September - 2008 - issue > Entrepreneur 101
Marketing from the Trenches
Gunjan Sinha
Monday, September 1, 2008
Entrepreneurs and technology leaders these days are expected to go beyond their domain of just building a great product, but are challenged to market them as well. VCs fund ideas and products that can ultimately see wide scale market adoption. So, how does an entrepreneur at least get started to build a framework for marketing success. In this article, I want to lay out few key steps to successful marketing.

Step 1: Creativity
Smart marketers are highly creative people. These individuals know how to think "outside-in" (not "inside-out") and know how to think outside-the-proverbial-box to create strategies that are highly creative and are able to promote their idea or product in ways that competitors are not able to mimic or rival. Their marketing creativity is incessant, and hence they keep setting new milestones of creativity for others to catch up, and they keep changing the game. To bring this to life, a smart entrepreneur will be creative enough to position their product or technology in a way that other products in the market are not able to replicate. For example, if one is trying to enter a crowded market of consumer media services in India, he or she has to look for a unique positioning so that it is easily distinguished from other offerings in the marketplace. So, if you are planning to come up with a new ‘newspaper’ service, for India, you have to develop a new twist on news journalism which presents news and editorial in a way that other competing newspapers cannot mimic. If they tried to morph to your strategy, they would be forced to abandon their current focus and strategy, and therefore run the risk of loosing their existing franchise. So, perhaps, you create a newspaper service for people who are frequent business travelers, so other newspapers that may currently have single metro focus, are not able to compete with your multi-metro business traveler focus. This example simply illustrates the point that your market positioning has to be such that others are not able to mimic.

Step 2: Strong Research and Analytics
Good marketers are diligent students of markets and trends. They are religious about analyzing facts and data, and would not just go after vague instincts and opinions. They spend lots of time understanding how consumers and businesses behave? and what motivates and who influences their buyers? They try and study how markets evolve? A good way to start your research is to use the web and pay attention to news and opinions on areas of your interest. I certainly recommend that you spend some time every week to better understand the world around you, as that will help you create the right marketing strategies and distinguish in your marketing execution. For example, currently in India, as the economic growth rates are slowing down, good marketers are trying to understand what are the causes and effects of this slowdown, and how might that change consumer or business buying behavior? Data driven research and analysis is the cornerstone of marketing success.
Step 3: Leveraging the World of Digital Marketing
In this world of Internet, digital marketing techniques are gaining strong adoption, because consumers and businesses are rapidly migrating to digital and interactive media. The traditional media of print, billboards, television, and radio are being augmented by interactive and digital media of web 2.0, mobile marketing and interactive videos. We truly are converging towards a digital media, where you can reach your audience through superior online marketing techniques. I urge entrepreneurs and managers from all fields to at least familiarize themselves with the power of search engine marketing, social and conversational marketing, mobile promotions through text/SMS, power of facebook/opensocial apps, youtube/video marketing, blog marketing and webinar events. Being well versed in the techniques of online and digital marketing will help you figure out the best way to execute your marketing plans, capture user and buyer attention at the lowest possible cost, and gain market share over competing choices. For tech savvy professionals, this world of digital marketing should be a natural extension of skills. I urge you all to at least know the concepts and the power of digital marketing and how it might help change the future of marketing.

Step 4: Razor Sharp Targeting Good marketers know the importance of targeting. How does one pick the right target segment to go after? Going back to my earlier example of the newspaper industry, one could go after all the consumers or professionals who are potential newspaper buyers. But, if you focus your target on "business travelers", it helps targeting your marketing focus with razor sharpness. Now, you could target promoting your newly launched newspaper at airports, on flights and in hotel rooms. It helps narrow how you have to promote and sell your newspaper. Once you conquer your initial target segment, it certainly can open doors to other segments in the future. The mark of a good marketer is that they have the discipline of staying focused on their target segment; they resist temptation of being all things to all people.

Step 5: Rapid Experimentation and Refinement
Marketing requires you to rapidly establish marketing hypothesis, test those hypothesis, and if proven wrong, try new ones. Good marketers are bold enough to try out and either prove or disprove their marketing hypothesis. They are very quick to learn from the market feedback. Once they find a winning hypothesis, they would double up and put more resources to replicate the success behind their winning marketing hypothesis. For example, if you try to promote your product through online advertising or webinars or through telephone cold calling, and only the webinar channel seem to be working most effectively for you, then you will have to really put a strong focus on executing behind the webinar channel, while in parallel, you may look for new channels of marketing. This whole process of rapid marketing experimentation and finding the winning marketing ideas are the hallmarks of a strong marketer. Through practice and perseverance, you can start developing some instincts in this area.

Step 6: Strong Communication Skills
Most marketing professionals are strong communicators. Even if you have not focused on your communication skills till date, I would urge you all to start developing your written and verbal communication skills. Many of us with strong technical backgrounds, do not pay attention to our communication skills. For example, starting a blog here at SiliconIndia, would be a great idea to help you communicate and promote your ideas and thoughts, there by improving your communication skills. Marketing is about presenting reality in the best form; therefore creating an aura of perception that makes the product and company look bigger and more attractive to the buyers. We all know the genius of iPhones and how Steve Jobs has played his marketing charm in packaging and positioning this product. Step 7: Marketing without spending Good marketers challenge themselves and their creativity to come up with ideas that serve them most efficiently – where they don’t have to spend a lot of money to achieve their marketing goals. It is critical that one operates under tight spending limits and budgets so that it does test the power of your creativity. It forces the marketers to look for alternative ways to reach their users and buyers, and not take the expensive route. Good marketers are able to leverage their marketing spend disproportionately and create unfair advantages for themselves. They typically are not the ones who are paying for expensive advertising and marketing campaigns. Smart marketers are looking at creative techniques to create “ground swell” of demand through low cost techniques and are consistently evaluating techniques of viral marketing where the product propagates all by itself.
Hope this article has at least got you thinking about the world of marketing. You don’t need an MBA degree or a title in marketing. For individuals with enough courage and curiosity, this art of marketing can be developed through practice. So, it will be nice to see Indian professionals rise not just as strong technologists, but also as strong marketers who know what it takes to seize the market opportunities ahead.

The author is the Chairman of SiliconIndia.com and MetricStream. An internet pioneer, he was the co-founder and President of WhoWhere? Inc., a Internet directory services company acquired by Lycos in 1998 as well as eGain, an online customer service company. Sinha can be reached at gunjan@metricstream.com
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