Category: Marketing

Attract more customers and investors in just 2 minutes

Attract more customers and investors in just 2 minutes

This post originally appears on

Disclaimer: You may take more than 2 minutes to accomplish some of the suggestions we are sharing below to promote your startups to potential customers, partners and investors. However, there is no doubt that you are reading this article right now because you are interested to make a quick impact on your startup. To help you achieve that goal, I have arranged the tips in order of increasing complexity so start with the easiest and be inspired to accomplish the rest.

1. Make it a priority to update your own or company’s Linkedin profile
If you are a startup, it is likely that you are looking for partners and investors almost all the time. According to LinkedIn, it already had 380 million members in the second quarter of 2015, making it a huge network of customers, partners and investors to tap on.

A good Linkedin profile improves credibility and allows you to quickly gain vast networks and recommendations to influential professionals in the same industry or those interested to meet nascent entrepreneurs like yourself.

The content to update include your professional background (this is not a case of more is better, include only relevant ones to your startup) as well as past successes. Be as detailed as you can to emphasize that you are better than your peers, for example, taking a shorter time to achieve a certain successful outcome, leading a group of individuals to accomplish the same goal or even doing something outside of your expertise well to demonstrate the ability to learn and adapt quickly.

Next, do ask for recommendations from people who have worked closely with you. Make sure those recommendations appear as sincere as you can, demonstrating specific examples of how you have shined either in your startup or past work experience to demonstrate the potential that you will succeed again now. Do not underestimate the power of recommendations as it is now the new ‘word of mouth’ online.

One common question asked is what if they don’t get back to you? A good strategy to get the recommendations for yourself more quickly is to write for them first or provide them with a template to drive your branding objectives.

At the same time, do connect with people whom Linkedin recommend to you or whom you would like to meet (prominent investors, partners, employees of relevant departments in corporates) as it is just a click away. The network effect will bring you more relevant recommendations and some people may more likely connect with you because you have connected with people from their Linkedin network.

Last but not least, do include email address on your profile so that it breaks down the barriers to connect with you since interested parties can email you instead of sending you InMail.

2. Make it easy for people to know you better and build trust through online platforms
Go to Angelist and set up a profile of your company. Then, repeat for platforms like Crunchbase, F6s and e27. These platforms have vast networks of investors and individuals interested to work in startups so promoting your company’s profile there will allow others to easily discover your startup as well as potentially boost the SEO ranking of your website. I have personally tried doing this when I’m still working for a business incubator and there was an overall 20% increase in the number of queries on incubation/funding in the months that followed.
Next, do update your website to include:
Twitter website
Google+ page website
Facebook page/group website
your new personal or company’s Linkedin profile

If you have received venture capital investment or government’s grant, have you included your startup website and description on the investor’s portfolio website? Take advantage of the higher SEO ranking of the investor’s or grant website as they are probably highly visited by the rest of the startups out there.The fact that you are listed also increases your startup’s credibility as it implies that you have a validated business model.It is also important to include the same information in your own website. Ethan from says, “Customers who have never heard of their company before feel safer buying recreational lessons from them when they’re aware that NUS Enterprise and SPRING ACE grant supports their company.”
Peck Ying Tan, cofounder of, a startup which utilises physical products combined with technology to help make a lady’s life easier during “that time of the month”, shares that “People will always be looking out for signs that says “I can trust you”, whether is it by being an opinion leader in the industry (elaborated in the next point) or by simply scanning your website or profiles. Make sure they find the signs.” She also advocates the following:

