Powered By:

hsbcinnovationbanking logo

How To Master Cost-Effective Marketing Techniques for Your Startup

Uzma Rafiq


Powered By:

hsbcinnovationbanking logo

How To Master Cost-Effective Marketing Techniques for Your Startup

Uzma Rafiq



Watch this episode on SpotifyWatch onListen on YouTube
Uzma Rafiq Affinity.co
Full transcript here

About Uzma Rafiq

Episode 143: In LAB #33, Amardeep Parmar from The BAE HQ, welcomes Uzma Rafiq, Demand Generation Global CRM at Affinity.co

This podcast episode discusses effective marketing strategies for startups on a budget, emphasising understanding target audiences, developing value propositions, and utilising low-cost methods such as SEO and educational content.

Uzma Rafiq


Show Notes

00:00: - Intro 

01:11 - Uzma discusses the first steps for budget marketing: understanding target audiences and personas.

04:20 - Strategies for getting marketing messages across effectively.

06:24 - Value exchange in educational content and building email databases.

08:14 - Testing marketing strategies and starting with available channels.

10:12 - Tailoring content and using email nurtures for non-converted leads.

11:26 - Importance of customer case studies and testimonials in marketing.

13:33 - Using customer testimonials and reviews to build credibility.

14:17 - Integration of demand generation with customer success and product marketing.

15:06 - Practical tips for creating testimonial content and using it on social media.

16:05 - Using analytics and data to improve marketing efforts.

17:26 - Importance of tracking and testing marketing activities.

18:38 - Discussion on the latest marketing developments and continuous learning.

21:27 - Uzma offers to connect with listeners for marketing discussions.

Headline partner message

From the first time founders to the funds that back them, innovation needs different. HSBC Innovation Banking is proud to accelerate growth for tech and life science businesses, creating meaningful connections and opening up a world of opportunity for entrepreneurs and investors alike. Discover more at https://www.hsbcinnovationbanking.com/

Full video of episode

Watch this episode on SpotifyWatch onListen on YouTube

Uzma Rafiq Full Transcript

Uzma Rafiq: 0:00

It's not a one size fits all approach, especially as industries can differ so much and the personas that accompany them also as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 0:13

Effective marketing on a budget. As a founder, we look at how do you find the perfect customers, how do you make yourself differentiated to the other competitors, how do you stand out, how do you grab their attention? And once you have them in the funnel, how do you convert them to actual sales? And once you've got a few people in the bank, how do you do the analytics on that to keep people coming back for more? We've got with us our expert today, Uzma Rafiq, who's Demand Generation, Global CRM at Affinity Co. She's also an ambassador for the BAE HQ and a good friend. Really hope you enjoyed today's episode. I'm Amar from the BAE HQ and this podcast is powered by HSBC Innovation Banking. Thanks so much for joining us today, Uzma. So I think it's a really important question how do you market yourself effectively on a low budget? Because so many of the tactics you see online are people being like oh, just spend thousands on this marketing or that marketing which just isn't realistic for most people.  So, if are on a budget, what's the first thing you should do when starting out?

Uzma Rafiq: 1:11

I would say understanding your target audience is definitely key. So understanding those key personas that you're wanting to speak to, that you're wanting to show your product to. By developing this, you're able to one understand more about your actual audience, the customer that will be using your product or your service, but also it ensures that you're able to actually approach, by highlighting what pain points you're going to be solving, and also ensuring that you understand exactly who it is that you want to talk to. So whether it's someone a little bit more junior, to kind of get your foot in the door, who can introduce you to senior buyers later on, or if you've already got those contacts and you want to kind of go straight in, who is that buyer, who is that senior person that makes that final decision?

Uzma Rafiq: 2:00

Every organization is different. For some smaller organizations it might be a much shorter and much quicker process, whereas for larger, more enterprise organizations, it will definitely take a little bit longer there as wel l. But also I recommend ensuring that you're able to segment your market. So look at maybe the industry that you're approaching, and any other relevant criteria that your business is solving for making sure that, if it needs to be, it's not a one size fits all approach, especially as industries can differ so much and the personas that accompany them also as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 2:42

So let's say you've been able to understand your target audience and you've got a good idea of like who your ideal customer is. What's the next step? Like so you know who you want to target. What do you do next?

