21 marketing tips from startups that bootstrapped their way to success

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| Last Updated: September 01, 2017 |

Reading time: 6 minutes

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When building your startup, you have two options; raise funds or bootstrap. The business plan way of raising money for your venture still has its place. However, intense competition among startups makes raising funds a long shot for most entrepreneurs.

For the most part, you will be better off bootstrapping your startup until you have some traction to raise the eyebrows of keen investors. Marketing can make or break your startup. Below are 21 marketing tips you can borrow from startups that bootstrapped their way to success.

Vishan LakhianiMindValleyForge Networks and Connect

Professional networking groups are a great place to test and get feedback about your ideas, minimum viable product (MVP) and market. Join relevant groups on LinkedIn, YCombinator, and Reddit to connect with people that can help you. Conferences are also great; just attend the right ones.

Mark SusterUpfrontGet Customer Input

Get feedback for your product before you build it. Interview your prospective customers to determine their problems. Then, provide different solutions and identify the ones the prospects seem to favor. Finally, ask the prospects if they will be willing to pay for the solution.

Anupy SinglaIndian as an Apple PieListen to Customers

Listen to the needs of your customers. Use your customers to determine what to provide and how to provide it. Before you make a full offer, test the waters with your customers and let them drive your offer and marketing strategy.

Danny WongBlank Label Group, Inc. Use Partnerships

Use partnerships to grow your business. When promoting your startup or product, identify other people in your space that can help you get the word out. Partnering with an established company can help to build credibility for your startup.

Jared ChristophersonYellowhamme. Use Influencers

Identify a number of key influencers in your industry and form a good relationship with them. Focus your efforts in building a relationship with influencers that have followers and that can market your startup to the right audience.

Matt Mickiewicz99designs. Trending Topics

Generate buzz for your startup by riding on the coattails of a currently trending “hot topic.” 99designs used this strategy to create buzz on their startup. When GAP unveiled a logo design, which was heavily criticized on the web, 99 designs took advantage of the happening with a crowdsourcing competition to show what its community can deliver.

Brett FarmiloeDigital Marketing Agency. Use Email

Use email to reach your prospects. There are many cost-effective email solutions that will work for your startup. MailChimp has a free plan that allows sending emails to up to 12,000 subscribers per month. If you can invest in paid email solutions, you can set up autoresponders and run more elaborate email campaigns.

Dale PartridgeSevenly.org Use Video

Many startups tend to forget the power of video. YouTube is a must if you are bootstrapping your business. Video can not only build your brand, but also get subscribers and visitors to your website. Sevenly.org leveraged YouTube to generate over 40,000 unique visitors in less than 30 days.

Dharmesh ShahHubspot. Focus on Benefits

People always buy the benefit, not the feature. Do not lose sight of your business value proposition. You do not have to be better, different or expensive in the market. What matters is how you frame the differences in terms of the benefits, associated risks and value that resonate with your customers.

Liam MartinStaff.com. Cold Calling

Do not be afraid to do cold calling. If you have a great product that will be useful to your target market, call people and ask them to use it. Liam Martin got initial traction for his business through cold calling.

Lucas SommerAudimated. Use Contests and Competitions

Use social media sites like Twitter and Facebook to hold contests and competitions. You can provide the winner with a prize or a discount for your product or service. Competitions get hundreds of people talking about your brand in public but you only need to reward one winner.

Tony HsiehZappos. Keep Customers Happy

When Tony Hseih was building Zappos, he realized that the more he paid attention to existing customers, the more business grew through word of mouth. Do not neglect your existing customers. Make them happy and they will market your product for free.

Jordan FliegelCoachUp, Inc. On-Message Email Signatures

Update your email signatures and include your startup’s mission statement. Everyone sending out email in your company should have the startup’s mission statement in their email signature. This will help to send a consistent message for your brand.

Dave OlsonHootsuite. Tell Your Story

Start telling your story from day one, even before you launch. Start a blog and record your journey with your audience. Telling your story makes customers feel like part of your company, which bolsters loyalty and leads to higher retention rates after launch.

Torrey TayenakaSparkhouse. Use Business Cards

Business cards may be frowned upon in the tech world. However, they are very effective in getting new clients, especially for SaaS and design-related startups. If you will be hitting a networking conference, have a business card ready. Handing out UV printed business cards can give your startup a major image boost.

Bob Walsh47 Hats: Go to the Market

If you already have an idea of who will be the best people for your product, take the next step. Approach a small segment of your market and offer them your product. This is the only way you can know whether customers will be ready to pay for whatever you are creating.

Bhavin ParikhMagoosh Test Prep. Create Compelling Content

Create compelling, evergreen content for your target audience. Writing high quality content will help to improve traffic to your website and generate quality leads. Magoosh Test Prep went from a few hundred visitors per month to tens of thousands of visitors after six months through sustained high quality content creation.

Kwame KuadeyGiftCardRescue.com. Start Top “10” Lists

People love lists. There is a reason why list posts drive a lot of traffic to blogs. Create list posts that your audience will love. The lists should be relevant to them, help them improve their lives or business or educate them. Such lists can be picked up by major new outlets and drive thousands of targeted visitors to your site.

Zach CutlerCutler GroupGet Social

Getting the word out about your startup is likely to be a challenge. However, you can use social media to create buzz around your idea and market your company. When used effectively, social media can make your idea grow viral and provide your company with enough expose to get a head start.

Greg CiottiHelpscoutHave a Content Funnel

Have a content funnel to get your target audience back to your products. Regardless of whether you are using a blog, social media or email, ensure your message is educative and will make prospects want to try your product.

Ray KananiSmart Pics. Solve a Problem

Solve a problem that your audience has. This is the best form of marketing you can do. When you provide a good solution, customers will market your startup to others with similar problems.

Hope this is of great help! Please feel free to add your tips in the comment section.

Author of the post

John Solomon

Marketing Leader / Sales Enabler. Head of India Operations for @Infrascale / @sosonlinebackup.

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