What are they doing to attract customers?

Written by: Madhur

On Jan 3rd, 2007

One of the most common answers that I get on asking new startups about their marketing plans is that they are focusing on providing the best user experience and then rely on word of mouth. I beg to differ here. Agreed – awesome user experience accompanied with word of mouth is quite effective, but I think that some clever marketing can give a non-trivial boost to the traffic, more so for startups in the consumer Internet space. If you have big budget, the obvious way is to spend tons of money to make regular splashes all over the media or give away freebies to attract customers or even give big ticket lotteries (this is not unreal by the way). But on the other hand, even some low budget clever ideas can be very effective in driving significant traffic to the site. Let’s take a look at some of the Indian Internet companies to see what they are doing to attract customers. Also presented are tips on how other companies can use some of these techniques:

Traditional media marketing: Air commercials on televisions, billboards, etc. This is of course an expensive way to spread the word. While the reach of such media is huge, the problem is that it is difficult to measure how many customers you have acquired directly because of these campaigns. As a result, only big companies with lots of money can use this technique. For example: media portal Yahoo.in, travel portals MakeMyTrip, Cleartrip, Yatra and job portals Naurki, Monster, IndiaTimes Jobs have commercials on different TV channels and billboards in big cities.

Referral marketing: This is a scheme where you give additional incentive to already existing customers to do referral for your product/company. This is a proven model and the success comes with a cost – the referral reward. Some of the companies that are using this scheme are:

  • SeventyMM referral program: Get one sixth of your subscription fee waived for every new customer you bring in. So after you get 6 customers, your subscription is effectively free (well, as long as your referrals are active members).
  • MakeMyTrip High5 program: Gives you Rs. 500 coupon for every customer you get who signs up and makes a transaction.
  • Yaari referral program: First few members who get x number of friends to sign up on the site every month get an iPod nano.

Online Social Networks: With the onset of online user communities, lot of teenagers/youth spend quite a bit of time hanging out at these social joints. Yaari.com CEO Prerna Gupta is using an interesting approach to use this as a marketing avenue. She has created a profile on Orkut – a social networking site to promote her own Indian version of social networking community Yaari.com ! This is almost a free publicity medium. The key point here though is that it has to subtle. If you directly spam these places by creating a profile just for advertising, no one is going to pay attention. Other startups can take a cue and use this medium in other interesting ways. Like creating communities to start a conversation to introduce their services, get feedback or just to know the customers better. Other social avenues include popular blogs, which a lot of companies already try to have their presence in.

Sponsoring offline events/parties: Using this technique, the companies make an impression on the users’ mind that they are more than just an online service and are actually a part of the community. For e.g. TimesJobs.com organizes job fairs, Yahoo.in, Sulkeha.com were seen sponsoring BlogCamps, Tulleeho.com organizes wine trails, cocktail making sessions etc. The point to note here is that this technique does not always involves big bucks for sponsoring big events/conferences. Events/Parties can be small weekend parties or other relevant small events. Interestingly, MySpace actually built their initial traffic using this medium as well.

Extravagant thoughtless programs: What do you do if you have tons of cash and you do not want to waste any time thinking of effective ways of promoting your site? Lottery! Search engine ByIndia.com recently announced a $5 million sweepstakes program for new registrants to their website. I don’t know what others think, but I think this is the most stupid way to use $5 million for promotion of a website.

Simple creative marketing ideas: Mouthshut.com has recently started using autorickshaws as billboards. What a simple, creative and cost-effective of promoting their site! I think more such creative low-budget ideas need to be innovated/deviced by small startups. One medium that immediately comes to mind that can be effective, yet no one has used for marketing is mobile – more on that later. In the mean time, if you can think of some simple ways of marketing a site/service put it down here and we’ll discuss.

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Entry Filed under: ecommerce,makemytrip,marketing,seventymm,web2.0,yaari

11 Responses

  1. 1. vivek garg said on January 3rd, 2007 at 7:43 pm

    more examples of viral marketing.

    1. pinstorm recently sent out new year greetings through perfectly targeted google adwords.