Reviews reviews reviews (of your product). It takes just one minute to email or call your current customers to take a minute to review your product. Incentivise them with movie tickets (this is tried and tested to work especially in Singapore) if you will. Nothing beats testimonials by customers themselves.
Media coverage. Small media brings in the larger media. It doesn’t matter where you are being covered at the start, but make sure your company has some coverage and other media will be coming to knock on your doors. Your customers / partners are also more likely to trust you when they know you have been featured on the news. It takes just one minute to ping a journalist on Linkedin and propose a suitable angle to write about you.
Attracting success with success. Have you partnered with any big name or have any as your customer? List their logos down on your website, leverage on their names to gain trust. This is especially useful for B2B startups.
3. Establish yourself as the opinion leader in the industry
Through participation in relevant online Forums and Quora. You don’t have to participate in all the discussions and the key is contributing sustainably. For the first two minutes, create an account on relevant forums and Quora. Then set aside an hour on the same day each week to look for relevant threads and air your views.
Reach out to conferences to speak: Volunteer first to gain recognition. As a conference organiser in the past, one of the biggest headaches we have is getting the right speakers and asking them to speak at our events. Having someone who steps forward willingly is certainly much appreciated. Most conferences feature their speakers on the website and new conferences often reach out to these speakers to speak. For the next two minutes, search for suitable conferences happening in the next two to three months and start pinging the organisers.

Be guest writers on blogs like Techinasia (like me!) or other blogs that are in your industry vertical (or where your customers “hang out”). The two-minute task would be to go through what you have written previously and revise it so that it is something that a particular blog would like to publish.Set up an account and blog on Medium. For a start or to increase the mileage of your blog, Linkedin is also a great platform to share your thoughts too.
So… when are you going to start doing any of this?


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From zero to Hero in 12 months, How ShopBack does it

This post originally appears on Techinasia

The first phase of a start-up often involves finding ways of to get the early adopters on-board and generating feedback to iterate the idea. You may have seen many of those blogs that discuss customer acquisition strategies in theory but these are usually difficult to be replicated without understanding the context. To really nail product development, follow the journey of a “Hero”, someone who has been there and done that – like Shanru Lai, Head of Marketing at ShopBack. In this interview, she shares some affordable yet effective marketing strategies that worked for them.

Why ShopBack?

The founders of ShopBack, Henry Chan and Joel Leong were first-time entrepreneurs but they have managed to build a large customer base within a year from launch. Started in August 2014, ShopBack has powered more than 100,000 customer transactions at popular eCommerce portals both in Singapore and abroad within less than 10 months. ShopBack offers online shoppers up to 30% cash back when they shop online at any of the 300 Asian and North American brands. Shopping categories range from fashion to F&B, travel and electronics, and the team has brought on board well known retailers like ZALORA, ASOS and Groupon.

And running a start-up often means making the best of the little you have. According to Shanru, even though ShopBack is in a slightly more advantageous position as they have raised over US$500,000 in seed funding last year, they are always mindful of how they can optimise marketing spend to give the company its longest runway.

Firstly, identify your market segment

Crafting successful marketing campaigns begins with an end in mind. ShopBack identifies their target market as anyone who shops online in South East Asia and typically between the age of 18 to 45 years old. Shanru shared that this helped them to focus on the choice of marketing channels — those that their target market frequently engages with – Facebook, instagram and blogs. She insists there is no one-size-fits-all social platform: some customers are inactive on Facebook but are heavy SnapChat users so ShopBack needs mix its media. These behaviors, however, always depend on the market and location of your users.

Paid marketing for new user acquisition

While paid marketing has worked very well for eCommerce companies, it all boils down to one simple strategy – deliver real value to customers. To attract new customers, ShopBack relies on Facebook ads, engagement on other social media and blogs.

The first step is to create a daily budget for Facebook ads, which is in line with their monthly targets. Optimising the images, content, and the time of posts is an ongoing task. Shanru scrutinizes the analytics data regularly to identify trends or confirm certain hypothesis, for example, the most effective timing to put up the Facebook post to maximise engagement. The most popular content among ShopBack’s users tends to include price promotions, especially when discounts can be stacked with cash back. The key is also to find out the 80/20 when it comes to selecting which brand partners’ sale promotions to promote. Knowing the top online brands that bring about the highest conversions or has the highest web traffic enable ShopBack to prioritise the brands to focus the majority of marketing dollar on them.

