Cognizant of how rapidly the startup ecosystem is evolving, here are top seven tips for FMCG startups by Ved Agarwal -- Head of Marketing, True Elements
These are aggregated learning from his stints at Amazon, Marico, ITC, Mondelez
From unit economics to brand trustworthiness -- here are the tips which can be the starting points helping brands build and/or make a difference
What large organizations can learn from startups has been written about at large. In fact, in the context of marketing x digital-first brands, some dominant themes would be around. They are increased speed-to-market, aspirational agility, customer hyper-centric product innovation, driving UGC to drive relatability, leveraging content marketing to drive credibility, owing your customer to maximise LTV & minimise CAC, practising the fail-fast approach, amongst others.
These were not hearsay to me, rather they aspired learnings talked about with keen intent at my previous workplaces, whether Amazon or Marico or ITC or Mondelez, all revered market and thought leaders.
Now, having moved to True Elements, a startup where ‘hustle’ is the middle name we all carry proudly, I am writing from the other side on key tenets (learnt at my previous organizations) that are holding me in good stead here.
Put Unit Economics On A Pedestal
Seemingly irrational cash burn in the context of startups is not an unheard conversation. While it might have its merit, it’s very critical to look at unit economics and growth goals simultaneously from the word go. Normally, once the pricing strategy and spending skews are fixed for brands, there is very little flexibility to alter it.
Make Processes & Principles Your Holy Grail
Often given flak for slowing things down, I can’t overemphasise how valuable these can be, even in the context of early-stage startups. Decision making is known to be over-indexed to founders at startups, which can sometimes undermine fair assessment and lead to skewed decision making. Pre-aligning principles, processes, systems and then adhering to them can lead to significant upside, especially when startups scale and decentralize decision making.
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Build Trust – Keep Your Brand’s Promise
While critical across brand sizes, building trust becomes even more important for startups as word-of-mouth plays a higher role in generating initial trials, building credibility, and driving repeats. To the advantage of startups, who usually don’t have big marketing budgets early on, building trust doesn’t require big budgets, it just needs them to honour their promises
Bring Authenticity To The Causes Your Brand Represents
While it’s commonplace for brands to champion purposes with the intent of strengthening their brand perception, consumers can smell if brands are leveraging it merely as a gimmick and don’t live by it in its Truest sense. Don’t make this mistake as it can cause disproportionate harm to your brand
Keep Your Enemies Close
Often discounted in the ‘inward pursuit’ at startups, it’s crucial to understand the competitor brands as much as we understand our own. What do they talk about, what channels do they use, and why do they do what they do? Not only will this give you a head start but also makes it easier to find your own ‘distinct’ path.
You Are As Good As Your Team
Startups are almost always short-staffed and not the most ‘attractive’ employers in their early days. Building an ideal team can be a struggle and be deprioritised for the many other pressing things in addition to the costs they bring. While it’s a tricky one, hiring right before it becomes critical always brings goodness with it. Good talent can make a significant difference to the growth trajectory and in my considered view, pay for itself.
Keep Diversifying Your Portfolio
Staying hyper customer-centric, brands, who have shown the intent to diversify their portfolio and leveraged product innovation have thrived. Demonstrated umpteen times by large consumer brands, it holds true for startups as well. What you started with is just the starting point – it is what you build from here that will make the difference.
While there is a lot more, these would be my top seven tenets for startups to ponder on. Cognizant of how rapidly our ecosystem is evolving and how rampantly things (points of view, included) could become irrelevant, I hope these seven will perhaps stand the test of time.