Uzma Rafiq: 2:54

Definitely. I would say look at the value proposition and how you're able to differentiate yourself from the market. So knowing what your customers um are looking at, but also knowing what your competitors are up to. What's the phrase? Keep your friends close, your enemies closer. So knowing what's going on in the market and knowing exactly how you fit in and how you differentiate yourself from what the competitors are doing is so key and so crucial, especially to kind of anticipate next steps If there's any, I guess, kind of elements that competitors will say as to why their product is more superior.

Uzma Rafiq: 3:33

You need to know what those conversations are going to be like, but also ensuring that you have a clear and very compelling USP to be able to differentiate yourself from other products and competitors. Our CEO at Affinity, Ray, he did a presentation last year around finding product market fit and it was all about obsessing with the market and the problem that you're solving for first and not pushing the product. So really take time to kind of understand what that market looks like but also that problem that you're going to be focusing on and how you and your product will solve that as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 4:20

No, like I said, it's really important because sometimes people start marketing about really understanding what ways that make them even stand out right. And once you've got this down, so you've got okay. You understand who you're on target, you understand what makes you stand out to those people. How do you get that message across effectively? How do you reach these people?

Uzma Rafiq: 4:30

Definitely this is where everyone thinks you blow all of your marketing budget and you end up spending all of your money. Where is it all going? But there's so many effective ways that you can try and test out and see what works for you from the start. One of, I'll start off with the one that might be a little bit more costly, but just because I think SEO you're hearing it more and more knowing the keywords that your company might be utilizing and understanding how that can drive organic traffic and visibility for your company is so important. But recently I came across Uber Suggest by Neil Patel, who talks a lot about SEO and has a free trial for keyword research. So, especially if that's something that you've not looked into yet, it could be something to test out and understand how your business is portrayed, how you want it to be portrayed and where you rank, how you fit in there as well.

Uzma Rafiq: 5:29

But especially at the start, we know marketing budgets can be quite limited to founders, so there are things like educational content that can definitely be used, and it doesn't need to mean that you'll want to write long reports every single month. But use your voice and the channels that you have that are readily available. So things like LinkedIn, slack communities that exist, and build your own kind of database and your own email database, I think will be key to be able to understand who's interested. It will definitely help support that profile building, but also ensuring that you're getting your message out there, out there to those that are um within your funnel. So whether they are like early stages, just learning about your company, the product, the services you offer, or later more towards that conversion side, you can definitely tinker and tailor the messaging that they're receiving.

Uzma Rafiq: 6:24

Um, but because it is email, like it, it can be one to kind of test out as well. And on the side of kind of educational content, there has to be a value exchange. I think we think it's very easy, like someone will fill out a form, we'll get their details, but you need to make sure, like why is this compelling enough for someone to want to put their details in and exchange that? What will I be giving them in return? Making sure that there's key and easy takeaways from that as well, um, but things that you can definitely utilize and um and be able to use to promote your organization, your products and your services. More are things like blogs, articles, um, or even take part in webinars, host any um where you're able to educate potential customers about your product and their industry trends as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 7:15

So we mentioned that by seo as well, there's a tool that we use and it's called so arefs ah, I never said the word out loud before. Ahrefs, do you know what? So they do this free site audit thing, right, right, where it goes through your website and tells you all your broken links. It tells you where you're missing meta descriptions, all of those kind of things which a lot of people don't really think about, but they're actually quite important in terms of Google rankings, where, if you don't have these things sorted out and you don't have a correct description those kind of things you can get penalized. So that's one tool I recommend as well, and then educational content.

Amardeep Parmar: 7:54

So it's our bread and butter, right, but when people are starting out, I think they try to go down so many different paths. So you mentioned blogs, webinars and things like that. Do you have any recommendations of how people can think about that strategy at the beginning, of what do they start with, or how wide should they be going? Should they be experimenting loads of different things, or should they try it? Try one thing first and then see if it works and then go into another thing? How do you think about that?