For new start-ups with no history of data to fall back on, Shanru shared that they can start by observing the content and timing of the Facebook posts on major competitors’ pages and then adapt their strategy accordingly.

Following Acquisition with Retention

The work does not end after the new customers are acquired as they still need to be persuaded to make a transaction or be actively engaged to make repeat transactions. Shanru’s strategy for retention:  email marketing. To achieve high click rates, ShopBack crafts relevant content alongside persuasive copy and fine tuned design. Through the email analytics she has done, Shanru realises that it is often effective to entice new customers or those who have not made a recent transaction by sending exclusive bonuses on their next purchase.

In addition, Shanru shares that their blog has played a pivotal role in bringing in more traffic to their site and creating conversions to first sales. They would share good promotions from their brand partners on the blog and this has also enabled them to package more value into the marketing campaigns they run for the partners. Again, this is a way of delivering real value to their customers. For new start-ups, one concern could be how to maintain a blog team sustainably. ShopBack does it in the beginning by working with freelancers and having a central person to manage and edit the posts.

From time to time, Shanrun has also found it effective to engage fans in a fun and different way. Once a month, they run contests on Facebook and on their blog, in the form of lucky draws or giveaways of a particular brand’s vouchers or products, to engage users.

Get a marketing expert onboard

It sounds like a no-brainer but it is an area that is often overlooked. As a founder, unless you have prior marketing experience, it is essential to have someone experienced in marketing onboard if you are running an eCommerce business. It is possible for someone to learn on the job but it works much more efficient to have someone who’s already in the know, given the limited runway.

Shanru shared that she was already running marketing campaigns back in ZALORA and therefore ensuring that marketing efforts deliver the business objectives is no stranger to her.

Hoping that it gets viral in the end

While getting the word out through their marketing efforts has been effective in general, Shanru maintained that the holy grail is still word of mouth marketing, via their referral program. But it will take some time for the business to get to that stage, as the number of customers need to reach a certain level before an exponential increase can happen. Having said that, referral programs should be there from day 1 and it is worth setting up a simple yet reliable referral system to enable your local customers to share about your site. Every quarter, in addition to the social media campaigns, Shanru would run a special bonus referral campaign so that customers would be more incentivized to share actively during those particular months.


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Getting the word out on your business — Affordable yet Effective ways (Part 1)

Getting the word out on your business — Affordable yet Effective ways (Part 1)

I will be sharing about one of my favorite subjects, Marketing and consumer psychology in this post. The ideas below are also inspired from this wonderful article from I have added the local context to those tips I think work here and also added an estimate to the budget/customer.

Running a startup often mean two things — low budget for marketing but a vital need to be top of mind. Here’s some means to achieve both ends 🙂

Online ideas

  • Participate actively in forums
  • If your business is in the B2C space,  you may find participating in forums that are participated by your target customers very cost effective. The key is to establish credibility for yourself, engage the other forum participants in a ‘non-predatory’ manner and present your startup in a FYI, factual ways. Having people to endorse you or give good reviews and testimonials will go a long way. (Cost: your time)
  • Sell on,,, carousel app and other e-commerce sites 
  • Why invent the wheel when there are throngs of people already buying things from these apps and e-commerce marketplaces? If your business centres around selling products to consumers, open a virtual store and start marketing your products and services.  The transaction fees get lower as your sales volume increases and it can be a good way of getting your brand noticed, before you build a loyal following which will follow you from your e-commerce marketplace store to a standalone online store.
  • Self-publish an e- book.
  • There are quite a few channels to help market e-books by amateurs and free lancers. As puts it, “Nothing screams “expert” quite so loudly as a book written about a subject.” It is as good as an advertisement for your company that’ll last forever. You won’t make money on the book. You’ll make it because of the book.

