Marketing myth busters for startups

A man once wanted to set up a small restaurant in a busy marketplace. Having completed all the necessary requirements, he was all set except in figuring out the name of the hotel. When he shared this confusion with his family, his uncle gave him a suggestion. And before he knew it, business was booming. The idea was laughably simple. His uncle asked him to call the restaurant 7 stars, but have 6 stars drawn beneath the signboard. Everyone walked in to point out the mistake, and stayed to taste the food!!!

As entrepreneurs, one of our biggest concern areas is marketing our products. While I wouldn’t recommend incorrect name-boards as the anecdote suggests, our efforts towards advertising can make the difference between success and failure of the company. Given our limited time/ resources, our customers’ instinct to distrust the unknown and the fact that most entrepreneurs are from non-marketing background, we end up making a lot of assumptions surrounding marketing and advertising in particular. This article is an effort at busting some of these…

Myth#1: The product will sell itself

This is one of the classic myths I’ve come across as an entrepreneur. Good products certainly do sell – but a nudge and a push doesn’t hurt. A lot of people believe that word-of-mouth will be sufficient to sell the product, since it’s free!!! It may, but will consequently take a long time. You can help accelerate the process with some good advertising. Besides, assuming that the product will sell itself puts the product at a geographic disadvantage, since the throw of the product is restricted to the distribution. Once you use advertising to promote the product to the target audience, not only will the product’s trust factor increase, but so will the viral among the TG.

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Myth#2: You need an expensive PR firm to get good press coverage

Press is always on the lookout for good content. And they are invariably falling short of their demand for a good story. Each entrepreneur has a unique and distinct story to tell and the journalists are always willing to publish good articles if they find meat in it. All it takes is to set up a list of potentially interesting publications/ channels, pick up the phone and share your story. You never know who is listening and when it will get covered. Key is to ensure there is human interest element in the story and it’s not just talking of how great the business is. Someone I know made his 8 year old son a co-founder of his gaming company. And there was a winning headline – an 8-year old starting a company! Press lapped up the story of an 8 year old founding a company all to his advantage. The biggest stories come from the smallest angles.

Myth#3: Advertising costs a lot of money

Many entrepreneurs often consider advertising a bad word, associating it with unnecessary expenditure. But reaching the potential customers need not always be a bitter pill of wastage. There are abundant choices out there; it only needs some forethought to find what fits your business. Did you know that you can advertise behind electricity bills, train tickets, bookmarks, airline headrests or even plane wraps? From radio to digital to targeted TV, advertising need not be an expensive affair.  Do not be influenced by peers who’ve tried and failed at a medium. What does not work for them may well be the key to your success.

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Myth#4: Advertising is not quantifiable

One of the real-estate clients I met used classifieds in newspapers as his choice of advertising. He conducted a very unique experiment. Week on week, he chose different positions in a classifieds page, choosing varied layouts and colors. He then filed the ad, and the corresponding leads that came from the ad. Over time, with carefully controlled experiments, he arrived at the perfect layout and position that worked best for him. Advertising is definitely quantifiable, if you know where and how to look. Choose a medium and a clear communication, see if it works, experiment with push and pull strategies, and focus on the one thing that works for your brand.

When approached right, advertising can be a great tool to play with. A nip here and a tuck there, will go a long way to getting that elusive perfect media plan. Happy marketing!

(About the Author: K A Srinivasan, or Srinias he’s known, is co-founder at Amagi Media Labs, a company that provides targeted advertising on national TV channels. When he’s not tearing his head over running the business, he loves to give gyaan about running businesses! He can be reached at

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