Bootstrapped marketing that’ll win your first customers
Let’s face it. Sales and customers are a startup’s bread and butter. Even if you’d like to go the VC route, you need to show traction. But how do you acquire users and customers without much, or any money? Seems like a chicken and egg problem doesn’t it.
Money isn’t the only resource here. How about time, and expertise? Which are all too scarce if you’re a solopreneur or running an early-stage startup. Do you have the capacity to wear yet another hat?
Here I’ll give an overview of the marketing channels and tactics that can get you from 0 to 1, quick!
First, make sure you have a MarTech stack in place. At the bare minimum, you should have:
- Something for analytics e.g. Google Analytics
- A CRM e.g. HubSpot
- Something to email e.g. ConvertKit (Here is a nice comparison of options)
You want to understand where you are at the moment, in order to track the efficacy of your marketing efforts going forward. How many visitors is your website currently getting each day, week, or month? Where are they coming from, and which pages are they engaging with the most?
You should also have a CRM in order to capture and nurture leads, talk to your customers, and support them. All these stories we hear of startups making multimillion-dollar exits, pre-revenue? They had lots of users in a database (CRM), and the math behind their acquisition offer was likely something like $X * Y users = $$EXIT$$. Bottom line: you should be capturing this user data. This is also a great strategy pre-launch: build an audience, and an initial base of users to launch to.
More sophisticated (and likely, paid) CRMs would have an email functionality, otherwise you can use a separate tool for that. You want to welcome and educate your users with an onboarding flow, keep them engaged with newsletters, and offer support.
StartupStash is a good resource that maps out options for each of these. SaaS tends to operate on freemium pricing models, so there’s likely a free tier that could be a great option to start with.
Next up, which channels should you try? Which social media platforms should you be on? It can definitely be overwhelming with the sheer volume of them, what with new ones popping up so often as well. The big things here are:
Focus on a couple. Instead of being everywhere and struggling to keep them all up-to-date, do a few (or even just one), well.
Be where your audience is. Maybe it is TikTok. Even better if you find one that your competition is not leveraging. For example, though LinkedIn is not a new platform by any means, it could be one that your competition is not currently leveraging.
Cash is King, Data is King… have you also heard this one: Content is King? Content is at the heart of marketing. It’ll help you build out your site, and in turn, your domain authority. As a founder, you know best about the problem your startup is solving, about its mission, etc. Write about it. Write about how you’ve experienced the problem personally, about how you have built or are building the company. Run competitors’ sites through SEO tools to see what content performs best for them. Perhaps you can write an updated, 2020 edition of a particular topic, or a different take on it. Enter your keywords into Google’s Keyword Tool to understand what people are searching for. Discover what people are asking for via AnswerThePublic. Keep up with trending topics via Twitter and BuzzSumo.
If you have a team, get them to contribute. Your blog can have categories like engineering, culture, and product. Look at how InVision does this.
The CMO of Ahrefs, an SEO toolset has a “Blogging for business” course that is now free. Consider taking it.
With all this content, you now have material to share on your chosen platforms. Tailor them for the platform by customising the descriptive text and accompanying image; tools like Pablo or Canva can help with the latter. You now also have material to pitch news or industry outlets to syndicate, or to publish to a relevant Medium publication to extend its reach. Plus the credibility to pitch websites in your niche to offer to guest blog. And content to repurpose into podcasts, webinars, or a conference talk. All the while boosting your SEO!
Remember that creating content is 20% of the work, and sharing is 80%. If you have some budget, you can boost its reach with some paid spend. And if you’d like to ramp up your content engine, you can consider hiring writers via Cult of Copy’s job board on Facebook or UpWork.
Now that you have all these bits in place, sit back, relax, and hope your rocketship takes off.
Really? Not really, sorry. We have to show up, be consistent, and be patient.
To up your marketing game even more, here are some resources I recommend:
- Marketing Examples
- Marketing School, a daily podcast under 10 minutes. I definitely do not listen to it every day, but I do visit their site every so often to search for something specific.
- Forget the Funnel, weekly hour-long webinars focussed on SaaS