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August - 2009 - issue > Entrepreneur 101
Marketing Innovation in the New World
Gunjan Sinha
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
As we enter this new era of slow growth and tight budgets it has become more critical for companies to devise creative marketing techniques that beat the traditional methods of influencing, attracting, and reaching prospective customers. In Silicon Valley, product innovation has always been the cornerstone of business success; but now, more than ever, we need both great product innovation and intelligent marketing strategies that lead to 10:1 leverage for your sales efforts. Marketing has to be challenged with out-of-the-box strategies, which lead to unfair competitive advantage for the business. Here are some techniques that I have seen deployed successfully by various startups and businesses with superb creativity and efficiency. Thus marketing becomes a true competitive advantage, moving forward.

Stop Chasing your Customers
Traditional marketing teaches you to think about pursuing your prospects and customers, so that you can sell them your stuff. This is equally true for the b-to-b or b-to-c world. In either case, such techniques are often expensive and do not give you any unfair advantage or leverage. Rather, a revolutionary way of thinking would be to challenge the traditional approach and look for marketing strategies where you will have the prospects chasing you instead. Is that too good to be true? Well, a number of companies are coming up with creative game plans to accomplish just that.

At MetricStream, we built an independent portal called ComplianceOnline.com, which now attracts all the top target professionals from around the world using Web 2.0 techniques and allows MetricStream to mine those relationships for sales and marketing leads for its enterprise software business. It also helps generate revenues and profits, allowing the marketing department to become a 'revenue' center. In short, ComplianceOnline facilitates MetricStream to generate marketing leads at zero cost, now that the portal is self funding and profitable.

Blend Offline and Online Media

Online media is powerful – Facebook apps, Twitter campaigns, search engine optimization, Web conversion techniques, and email marketing, all provide a low cost way to reach your prospective customers in an efficient manner. However, many marketers overlook the synergies that a well blended online and offline marketing model might deliver. Can you effectively tie in your online campaigns to offline marketing programs? By doing so, you can greatly amplify your marketing efforts. This helps your prospects to get hooked on to your messages and value proposition through a truly integrated marketing approach. A good example comes to me right here at SiliconIndia, where we have launched a series of powerful industry events like StartupCity Conference (for startups, entrepreneurs, and VCs), Women 2.0 (for women professionals and execs), and Digital Media Conference (for advertisers and marketers). These events generate revenues and contribute to the business model for sure; but more interestingly, they create a brand persona and leverage for greater online adoption of the SiliconIndia.com website. SiliconIndia has moved up from being a Top 50,000 website to a Top 2,000 website (as ranked by Alexa) in less than a year. An amazing growth of 2,500 percent, achieved through the creative technique of blending offline and online channels in a creative marketing strategy.

Stop PR and Become Newsworthy

Traditionally, a number of startups spend a lot of money on conventional PR approaches, hiring a PR firm and then chasing the press to write about them. While the publicity is good, in many situations, there is not enough budget to sustain such marketing activities.

A better way to look at the marketing opportunity here is to ask how you can become more newsworthy. Is there an angle at which the media can be made to chase you for news and insights, rather than you chasing them to promote your offerings?

For example, Cisco has now embarked on a well known 'Pass the Ball' (www.passtheball.com) campaign for social good. The idea is to help people collaborate on doing social good through the campaign. In essence, this campaign is conceived to showcase WebEx (a division of Cisco) and the value of collaboration. But, by taking a 'social good' angle, WebEx/Cisco is now able to attract media, which is looking at how people collaborate for social good and social causes. The campaign itself is making Cisco more newsworthy. It also adds a glitter to Cisco and has a positive influence on its customers, helping it establish a powerful brand. A number of companies have jumped on the 'green' bandwagon to achieve the same. However, the key in making yourself newsworthy is not to have an also ran 'green washing' campaign, but to look for distinct angles, where your marketing campaign truly creates an impact and newsworthiness for your venture.

Influence the Influencers

In a tight marketing environment, it becomes even more important to stop chasing the masses, but focusing more on influencing the influencers. If you do this well, these influencers will promote your products and services and bring the masses to your business. This holds true for both b-to-b and b-to-c environments.

Regalix.com, a leading global marketing agency in whose board I sit, has created a well organized methodology to attract the influencers who can then help them get to the VP of marketing and other senior executives, who are their target customers. Regalix is creating a 'specialized' network of these marketing experts, who are their target customers the VP of marketing looks up to. Instead of taking the traditional route of cold calling on the marketing execs through inside sales, Regalix is spending its time with the marketing influencers. It dramatically lowers their customer acquisition costs, and also the marketing execs more often are beginning to see Regalix as a true thought leader, through the emergence of this powerful panel of experts.

Influencing the influencers is an old and proven concept, though in the current economy it becomes even more important that companies attach higher weightage to this technique. It offers far greater and sustainable market leverage for the company.

My idea here in this article is not to give a long laundry list of marketing techniques, but to pick a few critical ones. Also I provoke you in to thinking about how you should revisit your own marketing plans for your current or next promising startup or product launch. Please feel free to send me your thoughts and case studies, where you are indeed seeing creative marketing genius in action – I would love to learn from those examples.
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