Uzma Rafiq: 8:14

Yeah, I would always recommend test one thing at a time. If you're testing too many things you can, it's very easy to lose sight of what it is that you're wanting to test out. What does good look like and what does success look like? Okay, fair enough, you've got people registering on your website or requesting demos, but what elements are you testing? And again, like, especially at the start, my recommendations would be start with the channels that are at your disposal.

Uzma Rafiq: 8:47

So, like I think LinkedIn is, I think, like far more underutilized and far more powerful than we think as well. It's very easy, or not necessarily easy, but you can definitely build up an audience and have your voice spread further and wider than you might think there as well. But also, again, just different communities. Have a look to see, like, where are your customers hanging out? Are there any events that you can go to to be able to have conversations with people? You don't need to sell there, but just open that door, make those connections and have those conversations later. Like, your networks are so, so valuable and sometimes that can lead to so many new channels and so many new paths as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 9:31

So earlier you mentioned about there needs to be a value exchange, especially if you're going to get people's emails. For example, and one that's often used for this is lead magnets, and these come in different forms. Some people use reports, some people use other things. How do you think about that? And how do you think about, once you have somebody's email, how do you effectively set up a funnel where that leads them becoming a customer and they don't just sign up and then get what they wanted and then unsubscribe a week later?

Uzma Rafiq: 9:56

Yeah, really good question, I think, making sure that they're not overwhelmed.

Uzma Rafiq: 10:00

So there is such a thing as over communication, making sure that you're not kind of just sending content out for the sake of it, so that there is a touch point ensuring that they are able to learn something new.

Uzma Rafiq: 10:12

But you can also tailor the things that they would want to learn from your organization, especially if you build up that database and you're now thinking how can I actually separate this?

Uzma Rafiq: 10:21

How can I segment this? There's things like nurture streams. So for folks that might not have converted and that might have read some of your content but haven't spoken to your team or seemingly aren't interested in um in any products or services just yet, so those you can definitely nurture um, maybe set up some email nurtures for that as well, and again you can set up different tests, so ensuring that there's a mixture of like content, webinars and a touch point to be able to convert at the end as well. And then, for anyone that might be a little bit further along, ensuring that you're including things like customer case studies and other elements that kind of show that customer advocacy side. I think that's so important to be able to bring in and highlight that it's not just you that's saying like hey, hey, we've got a really great product or service, but that your customers believe it and that they are there to also show to these prospective customers like why they should also have these conversations with you.

Amardeep Parmar: 11:26

We hope you're enjoying the episode so far. We just want to give a quick shout out to our headline partners, HSBC Innovation Banking. One of the biggest challenges for so many startups is finding the right bank to support them, because you might start off and try to use a traditional bank, but they don't understand what you're doing. You're just talking to an AI assistant or you're talking to somebody who doesn't really understand what it is you've been trying to do. HSBC have got the team they've built out over years to make sure they understand what you're doing. They've got the deep sector expertise and they can help connect you with the right people to make your dreams come true. So if you want to learn more, check out hsbcinnovationbanking. com.

Amardeep Parmar: 12:03

So we've just set up email automation ourselves at the moment, so we use a platform called Beehive and they automatically upgraded everybody. So I wanted to do automations for a while while, but I didn't want to pay for it. So now we get it for free, which is nice, and what we basically do for us is after four weeks, people are asked can they subscribe to us on Youtube? After six weeks, they're asked to subscribe to us on Linkedin if they're not already, after eight weeks is can you leave us a review on Apple and Spotify? So what we've done is we've waited until people stuck around for a while and then we're asking for tiny little favors, because if you've been with us for four weeks, you pressing a button to subscribe to us on YouTube isn't really a big deal. And then towards the later part, so about 10 weeks in then we ask people, are you willing to financially support us, make a little donation? And if somebody's been with us for 10 weeks, hopefully that's not going to annoy them enough if they unsubscribe.

