Target a smaller customer group -- fewer cities and right channels
As an early stage digital startup, it is very easy to start focusing on getting customers from across India for your product. Yes, it allows you to aim for a larger target group, but you end up spending a huge amount without commensurate conversions. It is important to know your 'one customer' and plan to target them accordingly. In the case of UpGrad, we went ahead with focusing on three Tier 1 cities for our digital marketing initiative with a small marketing budget. We got a very strong response to our marketing campaign. We deployed a small amount on sites (Yourstory, NextBigWhat etc.) that folks interested in entrepreneurship frequent. With that limited marketing budget, we were able to reach out to our narrow target segment multiple times. It is important for an early stage startup to know the right marketing channel and focus on it rather than going after multiple channels.
Online marketing is not everything
For a lot of entrepreneurs, digital marketing is always the first thing that comes to mind. However, for the first 100 customers it is important to leverage offline marketing significantly. When we were launching Startup with UpGrad, we participated in a number of events across our selected three cities. The reception that we got in these offline events helped us create a strong positioning for the brand UpGrad in terms of credibility. In these events, we got a chance to talk to potential customers that helped shape our product and fine-tune our positioning. In the early stage, as a founder it is important to go out and meet potential customers and get first hand feedback on their expectations, and offline events are great avenues for that.
Don't let anything stop you from thinking big
When we were conceptualising Startup with UpGrad, we wanted to create a strong positioning for our program. The idea came up in one of our weekly meetings, when a team member asked, "Why don't we interview India's leading entrepreneurs and get them to share their experiences for our program participants?" Initially the idea was laughed away, but we all realised that it did sound like an interesting proposition. We decided we will go ahead with this approach, and reached out to 30-plus first generation tech-entrepreneurs -- from Kunal Bahl of Snapdeal to Deep Kalra of MakeMyTrip, Bhavish Aggarwal of Ola and VSS Mani of JustDial. Most of them responded enthusiastically and we interviewed them for their insights. These interviews and experiences that we offered as a part of the program helped us create a strong positioning for the brand -- and that became a strong marketing message for the program. So when you are starting up, any crazy idea could lead you to a successful launch, and thus do not shy away from thinking bold.
Mayank Kumar is co-Founder & MD of UpGrad, an online education platform for working professionals