DOMAIN / INDUSTRY: Marketing Strategy & Customer Acquisition

THEME: A Founder shared with us the outline of a memo he wanted to drop to his team – a snapshot of pointers he scribbled in his Moleskine. It was around the 3 approaches the company should consider for its marketing funnel.

OBJECTIVES: To educate the team on the marketing funnel for the company’s own projects as well as that of the brands the company works with. This will help the company see higher RoI in the marketing campaigns that are deployed for its own projects as well as that of brands it works with over the coming months.  

I hope you have had a great holiday season. As we are nearing to finish another financial year, I would like to congratulate you on another successful business year. As compared to last year, revenues are up by nearly 2.5 times. I believe, the next one year will be very critical for us in terms of scaling the operations as well as extend our domain expertise. And all this while staying true to our 5 CORE VALUES:

  1. Be transparent and honest.
  2. Create maximum value for all our stakeholders (our clients, customers, readers, investors and colleagues).
  3. Be happy.
  4. Emphasize results and hustle.
  5. Learn new things every single day.

In this note, I want to talk about 3 important things that I think will prove to be influential and crucial to all our operations as well as the successes of our clients. They are specific to all our marketing planning and execution activities. Let’s jump straight into it.

Approach 1: The Key Is To Be The First In The Category


Over the next couple of months, I expect an increasing focus of our business and that of our clients on the following 2 aspects:

  • Maximising the reach for each of the marketing channels:
  • Traffic via Google.
  • Paid Marketing via Google Adwords (text as well as Display Ads) and promoted content (think of Outbrain, Taboola, etc.)
  • Any 3 social networks (pick from Facebook, Twitter, G+, Quora, YouTube and Pinterest).
  • Optimising the conversion funnel.

To ensure that we are all geared up to nail both these aspects, use the following 3 step framework:

Step 1: Does the product have first mover’s advantage?


I think, the first company to enter any category captures a significant share of voice in the minds of the consumers. And for our clients to be successful, especially with the constrained marketing budgets, we gotta think,

“Are we the first company in the product category we want to operate in?”

In other words, “Are we the first company to launch that product in that specific category?”

Because when you are the first, it’s easier to get your product registered in the minds of the consumers without any rebuttals.

Think of Xerox which invented the copier, Fevikwik, Fevicol, Colgate, Buffer, Hubspot, etc. I could mention another dozen names but hope you do get the point – If you are the first to enter a category/market, your chances of cracking the market increase by several 10x multiples.

So, what if the clients we are working with do have a product that’s NOT the first in their category? They are not the first company to build, market and sell the product under that category. I believe the majority of the clients we are currently working with as well as with our own products, we won’t be the first player in those markets. If that’s the case, the next step of the framework is at your rescue.

Step 2: Can you create a category?


Why? Because you then de facto become the number 1 in that category. If there was one thing I could ask you to take away from this note, it’s this. Over the course of my professional journey of almost a decade now, there’s one marketing principle I have learnt the hard way,

“If you are not the first to enter a particular category, chuck it. Create a new category and be first in that…”

There are ample examples I can quote to stress upon the fact that significant percentages of successful products across the world are because they created a whole new category just to be number 1 in that:

  • iPad. Essentially, it was actually a mini-computing device with a touch-screen but Apple pitched it as the first commercial tablet for consumers.
  • HP in the printers (they didn’t want to be another company in the copier category).
  • Bose (music system with fidelity and professional-aura like sound).
  • In fact, you can notice the same trend in the software or game industry. Temple Run vs. Subway Surfers.
  • Google could have made another office suite for the desktop. But they made the office suite that works in the cloud. – There was no crunch on CRM apps before Salesforce. But Salesforce didn’t pitch itself another CRM software, but the first truly cloud-based CRM software / always online CRM software. – There were several marketing automation softwares out there before Hubspot. And when Hubspot was launched, it pitched itself as an inbound marketing software. A whole new category.

So, the point to understand over here is, if you are not the first company in the category, just create a new category for the product. And most importantly, ensure your messaging for the targeted audience brings it forth.


Now, how do you translate this into what we do?


This financial year, I’m expecting a lot of our clients to budget 10–20% of their marketing budgets towards paid marketing. So, the first thing we need to understand is, if you go For Display Ads (banner / Google Display Network), go for establishing the product as the first in a particular category.

