different brand ambassadors. Believe in your own brand and represent your brand by yourself and your product.
  3. Don’t fall for Social Media Numbers.
    Numbers in the digital world mean Nothing.The numbers on social media, including your page likes or post engagements mean very little. Most startups make the mistake of spending huge amounts of money on getting in big numbers.
    Even if the page likes aren’t fake, they would be of no use to you unless they are your exact target audience. A restaurant in Connaught Place wouldn’t generally benefit by spending money to get a follower from Gurgaon.
    Concentrate on building a loyal fanbase, quality over quantity. Increase your organic reach. The more your organic reach on social media, the better it is for your business. The more number of real followers you’ve on Instagram, the better it is for you.
    DO NOT fall for fake page likes or followers anywhere on any social media. They are temporary and also make you pay more to reach your exact target audience.
  4. Remove Redundancy:
    Do not keep repeating similar campaigns too often, even if they have worked once or twice. Repetition of similar campaigns can kill the interest in people and can reduce their engagement with your brand, be it online or offline.
    You’ve to keep updating your content time and again and be thinking out of the box to come up with new content sooner than later!
  5. Don’t get complacent:
    Startup life, especially in Marketing is similar to the maths in elementary. Don’t go for complicated campaigns, stretching it out just for the sake of being different. Don’t force a change in your product/service just to call yourself different. Keep things very simple. The solution always is simple, be it maths or be it marketing. Complex campaigns rarely work.

At least 25% of the thousand Indian startups that fail, have poor marketing as their reason. We believe that the right way to go about your marketing is to take a holistic approach to your marketing campaigns. This means taking into account all the departments from manufacturing, to logistics to marketing under one banner and planning up campaigns that combine these.

A holistic marketing will never see you fail, as you would be taking into account every single department before devising your strategy.

The above points are all mentioned taking a holistic view of startups. You can also check out some of our own campaigns for brands that are considerably new to their locations, at

Please feel free to reach out to us in case of any further queries or requirements at [email protected]