    2. check out microsoft outlook, makemytrip, alootechie viral ads at http://webchutney.com/virals/index.html . These are hilarious and hard to forget.

  2. 2. Ravi Venkatraman said on January 4th, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    Here are couple of ways of attracting targeted customers.

    1) Use PPC for specific keywords.
    (You don’t have to pay a fortune, we pay .03 to .05 per click on our real estate related keywords in India)

    2) Useing Generic keyword domain name to get targetted type in traffic.
    Bank of America’s purchase of Loans.com for $3 million.
    ABN amro purchase of Mortgage.com for £1.8 million.
    I am sure these companies would have realized their ROI from these purchases.
    The founder of WebHosting.com, Jesse Rasch, has posted a on his blog that details how he built his multi-million dollar company and the role that acquiring his great generic domain name had in the company’s success.

  3. 3. Madhur Khandelwal said on January 5th, 2007 at 3:29 am

    Good points Ravi. I understand that generic keyword domain names are good, but what do you think are the real tangible benerfits of using such names? Is it because people just like them or they are more likey to type them or more easy to remember or for SEO or anything else?

  4. 4. Ravi Venkatraman said on January 5th, 2007 at 6:02 pm

    It’s the combination of all of the above.
    Up to 15% percent of the search traffic is type-in traffic.(includes sites that are bookmarked)
    For niche sites that one does not use on a daily or weekly basis or used only when you are in market for the specific reason, the Generic would work the best and it usually has better recall value.
    (Example: Vacation, Shopping, Jobs etc.)

    From SEO perspective, all other thing being equal, the generic sites gets higher ranking in search engines like MSN & Yahoo for that generic keyword.
    (search the following keywords in msn.co.in with “India only option”: Shop, Hindi, Property, “Pune Realestate” etc.)
    In addition, you get lower PPC pricing as the CTR (Click Thru Rate) is usually high on these ads.

    Although, generic domain name purchase may appear expensive, its much cheaper on the long run.
    There is no. recurring cost (other than the registration fee) for the subsequent years.

  5. 5. Madhur said on January 5th, 2007 at 6:37 pm

    Ok, makes sense. It’s interesting how Google results are completely different for the queries you mention above. I guess for them domain name is weighing in lower than other factors, which when you improve, domain name will help eventually.

  6. 6. Aditya said on January 6th, 2007 at 7:38 am

    HI Ravi,

    I would differ on the argument that generic names are better. Take for example zappos.com or flickr, delicious none of them say what they do in their names yet they have high recall value.

    Could be that these were the pioneers or among the early beginners in hteir respective spaces.

  7. 7. Vivek Garg said on January 6th, 2007 at 7:46 pm

    Agreed Aditya, Domain name in itself doesnt do much unless you have a solid product. On the other hand a relevant domain name can bring in traffic that otherwise would go somewhere else.

    take an example of google, live, ask and yahoo search and their query share. Google is not a relevant name at all for search but it has become synonymous to search now with a very strong product. Similar to xerox and jeep I would say. These are the brand names that have become a verb now. Flickr and delicious are not a verb but they are a strong brand in their offering space.

    On the other hand ask.com is gaining some query share because of such a relevant domain name to the extent that people are googling on ask.com. read more here

  8. 8. aman said on January 9th, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    well i liked mouthshut.com ‘s idea of rickshaw advertising but one thing you mentioned that is wrong. mouthshut.com started rickshaw advertising in 2001 and not :recently: as u mentioned. the rickshaw program has now been copied by other dotcoms especially after mouthshut rolled it out in delhi in 2005 and i agree the domain name is critical
    now see mouthshut.com is antithesis of wht they do. they ask peopel to speak up about products and services. amazing idea!!

  9. 9. Madhur said on January 9th, 2007 at 10:53 pm

    Thanks for the correction Aman. They are the biggest players as far as user generated content is concerned in India. Will be interesting to see what other tricks do they use to really take themselves to the next level of the Web2.0 wave.

  10. 10. Vijay Vadali said on February 20th, 2007 at 9:16 pm

    Thanks a lot. The information was very valuable for my research in order to launch a new product by keeping the publicity costs low

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