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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Hyper-local marketing for startups

Since last week, one can’t miss the advertisement of Eon tutorials in Malleshwaram area (in Bangalore city). It’s on every gate of houses/offices along with No Parking sign. In spite of several such signages which use No Parking boards to advertise, one cannot help taking note of Eon. Not for its colorful board design, but for the sheer number of boards they have managed to display. They are on EVERY gate. As you happen to walk or jog or drive by any road, you will take note of it. all this despite several other signage boards on the gates. Sub conscious registers it well. Ask anybody about Eon tutorials in Malleshwaram area. They might not remember where they saw it, but surely will tell you they heard about it before. From Eon tutorials business point of view, this is a tremendous marketing achievement. Their claim is simple – tutorials for any class all over Bangalore! I would imagine these sign boards are put up in other areas of Bangalore as well (unless they don’t have cash to spend on it). Now the decision for parents is made easy. Eon has produced top of mind recall. Either curious parents will call to inquire from them or hear about them from other parents. In any case, number of students inquiring for admission or even getting themselves admission should increase. (I am not invested in them J and do not know actual conversion rate).

This got the marketer inside me thinking. For a moment, assume they were a pan-India company and they set aside budget for their marketing team. What would marketing team do? Open a website, with parents and students as target market, get bloggers to write about them, get Google to show them in search results for related keywords, advertise near schools, on facebook etc. This is perhaps what they will do considering most consumer startups in India are already doing similar stuff. The bigger idea would have been to spray in all cities and hope to get required buzz. If a marketer were to think of what Eon has done, maybe it has an important lesson. What if all marketing effort is focused in one region or city? Spend (the always constrained) marketing budget in hyper-focused manner. Ensure it gets buzz within that region. This is possible and well demonstrated by Eon. Note: signage board as a medium of advertisement is not important, setting up the hyper-local buzz is important. Ensure your target audience (parents/students/…) as case maybe don’t miss it. This is sure shot way to create a buzz with a section of target audience (and can be executed with less budget). If the product/service doesn't get inquiries/sales from that region in a reasonable period of time, it validates viability of that offering. If it does convert into sales, it’s a good indicator of offering’s acceptance in a wider market as well. In any case, the result of product-market fit will be known. If product/service does convert into sales, the marketing team will have a happy problem to solve – to satisfy those initial customers and create the all-important word-of-mouth social buzz. Hey, Isn't this the lean-marketing way anyway? J

Not surprised to hear stories about how Yelp first proved their product in San-Francisco first or how FourSquare got their numbers initially with hyper-focus on one city. Perhaps these companies planned that way or executed it that way for lack of initial marketing/operation budget. Reason could be anything; hyper-local marketing is a great way to start marketing in a consumer startup.

I don’t see many Indian startups adopting this thinking. Any thoughts why?

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