Every time a startup is in the news for raising capital, expect to see television commercials, generous discounts, and maybe even branding space at the next big cricket match. I quickly do the math in my head to infer their probable marketing spend. And wonder if their cost of acquisition is going to be justified in the long run.
Oye Happy launched its ecommerce portal with a seed funding of INR 30 lakhs. After building the website that would hopefully be the next one stop shop for all your gifting needs, developing the products (behind which stood many, many discarded prototypes), and getting the Happiness Crew and an office together, we were left with close to nothing to spend on marketing. We had to get creative.
We got lucky here because our gifts and experiences are things people want to share on social media. When a client avails of our “puppy retreat” experience, an average of 20 pictures are clicked and instantly shared. A client’s happy account of your brand on Facebook serves much more than a positive review. Connect with online communities and capitalise on its reach. Have potential customers sample, review, and maybe help develop certain aspects of your product. Be part of the conversation with your audience and show you’re listening to what they have to say. The goal is to convert a potential to a customer and then to a brand evangelist.
Make your brand relatable
For Christmas of 2014, we ran a campaign with the local municipal school. The students wrote letters to Santa asking him for presents. We posted these letters on our Facebook page and people from across the country came together to fulfill their wishes. The event was covered by publications as well as news channels. It gave us the leg-up we desperately needed then. Ola’s sending of boats during the Chennai floods, or Lifebuoy’s adoption of a village are more than just marketing stunts. Participating in the community buys you goodwill and makes you relatable. We have run many similar campaigns and fun social events (that included pani puri eating competitions and “selfie marathons” at fitness events) since, and they have all been received very well.
Content still is king
Content marketing is about experimentation. Test timings, the type of posts, the kind of links you’re using, and your choice of words and hashtags. No strategy is set in stone because sharing trends and Facebook’s algorithms will change. But here’s a mantra – a post that gets 1200 shares but has nothing to do with your product is not a successful post. We still dabble in subjects that are not strictly in line with gifting but make sure to plug in our brand somewhere somehow. Facebook insights show you which posts your audience is engaging with the most. Tailor your content to fit the mould without getting repetitive. When the budget for boosts and sponsored content is low, having a high edgerank is crucial. Keeping your audience coming back to your page with fun content should not mean losing sight of your brand. Oreo’s Instagram account is a great example of this.
Walk the extra mile for customer service
A 11-year-old once called us because she wanted to get her parents an anniversary present but did not have enough money. We went ahead and gave her what she wanted and later her impressed parents called to thank us. They are now regular customers and we have been part of many of their happy occasions.
Repeat and referral clients make up 40% of our customer base and we don’t have a formal referral programme yet. A happy customer’s influence reaches far and should never be underestimated. Addressing a customer with a complaint right away is just as important. For an ecommerce portal customer service extends to everything from a smooth checkout process to an intuitive UI. Nobody talks about good customer service because it’s the least they expect. It’s the great experiences they share.
In a year and a half we reached 130 cities in India and we followed a not so secret formula – research, trial and error, and relying on data and instinct. Thanks to social media and the Internet population, having a small marketing budget does not have to correspond to lesser brand reach. A creative marketing team and the willingness to innovate and experiment is all you need.