And if the client is not the first company in their category, no worries, just create a category. But do not keep the focus of display ads on the sales pitch / highlighting benefits. That’s one mistake that I see a lot of brands out there making.

In fact, Display ads are one of the most misused ads formats on the internet (wasted spends as well as higher opportunity costs) and a lot has been left to be explored in regards to them. Display Ads are an amazing opportunity to nail the following:

  1. Establish the product/ website/e-commerce store as a leader in the category.
  2. Consistently convey the message to the targeted audience leading to a higher brand recall.

If you do this, you will notice that Display ads perform the best for building brand equity and awareness with bare minimum budgets. And needless to say, it will positively impact your content and social media metrics too.

When it comes to developing content, the moment a piece of content (no matter what form it is in, content, listicle, infographics, deck, etc.) is consistently able to communicate that the product is the leader in that specific category, the content will lead to higher loyalty and engagement.

Because, right in their minds, you have a created place for a new category and your product. Now, compare this with when you are competing with some other brand within the same category. Your job then shifts to telling the consumer why your product is better than that of the competitors. From the positioning perspective, you have to change the mindset of the consumer and his / her focus from the competitor’s product to your product. And in my experience, that’s an uphill battle. Which means you will have to allocate higher budgets and resources risking the RoI metrics.

The same holds true for all your social media marketing activities.


Approach 2: Engagement Alone Won’t Guarantee Conversions


I realise that for all these years, we content marketers were wrong. We were chasing a metric that we considered is alone the mainstay for conversions, increasing the sales and attaining the hockey-stick RoI. And you know what’s that metric?


I think it’s a big mistake to consider engagement alone to be the only metric a business should consider. Now for the sake of iteration, let me mention – how do you define engagement? An instance of engagement can be anything – right from a visitor leaving a comment on your site, getting a visitor to leave his / her email ID with you, your fans liking / sharing your Facebook posts, etc.

Now, here’s the fallacy. Engagement does not mean people trust your brand. It does not mean that just because you have a better engagement than your competitor, you will land a higher leads-to-conversions ratio. Also, riding alone on engagement wave is a risky proposition. Your competitor can easily replicate it. Hell yes, because it’s not very difficult to build engagement. The blueprint for it is quite simple if you ask me:

  • Go to your competitor’s website and see what content performs great for them (indicators: social shares,,, etc.)
  • Create 10x better content than that.
  • Top it with some other multimedia form of content, preferably, an infographic, fancy charts, video, a graphical presentation of the whole content, etc.
  • Spend the next 3 days promoting the shit out of that content (on social networks, Quora, forums. Also, use tools like Open Site Explorer to know where your competitor’s content did get the backlink from and you too approach the same source. More often than not, they will happily link back to you).
  • Repeat the above mentioned 3 steps again.

It’s not that difficult. We all know it quite well. We have achieved phenomenal success for several of our clients with strategies that are refined and extended versions of this. But I ask myself today, is it sustainable – let’s say 1 or 2 years from now? Will the client’s product have the same competitive edge then?

The answer if I may say so, will not be affirmative. So, focus on an equally important metric.

Content Loyalty

Can your content marketing process build loyalty for the client’s brand (right from chalking out the content plan to content development to outreach and content promotion). Same goes for Display as well as text ads.

Here are some quick ways to measure content loyalty. Your Google SERP’s CTR. Then the eCPM as well as CTR% of your display ads.

Once you are done with this note, do a search for Blendtec on YouTube. That’s definitely one of the ways as to how you build loyalty via content.

Quick Tip: Several studies have been made that suggest that there has been a paradigm shift in the way a user decides which search result he/she should click first. And if you thought that’s the first search result, you are incorrect. If a user would have always clicked the first result, I think the whole idea of organic search engine optimisation (SEO) optimisation is rendered useless – just bid for keywords in Google Adwords and wait for results.

I’m sorry to disappoint you but studies show that what prompts a user to click a search result is what site he/she trusts the most (it also goes back to the value and trust perception exercise we did for Acme’s product).

Approach 3: Look > Explore > Action > Nurture

As a Founder, what makes me the happiest is that each one of us is always open to learning new things, share them with everyone else in the company. I feel that’s important to achieve our goal of being one of the most respected Full-Service Digital Marketing teams in India.