Create promo codes

  • and set them up on cuponation, retailmenot, and This is more suitable for e-commerce businesses and it helps in being discovered. ($x depending on the depth of the discount – your usual cost to acquire a customer)

Offline ideas

  • Burn the flyers… try Door-hangers on gates instead.
  • Imagine the home owner reaching out for the gate and then discovering this colorful door hangers with a promotion for your company’s product or service attractively displayed… Good idea isn’t it? However, this is just limited to businesses that are geographical based or involve delivery to home. For example: “Having a headache thinking of what’s for dinner tonight? Order now from for $10 off and get piping hot dinner delivered free to your home. ($2/customer (excluding your time to hang the advertisements))
  • T-shirts and vests.
  • Not an especially unique idea but it could work if you hand them out strategically. For example, if you have thirty employees and your office is based in a highly populated area, with most being in your target segment, giving them company shirts with crisp, catchy taglines may gain you walking billboards, 5 days a week. Handing printed t-shirts to your target customers also help them to keep your brand top of mind, provided that the shirt has a nice design, the right material for the climate and right size for the wearer 🙂 ($10/customer)


Fundraising? This blogpost is probably a god-send

Fundraising? This blogpost is probably a god-send

Just came across this webpage, and it is probably a resource that quite a few startups have been looking for a long time.
The writer, Alexander, has aggregated the pitchdecks of VC funded startups. Freaking awesome! Click through for the following companies’ decks:


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How successful startups acquired their first few users

Came across an interesting article recently and just wanted to share my thoughts on it:)

Link to article:

Why go around the block just to get next door?

A simple quote that hits the nail on the head. I personally know of start-ups that pour thousands of marketing dollars down the drain monthly and the only one laughing its way to the bank is Facebook. As a start-up,  it’s  good start lean and avoid spending unless it’s strategic. The article mentions that Groupon had done it right by “asking fellow tenants if they’d be interested in a half price pizza at the shop on the first floor.”  When I was working for a daily deals based start-up in Singapore, back in 2011 when Daily deals sites are at its peak, instead of spending on email marketing, we did a few things that cost almost nothing:

1. Barter trade — You have 13,000 likes on your facebook page or 50,000 email subscribers; I have 14,000 likes on facebook and 50,000 email subscribers. Can we each post a facebook shoutout on the other person’s facebook page or send an engaging mail to each other’s subscriber list? This trick dates back centuries but it still work in today’s digital world. But do it smartly, posting on a facebook page that caters to car lovers won’t do if you are in the business of selling art and craft.

2.  Work on your facebook page and Participate in related facebook groups– If your product is B2C, often times facebook can help to accelerate the customer acquisition process. When I was in the daily deals start-up, we basically set up a facebook page and share interesting images, websites, articles and videos daily. We also realised that sharing them at mealtimes give us the most hits as people are basically surfing their newsfeed at that time. Go try it on yours!

We also share it (casually:p via our personal accounts ) in related facebook pages or ‘deal aggregator’ pages as it reaches to your target market directly– customers with similar interests. The trick is to share it in a casual manner.

3. Participate in related Forums— you need to do this legally as some forums do look out for people who post with commercial intent. But this strategy has worked well for consumer based product businesses, for example, mummy-preneurs often advertise their wares on forums like SingaporeMotherhood Forum.

4. Create a strong following of loyal customers

When Google launches a beta product, there are often people who queue to volunteer to help test the product etc. This is often not a tactic you can deploy when your business just started but do plan it into part of your mid term plan so that you are constantly building that network of loyal customers. Create your own trusted group of customers and keep them close so you can (almost!) sit back to watch them perform the magic.

5. Testimonials

Word of mouth marketing is king, even in this high tech age. Treat your customers well, especially your first batch of customers who had taken the plunge, and they will help to spread the news for you. Some would even be kind enough to give you testimonials so find your rare gems and display them strategically on your company website!

Let me know if any of the tips above work for you!

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