Amardeep Parmar: 12:55

But that's one way we think about it. Right, I have a little bit of a longer funnel there, but we're asking like tiny things each time. And if people believe in what we're doing and help and like what we're doing, they're going to do that too. And I think one thing they said is quite important that sometimes people go straight for the jaguar. If somebody's just signed up for your email list and then like now can you buy my 5,000 pound product? I was like you haven't yet built the trust with them, right? And in terms of that trust, like you said there about customer case studies, how can you use customers to your advantage to when you're serving people well. You've got happy customers. How can you use it in your marketing to make your company go further and reach more customers?

Uzma Rafiq: 13:33

Yeah, really good question. I always say that customers are your biggest advocates. In my case, specifically, my marketing career has always been focused predominantly on the demand generation. Oh, this I need a redo for. I always say customers are your biggest advocates. My marketing career has predominantly been focused on the demand generation side, so focused on bringing in new business, but that doesn't mean that I'm working in a little business bubble. There's so much crossover that takes place with customer marketing, with customers and with customer success that there's always going to be that crossover and it always ensures that one,

Uzma Rafiq: 14:17

you're able to actually have a grounded perspective of what your customers are doing, how they're utilizing your product, your service, but also knowing, okay, what are those key main like workflows or what are the key pain points that we are solving for. And again, this goes hand in hand with, like product marketing as well. Um, to just kind of understand, okay, what really can we focus on? But things like testimonials and reviews and you've mentioned there even in your um, like email workflow to leave us a review they come in so handy and they really do stress the importance of um kind of leveraging these testimonials and online reviews to build credibility you want to be able to showcase. Okay, there's others in your situation, um, or that have experienced similar things to yourself.

Uzma Rafiq: 15:06

How can I show that? Um, okay, I would say, like the case studies and the testimonials, you can use like Canva, or you can use other editing tools to be able to create the quote cards and use them on socials. Again, that's another kind of seemingly like low impact way, but it makes a big difference to be able to actually again just back yourself up and show that there are people using this and that they are proud to be able to, to show that as well. And then those case studies. Again, you can go further in with this. So look at a specific use case be able to highlight how potential buyers might be able to implement your product or your service and be able to increase, like, productivity x percent or anything that you might be solving for in your, in your business.

Amardeep Parmar: 16:05

Obviously the anecdotes right from the customers are so important in terms of the words and the how you can. People can connect with individuals right. But even on a budget, you can do some things with the data right. So, looking at that zoomed out perspective of are are your customers happy, what's working, what isn't? But sometimes I think sometimes people worry about things to spend a lot of marketing ages, a lot on different organizations in order to do that. How can people do it themselves or with a small marketing team to really make use of that analytics and data?

Uzma Rafiq: 16:30

Yeah, really good question. I think, again, you need to kind of look at your marketing in two buckets. So one, is it a like brand awareness or brand building activity? Or two, is it something that you're maybe looking for like conversions from? Look at the aim it's. You can do so many different activities, but if you're not tracking why, um, and like, if you're not tracking what you're doing and like why you're doing it, it can be a little bit aimless and just seems like you might be churning out activities. So I would definitely look to see, like, okay, specifically, what type of activity is it? What's the full kind of campaign plan that you might be looking for? Like, what are companies? Is it emails? Are they social posts? And with that, definitely definitely kind of add those like KPIs and those metrics in to make sure that you know if it is something that's effective.

Uzma Rafiq: 17:26

I would say like, especially early on, testing and we mentioned this earlier is such a key factor. Um, but even organizations like, no matter how big they are, they definitely test things out. Um, and you need to be able to have a culture where you can test and kind of be okay to fail, sometimes as well. So you're going to be trying new things and if they don't work, that's okay. You learn from it and as long as you're learning something, you're like, okay, I could change this next time. There's always kind of ways around it. But even with those ab tests, my recommendations would just be, like we said earlier just test one thing at a time.

