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    Startups Need To Do More Than Just Marketing Automation

    Rinda Angom

    There are a lot of things that make a successful company- marketing, dealing with customers/consumers or be it dealing with the employees within the company or even having patience and persistence for that matter also counts.

    In our episode of the Forever in Motion podcast, we bring you Praval Singh, VP Marketing of Zoho. He shares his experience and learnings with our host Sumit Suneja, Founder of Headway. You will get to know, there’s a lot more than just marketing automation that a startup should look into.

    To start off, fixing the company’s internal matters (well charity begins at home) such as dealing with your employees. Praval believes in treating employees as humans and not as machines. His take on the popular startup mantra “Hire fast, fire fast” is different and says that people can’t be productive every day, that’s how things are and we should embrace that.

    “The culture is all about how much you embrace the willingness to let people make mistakes and still be a part of it. So, hire fast fire fast, all those things sound very cool but not something I really really recommend.”- Praval Singh

    He says hiring managers also make mistakes while understanding or assessing the true capabilities of a person and for him, a good culture in a company is one that embraces movements within the company. He cites examples from Zoho that they have had people who had joined as engineers but moved into product management, they have had people who have joined as QA & support and now have moved into design. He also points out that the main important thing is to see how an organisation is doing to map the true capabilities of an individual.

    Zoho completed 25years of running a profitable privately held company with a size of over 10,000 people. Praval also believes in being persistent in order to achieve something or be successful.

    “If you give it a chance long enough, things start to get better. You may not able to succeed, you may not get quick results to brag about it early on. But if you are persistent, then good things start to happen over time”- Praval Singh

    Sumit also agrees with being persistent but also believes that being the right person is also important.

    “You got to be the right person at the right place for luck to happen but the first is the right person, you know what you are made of.”- Sumit Suneja

    A lot of startups burn their money in the initial stage trying to have a place in the market but some don’t make it and end up in losses. According to Praval classic playbooks include cash backs, advertising spendings, hiring the best of talented employees and pumping all possible money trying to inflate growth.

    “We do advertising, we do marketing but we don’t bleed money. We don’t bleed money in a way where our cost of acquisition, we keep it a check, it’s not that we are spending 5 dollars to make 3 dollars for the first 10 years of running a business, which is a classic playbook.”- Praval Singh

    Besides keeping a check on the budget alongside all the spendings, Praval also talks about how much they care about their customers. He says they not only offer value for money and affordable software but they also care about their customers’ privacy and for him, that’s a very important thing.

    “When you are sitting on a userbase of about 60-65 million users, that’s a lot of data about your users that a lot of companies may want to potentially monetise, either through the product itself or through trading that data, selling that data.”- Praval Singh

    Praval says they chose to safeguard these data and customers’ privacy consciously and also they don’t use 3rd party trackers and cookies on their websites. This way they are ensuring that they are not using the customers’ data and not letting any 3rd parties use them as well. He adds they are trading off something against something larger which is getting people’s trust and faith in them as a company that is here to stay, as a company that runs the business ethically and as a company that is not hungry for data. By this process, you also build a referral network and build more customers.

    Coming to customers, early startups need the first 50-100 customers along with the cash flow. According to Praval, they need a lot of experimentation as well and also be shameless in writing to people for helping and supporting them asking for feedback. Early on, not everything you do is scalable but the first 50-100 customers that you build with word of mouth and talking to them directly will remember you, adds Praval. Apart from this, people also associate with the brand, product/service with the experience they get. 

    Sumit Suneja also shares about the initial stage before founding his own homegrown brand. While bringing in some of the international brands to India and selling them, he learnt a lot about the market, marketing, how to manage things etc.

    “Four years we were learning what we were doing, what we are supposed to do. For four years, we paid the piper, served those four brands and after we are ready for our own brand, we started our own thing.”- Sumit Suneja

    Making a strong base internally, building customer relationships & trust, creating a  good customer experience etc. and doing all these without burning a hole in the pocket, keeping the cash flow would make a startup successful. They all are interrelated in some way or the other and so they should be looked into besides automation marketing. While building a brand, one should work in a way to make it sustainable.

    “We are not building a company to run away from it, we are building it to run it”-Praval Singh

    Watch the full podcast for more information.


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