In this last approach, I want to touch upon something important – a framework to categorise and bucket potential customers:


Ones who are not looking to buy anything but fall in the broader bracket of your product. For example, if you are a health supplements company, people who visit gym almost 4–5 times a week is what you would categorise in “look” bracket.


People who are in the consideration stage. For instance, people who visit gym 4–5 times a week and think that they may need a protein supplement.


These are the guys who are in the “let me buy it” stage. They know they want a protein supplement and are actively looking for it. Now, here’s the catch. Every marketer you can think of is behind the people who are in this stage. The most competitive arena if you think so.


The person is already your consumer and you got to take care of them and build a trusting relationship to affect any of the following behaviours:

  • Positive Word of Mouth.
  • Repeated buying.
  • Cross-selling your products.

Now, pause for a minute over here and understand this fact. Most of the marketing campaigns do fail to perform well because while their marketing efforts, as well as collaterals, are knowingly or unknowingly meant for another consumer set, they are pitched to another consumer bucket.

Let me give you an example to elaborate upon this. There’s an e-commerce store which does sell health supplements. It creates a piece of content that talks in detail about the top 5 health supplements available in the market and why each one of them made it to that list. The company now runs a paid display campaign targeting people whose browsing behaviour matches that of a person who goes to the gym regularly. What do you think of this campaign? If you ask me, the CPC (Cost-per-click) for this campaign will be way too high. In fact, if I go by past experience with funnelled campaigns, this campaign will bomb.

You know why, because it’s not targeted towards the right consumer set. If the purpose of this “top 5 health supplements” content was to get people to read the article and then funnelled towards buying any of those 5 health supplements, you should never target it towards the ones who are in “Look” as well as “Explore” segments.

“Look” bucket guys will never buy the health supplement (it’s pretty much a long shot taking to roof the cost-per-conversion) and ”Explore” guys are not interested to know all about the health supplements (they ideally would be more interested in the content that is something like, “things one should consider before buying a health supplement”).

Another critical problem which surfaces when you neglect to segment the customer persona basis of the above-mentioned framework is this: It gives you flawed data points. Think of this – if your campaign is targeted towards building relationships with the customers in the “Explore” stage and you start measuring the conversions from the very next day (rather than let’s say after a week or two), you will get the data that points towards negligible conversion. But in reality, that might not be the case.

So, how should you approach this problem then?

First, take a step back and think what’s your objective (I know you have heard this ample of times… but it’s very important). Do you want more signups from people who visit the gym regularly and get them to go through a tactical content funnel (for instance, a drip email series where you get them to buy a product from you at the end of the 5–6 email series). Or do you want to establish trust with the guy who is considering to buy a health supplement so that the moment he decides to go ahead with the purchase, you are his top and trusted choice?

Once you are clear on the objective, start with building a customer persona and accordingly develop as well as promote the content targeted towards that specific bucket. The crux is, use the above-mentioned frameworks for each of your marketing stages:

  1. Planning & Research
  2. Content Development
  3. Outreach and Promotions
  4. Acquisition & Conversions
  5. Retention

Now, I’m sure you must be thinking that’s a cumbersome process. It indeed is. But we HAVE TO DO IT. Let me put it again. WE HAVE TO DO IT.

Because that’s the right thing to do. It will help our clients in the long run and if you execute this framework the right way, it will start to show the results right from your first campaign. On this note, remember, our clients trust upon us to achieve their business goals and we should leave no stone unturned to ensure it happens. That’s one of our core values – creating maximum value all our stakeholders.

Lastly, let me quickly summarise this whole note for you:

Approach 1:

Ensure that all your content (SEO, Content Development, Social Media), as well as paid campaigns, are strategized and executed considering this – our clients’ products are the first player to enter that particular category. If that’s really not the case, think of new category. Example: Chilli Sauces (Heinz) vs. Spicy sauces (Tobasco).

Approach 2:

Don’t keep engagement as your core or the only metric. Make “Content Trust” as your key metric. Because that directly impacts the conversions.

Approach 3:

For all your marketing activities, focus on the following framework:

Look >> Explore >> Action >> Nurture

That’s it. Thanks for your time in reading it. I very much appreciate it. If you have any queries or suggestions on this note, drop me an email. Wish you a power- packed week ahead with lots of successes and learning.

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