Amardeep Parmar: 17:58

 So I feel like we've gone like a nice journey here from at the beginning to just working out who you've been targeting. Then it's looking at what do you have to offer those people, how do you reach those people. Then, once you've got happy customers, how do you use the customers to drive more customers, and then, once you do have quite a good pool of data, how you can use that effectively. So that's kind of a nice five, six step process there and looking at, like what you're doing now yourself, what are you most excited about in the next say, six months to a year of what you're working on yourself?

Uzma Rafiq: 18:38

Oh, that's a very good question. I think there's so many developments that are taking place, like especially just kind of seeing what's happening with AI. I feel like everyone's definitely talking about AI and even from my side, that's one thing that I'm like always keen to kind of explore, like what are the changes that are happening in marketing? But even, as I've mentioned earlier, like I think that learning journey doesn't stop. So, for myself, things that I want to learn a little bit more about are, like SEO, and I definitely encourage people to kind of also be open to the idea of like being on a continuous learning journey. There's always new things that are taking place, um, and it doesn't mean that that will be your sole attention, um, but, yeah, just like enjoy what you kind of see and have those conversations with others to see like, oh, are you experiencing this as well, or have you encountered this? How did you kind of tackle that?

Amardeep Parmar: 19:34

Awesome. So we're going to jump to quick fire questions now. So the first one is who are three British Asians you think are doing incredible work and you'd love to shout out today?

Uzma Rafiq: 19:44

Definitely, um, first one would be Arfah Farooq. I think I'm going to be talking about quite a few people that you might have already had on your podcast.

Uzma Rafiq: 19:52

Um, I've like really come to know Arfah, I'd say, over the last six. So six months to maybe a year time flies, um but I've like really appreciated all the work that she's done to build and like elevate underrepresented communities and be able to see firsthand, like the difference that it makes when you like meet these new connections and and build these as well. And then, secondly, um, it would be, so fantastic reporter for Sifted, who is now a director um of ops at women in in BC and the founder of Brown Bodies. Again, been able to spend, like I'd say, definitely over the last year, gotten to know her a lot more and like really appreciated all that she's doing to, yeah, just like highlight visibility there as well. And then, thirdly, is Ibrahim Khan from Curate Capital and Islamic Finance Guru. Again, very cool to kind of see the developments that have happened on that side and everything that he's been doing for Islamic Finance Guru as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 21:02

And if people want to find out more about you and what you're up to, where should they go to?

Uzma Rafiq: 21:05

Definitely, you can find me on LinkedIn, and if you're curious to find out a little bit more about affinity, the website is just affinity. co, and you can find both of us on Linkedin as well.

Amardeep Parmar:

Awesome and if you need help right now, that the audience listening might be able to reach out and help you with?

Uzma Rafiq: 21:27

If anyone would like to talk about marketing and like wants to bounce any ideas off of one another, please feel free to reach out. Always happy to again. Like learn more, but also share some ideas as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 21:33

So thanks so much for coming on. Have you got any questions for me?

Uzma Rafiq: 21:34

Yeah, I'm gonna spend one of the questions that you asked me a little bit earlier. Um, so what are you most looking forward to over the next six months?

Amardeep Parmar: 21:42

Let's think. So there's so many things happening in this next six months. I'm not sure what's public information yet. For us. One is taking a bit of a break over summer and things quieting down a bit. I'm looking forward to that a lot. But there's big programs I think we're launching with schools and universities that are coming out which we're working on in the background. They're really excited about. By the time they come, I think I can say it's the BAE HQ report is being worked on as well in the background. There's a bunch of big events in the second half of the year too. So there's three kind of key pillars of things which I think are really exciting, but there's a lot of work behind them to make sure that they're as good as we hope they're going to be. And then, is there anything else or any final words from you before you wrap up?

Uzma Rafiq: 22:24

Thank you for having me um and I really appreciate like being able to take part in this and to all the founders listening in. I wish you all the best on your journey and would also recommend like checking out the events at the BAE HQ host. I promise this isn't sponsored. I think network is such a big part of the journey that you're going on, but also a big part of the go-to-market journey and you never know where that one connection that you meet could take you.

Amardeep Parmar: 22:52

Thank you for watching. Don't forget to subscribe. See you next time.

Coming soon...

Other episodes you may enjoy: