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


Stunning Marketing Campaigns with Zero Budget?

Did you ever ponder on how you could reduce your marketing budget to Zero? Can the Customer Acquisition Cost ever be negative or is it just an ideal scenario?

Here, we look at two mind blowing campaigns that have been amazingly successful and had a zero marketing budget. In fact, they earned money instead of spending it, through their marketing campaign.

Varun Agarwal, Alma Matter:

Varun, a Bangalore based entrepreneur started his venture in 2009, Alma Matter, an online store providing apparel and memorabilia to alumni students from schools and colleges across India.

The company grew at a time when social media ads were non existent and print ads, very expensive. The only way the entrepreneurs could make money was by hustling, by literally becoming their own salesmen and pitching it to people through a lot of B2B marketing.

The problem with B2B marketing, however, is scalability, which requires a lot of human resource and time. Alma Matter needed something that could push their brand into the minds of the young Indians.

That’s when Varun came up with his best selling novel “How I Braved Annu Aunty and Co Founded a Million Dollar Company,” a novel covering his journey to success as a start up founder. The book, through the story, neatly talks about the brand, Alma Matter. While the story caught the fantasy of the young Indian reader, the brand established it’s connection with their minds.

Alma Matter earned it’s place in everyone’s household through the novel.

Years later, Varun again naively promoted Alma Matter when Ted India uploaded the video of his motivational speech at TedX Kerala. The talk again covered his story from a middle class Indian engineering student to the founder of a million dollar company.

Their marketing was about their story. They sold their story more than their stuff to the people, connected emotionally and garnered their mind share. All this, without spending a penny on anything. In fact, Varun Agarwal made money through his best selling novel as well.

Alma Matter simply created a brand and garnered Indian mind share, at Zero Marketing Budget. 

Uber, Visakhapatnam:

Uber, the technology company that revolutionised the transport industry worldwide, began it’s operations in the city of Visakhapatnam, a city in India, in July 2015. It’s main competitor, Ola had been already gained sufficient market share by then, having been present since over a year by then. Uber needed to quickly intersect the market in the city.

Uber Visakhapatnam, along with team Alloy, understood the important role students played in the city. The city’s life revolved around these young people.

Going the creative way, the team came up with an amazing competition named Mad About Marketing, aimed at the student crowd. The two week long event invited students to participate as teams of two or three, with a nominal registration fee.

The teams had to go through three rounds following which the winner was to be selected who was to then win an amazing “Paid Internship” at Uber, which is of tremendous value to any student.

Over the course of two weeks, the participants excitedly took part in the three rounds. The first round involved a lot of hustling where the teams were required to promote Uber and get in sign ups and downloads to the apps. They could pitch in to their family, friends, relatives, neighbours and literally anyone.

The top fifty teams, depending on the number of sign ups garnered by each team, were then selected to round 2, which involved the participants putting in their creative mind into play by doing a lot of social media promotions, by creating short films, ads, songs, memes or even by putting up statuses or profile pictures.

During this time, #UberVizag was trending on Facebook locally in the city. What’s more is that Uber got in three to four months’ worth of sign ups in just a week!

The third round was an interview, post which a winner was awarded the prized internship at Uber.

The event saw a huge participation of over 700 people. When 700 people go around the city, pitching and talking about the same brand, imagine the rippling effect it could create. How much did it cost Uber to get this done? Nothing. The nominal registration fee charged from the participants ensured the logistical expenses if any.

And that’s how Uber overtook Ola in it’s market share with a Zero Marketing Budget campaign.

The most successful companies spend the least in Marketing with the Best results. 

Marketing Dilema: Flipkart Vs D Mart, an analysis

The question that bothers most businesses and startups: What is an ideal marketing campaign for a business and how do we arrive at that?

Here we analyse the answer through two simple and known cases, Flipkart and D Mart, simply because of their starkly different approach to their marketing.

Do you know that an average Indian startup in the e commerce sector like Flipkart, spends about INR 600-700 crores on Advertising every year, which is more than 50% of their annual turnovers too and much higher than their profit share?

On the other hand, we’ve D Mart’s marketing budget is highly negligible when compared to today’s ‘new age’ companies.

Customer Retention Vs Customer Acquisition 

E commerce giants like Flipkart or Snapdeal have an average Customer Acquisition Cost of about INR 1100, despite the fact that an average purchase rate per customer is only about INR 900- INR 1000.

