I’ve worked and interacted with plenty of entrepreneurs – an aspect often discussed is the “birth of an idea”. Some are obsessed with creating “something”, some make solutions, while some have worked at companies and copied their business models, usually a similar offering at a lower cost.

Typically, entrepreneurs will develop the product or service to some extent, then start trying to get sales. It’s when selling becomes their biggest challenge that the need is felt for marketing. And the usual troubles are:

  1. People haven’t heard of us.

  2. Buyers select my competitor simply because they have a ‘brand’ and I don’t. I need to build my brand.

  3. We deliver something great to our users, but can’t seem to communicate that value to prospects.

  4. How do we find more buyers?

So this is where marketing comes in. What then, is the starting point for Marketing and strategy? Have no fear, just start with a simple guiding principle – one that you, as the entrepreneur should embrace..

#The first commandment: Know Thy Customer.

A lot of start-ups seem to have a vague idea of who will buy their product or service. Worse still, there are some that believe ‘anyone can buy’ or ‘everyone will buy’. This leads to a haphazard, confused approach to the market.

Let me give you an example. In keeping with the times, let’s assume you offer ‘beauty salon services delivered to customers’ homes’ and customers can book appointments either online or through an app. So how should we define our market? Start understanding and profiling your users. You may find that about 85% of users are between the ages of 26 and 40. These are mostly working women, extremely busy and also financially independent. 70% of them are married. Their average spend is Rs. 2800 per visit.  But you may also have older customers who spend much lesser.

When you define your marketing strategy, don’t try to club all the users together. You need to focus on your core segment – the one that really needs your service, is happy to pay for it and has the propensity to spend.

Let’s take another example, if you offer PR services to organizations. Maybe you don’t have any customers yet, you are just starting out. Then how does ‘know thy customer’ apply to you? Well, start speaking to the organizations that you wish would become your customers.

Soon, a map of the market will start emerging. You may find that MNCs have global relationships in place with PR agencies, and cannot give a startup a try. You may find that there are some local businesses, profitable and cash rich, that now want to build their corporate brand, but don’t know how to go about PR. Or there are some that are using global PR agencies, but aren’t sure if they’re getting value for the price they are paying.

#Build your business strategy 

  • What should be the product or service? Core and augmented?: Create something that best solves the challenges faced by your target users, and fits in with their lives.

  • How much can you charge: What are they currently paying? What are the competing options that they have? What is the value you deliver? How much would they happily spend for that value? How can you communicate that value?

  • What advertising or promotion do you need: Where does your target market ‘hang around’?  What do they read, which portals or social media sites do they frequent, which events do they attend?

With this kind of clarity in place, everything else is about finding lots of potential customers and ways to reach out to them. Think clearly about these things yourself and you can lead your own team or your agency to create really effective Marketing strategies.

Suhasini Kirloskar is the co-founder of Market Axis Consulting
Views are the author’s own