Facebook LIKES is not BIZDEV!

Facebook LIKES is not BIZDEV!

Spending oodles of money on marketing and branding activities is not the only way for a cash-crunched startup to win relevant clients. Instead, try Outlier marketing, suggests the author.

Pravin Shekar


Dear startups,

Why did you start up? What are you selling? Do you know the difference between strategic and tactical marketing? Or even closer: between marketing and sales? Why do you want to spend money on branding ‘activities’? Does it fit your budget?

These are questions every startup must ask themselves, as they all address one word: Purpose.

While it is true that a startup must focus on lead generation and closing sales loops at the early stage, it must also remember that these leads should be a qualified set of prospects than the more esoteric branding!

How do I do that when I don’t have money? You may ask. Rightfully so.

Horses have blinders so they cannot look at what’s going on behind or beside them. It is necessary in their role as a race horse or wagon horse. It helps them remove distractions.

Startups should do much the same. Put on their blinders and focus. Focus on only one thing, which is business development.

Money, in your pocket, from a client

When a startup has the smarts to identify a need and find a solution to address that need, it must also have the brains to find ways to reach its target audience.

One of the approaches is outlier marketing, also known as Guerrilla marketing or Common sense marketing. It deals with using what you have with you, within you and around you. No, we are not encroaching on the Jugaad world. Yet!

Outlier marketing deals with a simple tenet: what you do must get the ROI that you expected. If not, it is all fluff and a waste of time; and money (whatever little you have anyways.)

Ask yourself; is my business dependent on getting 5,000 Facebook likes or getting five clients who pay for their service? If your answer is, oh! But I need those likes, for people to know who I am! Ask yourself another question. Are these ‘likes’ leading to an input to my sales funnel? If not, why am I pouring money into an activity that is not directly correlating with sales? Why?

The Three A’s of Outlier Marketing:


When was the last time you asked for help? Hey, I need assistance in defining my target group. Hello, can you share your thoughts about my idea/concept? Excuse me, I need an introduction to that person. Could you connect me?

We stop short of asking because we are worried about what they will think. How can I ask someone I don’t know that well? Let’s spend some more time knowing each other before I place my request, you say.

An outlier marketer avoids all that. He is direct and asks for assistance from anyone who can assist.


What have you done towards BizDev? Have you mapped your target segment, built a buyer persona, picked up a few beta clients? Is your prospect list too wide – as in, Oh, I have a great product, the whole world is my client.


Oh, I’ve done a survey. I KNOW.

A survey with whom? What profiling did you do to ensure that it is your target prospect that you are speaking with?

PS: Talking to close friends and neighborhood aunts doesn’t count!

Every action must be measured.

Ideally, every action must get a desired result.

That’s one of the basic tenets of outlier marketing. And that’s a punch-line as well, much needed in today’s times. To get the message crux across!


Have a list of action items. Pick one. Implement. Measure.

Ask this question: Does it meet the set objectives? Does it provide answers?

If not, tweak action, redo.

So, what’s new? You may ask. Nothing much, that’s how you learn to walk, cycle and swim. Use the same in your business and BizDev.

Let’s look at a case study:

A company called VE Clean approached me with a request for brainstorming. They are a small company with a clear focus – to be the Toilet Cleaner King for the city of Madurai. No apps, no gizmos – just a plain and simple Swacch Bharat campaign.

Issue: How can we scale up from a small core team of five (plus 10 cleaners on a retainer)?

Known Fact: Not enough money for marketing/advertising. A stigma associated with their line of work (who wants to talk about cleaning toilets anyways.)

Ideation: One of the clear rules set forth prior to the start of the ideation session was that ALL IDEAS ARE KOSHER.

We have this great tendency to edit out an idea as soon as it is formed. Why? Let it flow, document and let it mellow. Put on your editor’s hat a day or two later and then whittle down to the best 2-3 ideas.

So, there we were, popping out ideas by the dozen, well almost! Two of them stood out and both were in the realm of “Shock and Awe” to ensure maximum bang for the buck.

The finalized idea was to talk to a gated community and offer a challenge; that of cleaning all the toilets in all the flats/apartments – within 24 hours.

ASK: VE clean was direct. They went straight to the decision makers and pitched. Permission was granted and this information was shared with the local press who were more than happy to cover this challenge (Free coverage folks!).

ACTION: Day Zero arrived and VE Clean landed up with their small army of cleaners. Within 24 hours, 435 houses were cleaned.

So what, you may ask? This is just a free offer. This is common sense!

The outlier part was in gamifying it with a challenge, going to a concentrated set of prospects and showing their work/skill before asking for more.

Plus, this was all done without spending too much on advertising.

The overall expense for this exercise was approximately Rs. 7,350 and the returns:

84 houses signed on for an annual contract.

Collateral Gains: 20 of the residents asked VE clean to pitch cleaning services at their companies and some of them converted into annual contracts. This is clearly more profitable as offices need to be cleaned daily! When was the last time you got your home toilet cleaned?

Additional gain: The local coverage got the attention of the Madurai petrol bunk association with whom VE clean is now working to ensure that toilets at select fuel stations are CLEAN.

One marketing activity providing multiple returns; THAT is outlier marketing

AGILE: Three months on, VE Clean is setting a higher goal, that of cleaning 10,000 toilets in six minutes and aiming for a Guinness World Record. More on that as we move along the path of the Guerrilla. Look out for more lives cases in forthcoming editions of The Smart CEO.


Constraints are good. Constraints of time, money, resources – all good. As they provide a spark for something we don’t have any constraints for – that of creativity, innovation and doing something new.

Be an Outlier Marketer.

So, do you have specific marketing challenges that you want solutions for? Write to us and let’s work together for an Outlier Guerrilla Marketing solution, custom-made for you!

About the author: Pravin is a startup specialist, parallel entrepreneur and a raconteur and likes to call himself Pravin “Shameless” Shekar. He can be reached at Pravin@krea.in; www.pravinshekar.com

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