Top 3 ways to market your startup in India

As most marketers would advice you: market where you customers are. The top 3 ways to spend your money in marketing is dramatically different from marketing spend in the US.

To recap the US spend:
1. Lead Generation: 45%
2. AR & PR: 25%
3. Marcom: 5%
4. Events: 25%

So how will I change this in India for a software company (regardless of Internet, B2B, B2C, or enterprise software)?

1. Lead Generation: 55% – switch from mostly web marketing (SEM, SEO) to advertising on radio, print and if you can afford it Television.
2. AR & PR: 10% – stick to Press mentions and regionals, magazines. AR is mostly a waste of time spend in India, even in the enterprise. Unlike US and Europe where analysts like Gartner tend to provide 30% of your inquiries, India mostly ignores analysts and “experts”. They like reports, whitepapers, etc, but wont pay for analyst time on research consulting.
3. Marcom: 2% – Costs are a lot less in India for brochures, white papers, etc.
4. Events: 33% – Depending on if you are consumer software or enterprise software, I’d advice you to plan a series of events locally to “meet and greet”. Most people want to know you are “a real company” and not a fly-by-night operator.

So here are my tips on the top 3 ways to market your company:

1. Affiliate Marketing: Inorganic traffic acquisition is hard and mostly hit-or-miss. I would rather hire a Business Development / Marketing professional and partner with a top 20 list of a) Cybercafe providers like Sify, etc. b) Online media properties like Indiatimes, Rediff, etc. and c) Social networks and community sites like Orkut, Cricinfo. You might have to share percentage or revenue, or Pay-per-click or pay-per-action, but its a lot better than search engine marketing on Google. Traffic in these sites is predictable, proven and diverse. They offer the quickest path to prospects for your organization.

2. Contests & Games – Mobile Marketing: SMS in particular is very prevalent regardless of the enterprise or consumer demographic. Try to integrate your contests and games with general public events like cricket or launch or a movie etc. to get topical traction.

3. Regional events (Breakfasts and Dinners): If you are in a major metro like Mumbai, Bangalore, etc. then plan on having multiple city events since distances are large and traffic is unpredictable. I would divide the city into 5-6 regions where most of your customers are and plan on having events in each region. Like most Asian buyers, Indians like to meet people face-to-face and rarely (less than 1%) purchase major or minor items online or over the phone.