Comparatively, D Mart’s average CAC is just about INR 100 while the average purchase amount falls in the range of INR 500 – 1000. While both the companies fight it out in their highly competitive market, why do their CACs vary so much?

The reason is simple. While Flipkart has concentrated on Customer Acquisition, offering huge one time or festive discounts to tempt a person to make a purchase, D Mart has concentrated on Customer Retention, by offering quality products at a cheaper price than anyone else in the competition consistently.

Essentially, a D Mart customer more often than not sticks to the brand and even gets his near ones to a D Mart store through word of mouth. This seldom happens with Flipkart, where a customer simply makes a choice on the basis of pricing and discounts.

This brings us to our first important rule of Marketing:

A long term successful Marketing Campaign gives more importance to customer retention than to customer acquisition.


It’s important to keep in mind the future of the company while designing a marketing campaign and not just concentrate on increasing the present sales.

Realise that marketing is only to let people know about you. If you have to keep spending money to retain your customers, something’s definitely wrong.

The amounts spent by e commerce companies during festivities, on advertising and then on huge discounts is massive. On the other hand, D Mart only advertises initially in any city to gain visibility. A few print Ads and they are done. Their own customers get them the flow they need.

D Mart’s marketing expenditure over time is a downward curve while their sales is an increasing curve, while in the case of Flipkart, it’s a wave. This means every time Flipkart cuts it’s expenditures, by either not advertising or not offering discounts, it’s sales decrease.

This discussion brings us to another important rule coined by us for Marketing:

Your Marketing Strategy should be such that over time, your expenditure decreases while sales increase, for smooth and gradual scalability. 

Holistic Approach:

To sum it all up, the need of the hour for any business is a holistic approach towards marketing where we take into consideration all parts of the business while designing your promotional campaign, from the procurement of raw material to the distribution to the final sales.

The best example would be D Mart itself. As seen above, D Mart only spends on advertising in the initial phase to gain initial visibility.

The study of their approach begins with the products on sale in D Mart. Clearly, D Mart has stayed away from electronics or jewellery product and has stuck to food and grocery products that are consumed on a daily basis by the consumer. It doesn’t even sell a private label product, which would have given them higher margins, but pose more inventory problems than necessary.

Our next focus is on consumer capacity and demographics. 75% of it’s stores have been opened in existing states and markets, clearly not experimenting with it’s customers.

D Mart then concentrates more on the volume of it’s sales, putting up huge stores and buying the products in bulk, at a much cheaper price than anyone else. It then sells it to the customer at a marginally lesser price than MRP, which is loved by the consumer.

At each step from procurement to sales, they have planned up everything carefully to pull in the customer, a completely holistic approach.
If you look closely, it’s all marketing in the end.

How has it paid off? Well, while buzz is so strong around India’s e-commerce industry and companies like Flipkart, the best-performing IPO in recent corporate history is a brick-and-mortar supermarket.

The Best Marketing Doesn’t Feel Like Marketing.

Why Marketing?

The word marketing has a vivid range of approach to different sectors in society. For a beginner marketing means supplying the products on demand of the customer and it may seem to you that it is refers to some business and why should we continue reading it? Well but the terms seems to be inimitable but every human on a daily basis shows his marketing strategies to achieve his necessities. Well in India common man may not get a chance to use his marketing skills because of his day to day running life but people with a capability to analyse the scenario of the society with some ,out of the box ideas can be comfortably called as marketing analyst.

As the availability of education has been rapidly increasing in our country, the necessary for every individual to acquire job also has become very important. But due to the requirements in market of our country there are only 12% of the degree holders who are getting jobs for their capabilities while few tend to compromise to the situation and to the job which they are entitled to do. Now are the class of people who are innovative and have the passion of earning money, who are now choosing start-ups in the pretext of developing the county and probably themselves. While a whole lot of these start-ups have tasted success as well as money and are doing well initially but strive to reach their destinations when they dream big. Which is where a Marketing  Analyst is required, who studies the output of the company and gives the required consultation for their development ,it may be in terms of higher quantity or quality of the products depending upon the scenario of the market presuming the consulate personal is well experienced.

The preliminary idea of marketing was established long back even before the development of machines, but the main aim then was to increase the productivity and need the demands of the customer as there were only limited firms for a required products .As the developments of machines and increasing of profits there established a monotony i.e.,  increasing in firms which produce same product under different labels for which again a strategy was implemented stating high quality and low cost which formed the basis for the quote of the market ‘supply and demand’. Later marketing changed its phases and mainly emphasised on adapting several unique selling techniques for the sales of their goods, by considering the feedback from the customers and developing the goods depending on the customer requirements.

For any product to be sold in the present market there is the need for analysing forehand only certain elements , which include detail analysis of the product, negotiable price, perfect location for selling goods  and the required hype or offers created for launching the product. The above mentioned aspects play a vital role in genre of marketing a particular product. Study of marketing doesn’t involve any syllabus or curriculum but an analytical case study would help any individual to attain the pinnacle in this field.

Mourya Krishna Pamarthi

A “Must” Today

Most of the students have complaints about their jobs since their employer’s contempt their lack of experience. So we try to help and impress the students about how paramount it is to have at least one or several internships. Students also have queries and questions regarding the criteria how-can-i-get-experience-as-soon-as-I-complete-my-graduation. But what they fail to understand is that employers who look for experience during placements expect some or the other professional activity in the field of their concern, suitable according to the job. Call it mind tricks but the employers are smart, isn’t that the reason why they’re employers after all?

Internships are a proven way to gain relevant knowledge, skills and experience while establishing important connections in the field. It is about having to get your feet wet and find out if a specific field is something you could see yourself doing as a full-time job. It is also about learning the professional way of working that brings in the sense of interest to the employer since he would always look for someone who has an experience. With internships, there are also quite a number of chances of being selected when compared to someone with no experience and no knowledge about the work. Employers want new – grad experience to come from internships. If you have completed internships, you will clearly have an edge over your classmates who haven’t.

They say that an internship is just one of those things you are supposed to have before employers will even consider looking at your profile. Why worry when you already know the solution to crack a job? At least one internship can make your profile look attractive enough for the employer to look at it. This makes internship a must. Internships are believed to be an avenue to a job and not only making the candidate’s profile look more attractive

The general discussion during the Importance of internships is the pay package. Yes, it is true that you may get paid more if you have done one or more internships. Let’s be honest, isn’t that something we are all looking for?

It helps you in testing your career paths before graduating and get stuck up in a field that’s not for you. There are chances that you might come to know by interning in your planned career field that it’s not what you thought it would be like. A niche field is a best fit for you than any other. For instance, you are a sales major, and you complete an internship in sales. You come to know that you hate it. Before letting go of sales , you do an internship in marketing and find out its perfect for you. Isn’t it better to figure out all this before graduating and getting stuck up with something you don’t like? You can basically test out your career plans and decide your field by interning.

Internship is also important for learning the valuable information of the major fields that you choose as a career. It also helps you to grasp how the things you learn in class are shown practically and preparing you to enter into your chosen career. The difference between classroom learning and what you need to know in the real world is discovered.

One of the most important factors of internship is that it helps you develop your skills in abundance. You might be having great interpersonal skills employers look for. Internships help you sharpen your skills by interacting with people on a professional basis. You can get to know a lot of things that you would never have the opportunity to do in the classroom. It goes on with communication, co-operation, leadership, teams-work and other qualities that employers seek. Internships also help you in boosting up your confidence and help you face the world. It also encourages you in building up work discipline and habits so that it becomes easier for you to adjust in the office atmosphere since you have already experienced it whilst your internship.

It is also useful in building up networks because everyone you meet during an internship is a potential contact for your network in future when you are hunting for jobs closer to graduation time. There are also possibilities of making money through internships. Not all internships are paid, but those internships that do pay can provide decent salaries.

So basically, the whole thought of internship is to provide the opportunities to the students who want to experience the kind of job career they want to work in. Internships provide incredible advantages and is definitely an important to-do in a student’s life. The chances of cracking a job interview gets easier with at least one internship in the resume. So alloy is one of those platforms where you can always get to discover things related to the fields of your interest, about yourself, your capabilities, your passion and learn a lot of things, get to experience the professional mannerism, build up your networks, improvise your skills, gain knowledge and a lot more. Internship is so important in today’s world that, you have to think resourcefully in order to utilise the opportunities around you. Even if you are convinced you can’t do an internship, you still have to think visionary about how you can do it. It’s that important.

– Harshita Vaswani