India’s Small Businesses Must Embrace Low Budget Marketing – Part II

open sign of a cafe
No businesspersons in their right minds will chop off sales budgets, but marketing will get hit. PC: Alvaro Serrano. Source: Unsplash.

(Part II of a two-part series. Read Part I here.)

Now that nationwide lockdowns are being lifted, the demand for non-essential goods and services is slowly on the rise. However, we are still far away from going back to normal. In this new reality, marketers across the country have to face several tough challenges, more so, in the case of offline businesses.

In the first part of this series of articles, we looked at two major changes marketers need to make in their approach: reduced timeframe for planning and goal setting and adopting data-driven marketing. Now let’s look at avoiding typical but high-cost mistakes which offline businesses make when they ae new to digital marketing.

The first task for these businesses is to choose the right social media platform. There is a lot being said and written about which platform to use for what kind of business. A simple Google search will give you plenty of information introducing the many social media platforms, and some thoughtful pieces also take a deep dive in to the specifics of each of them. But what is less addressed (and I am looking to address here) is the range of common high-cost mistakes first time digital marketers commit, even after successfully choosing the right social media platform.

The first and most common mistake is thinking, “it worked for them, so it will work for me as well”. Someone in your network who has a similar business as yours ran a social media campaign on some platform, and that worked wonders for them, hence you feel you too could achieve similar results. And why wouldn’t you? You are in the same business, offering similar products and services. Following the industry leader would certainly work for you, right?

Chances are, it won’t.

Customers perceive different brands differently and that changes the way they approach them. If your brand is perceived to be different from your competition’s perception thanks to an attribute that usually works in your favour, then if you run a campaign similar to theirs (no matter how successful theirs was), you might actually end up dissociating your brand from a very important USP you have worked hard to build.

Instead, if you decide to stick to those attributes of your brand which usually attract your customers and design a campaign to highlight them, the chances of such a campaign succeeding are much higher. This is true not just for a campaign, but also the style and type of content you generally put up on social media.

Social Media is not a different dimension away from our reality. It is a reflection of the collective conscious of the society. You need to understand that your perception offline cannot differ from your online perception, just because something or someone else looks good to you.

The second mistake that marketers must avoid is getting impressed by initial traction and put large budgets into boosting social media posts.

A friend of mine who is a social media manager had a hard time explaining this to a client whose very first social media campaign had exceeded his own expectations. On Social Media, if 100 rupees get you an X level of traction, then investing 200 rupees does not guarantee you 2X returns. Social Media platforms use complex algorithms to comb through their userbase and find suitable customers for your product based on the attributes you assign to your post while boosting it. A change in any of those attributes in either online or offline space will affect your campaign.

Here is a simple example. Let’s say I am selling barbeque sets in my city and I have a beautifully designed social media post, bound to attract anyone with even the slightest inclination to barbeque at home. Imagine I am trying to sell these sets in January, when its winter and temperatures across the city are low. I choose the right attributes and invest INR 10,000 in promoting the post in my area and receive a direct sale of INR 30,000. I repeat this exercise in February, and this time the returns exceed INR 30,000.

I am impressed with these results, and in the next month, i.e. March I double the investment in my social media marketing campaign to INR 20,000. However, my sales suddenly drop. Now, my campaign has nothing to do with this drop in sales; it is just that in March, temperatures are high, and people don’t use barbeques that much.

The situation in the example and its reasoning is obvious, but it shows that social media does not work as a closed, isolated eco-system. It is simply an online footprint of your offline brand, the performance of which is affected by all those parameters that affect your business in the real, offline world. You need to identify your brand’s unique value proposition and market it to the right kind of customers, on the right platforms, and also at the right time.

The third mistake is more of a misconception about social media. Businesses are led to believe that without boosting your post, you would not be able to get any organic growth. That is not true.

Organic growth is obviously slower than what a promoted post can do for you. However, it is not impossible to achieve organic growth if the content is unique and attractive. As a marketing consultant, I insist that my clients, especially small and medium offline businesses, do not spend on social media before I get a thorough understanding of their customer base and their product market fit. As India’s GDP contracts by a quarter, there is no denying that Indian small businesses have a few rough years ahead of them. If you are an owner of one such business, then you need to get creative and adapt to the new realities. Strategic thinking and aggressive communication with your customer can help you reduce the redundancies in your marketing and help you achieve more, despite lower budgets.

Amogh Oak

Amogh Oak is a marketing and brand management specialist and an entrepreneur.


The views and opinions expressed in the above article belong to the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official opinion, policy or position of Lokmaanya.

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