Undergraduate Blog / Career Development

Is Ground Marketing Valuable to Start-Ups?

Well it depends. Depends on the company’s funding, the amount of time you have. The demographic you’re trying to hit. Ground marketing is difficult. It takes a lot of guts and willpower, having to step up to people in the streets and plead your case. In true honesty, most of the people you speak to aren’t interested, and will never try your service or product.

The first time I went to the streets of NYC with the goal of telling everyone who would listen about Routinely, I headed to Bryant Park. Every Thursday night Bryant Park hosts an hour long free yoga session, equipped with mats and yogi professionals. With three bags of branded water bottles and a stack of Routinely postcards, I went line to line, asking if participants wanted a bottle of water. If they were interested I gave my spiel.

Problem number 1. You really can’t say no to people that ask for a bottle of water, even though they definitely aren’t in your target market. NYC in the summer is hot, sticky and slimy. It was only after arriving at the event that I noticed most participants were over 40 years old, did not attend a gym regularly, or were tourists. Everyone wants a bottle of water, even if they couldn’t care less about the business you’re trying to promote.

A week went by and no sales with the promo code “Bryant” came in.

The following week the team tried again, this time heading to Astor Place, the unofficial gym mecca of NYC. Soul Cycle, Rumble, Barry’s, Orange Theory. You name it, it’s probably here. And it’s most defiantly packed. Again, we ran into the same problem, even though we purposely tried a different approach.

Instead of canvasing the entire area, we stood outside fitness studios, hoping to capitalize on the inflow and outflow of gym goers. But strike 2, still no one was interested. People were running off to happy hour, a dinner they planned with friends, or just wanted to get home and take a fresh shower.

Decisions have to be made quickly, especially at startups. It’s all about sales, acquired customers, and contacts, and when one approach wasn’t working, another had to be adopted quickly. With that we turned to Instagram ads, creating funny and engaging posts to capture the attention of our target market, young professionals in Manhattan.

So far it’s been working spectacularly. We have acquired a ton of new customers by way of the promo code ‘social’, and about 75% of them have been returning customers, meaning that they are now paying for the service they initially tried for free. We are on track to meet our sales quota for the month, growing quite a bit from the previous month.