Make no mistake about it. Marketing is the lifeblood of your business. No marketing, no business.
It’s that simple.
Sure, some businesses succeed with little marketing. They’re the exception, not the rule.
If you want your business to thrive—and grow—you must market it to your target audience—especially if you’re in a small business.
But you might be thinking: “I don’t have the money to run TV commercials or put full-page ads in the local paper.”
Those aren’t the only ways of marketing your business. You can mount effective marketing campaigns without using these tools. And it doesn’t have to cost you a ton of money.
That’s where bootstrapping comes in.
What is Bootstrap Marketing?
What’s bootstrap marketing? It’s primarily a mindset. It recognizes that you can do a lot more than you think you can—and you don’t have to invest heavily to do it. You just have to be willing to think outside the box when it comes to marketing.
Put another way, bootstrapping is doing things yourself—at no or low cost. Often, it also involves getting help from others, like your friends or your business contacts, when key issues are concerned.
But first, you need to sit down and create a list of people you think can provide good marketing advice for free or a small amount. You can take them to lunch at a local restaurant or give them a bottle of wine for their help.
Creating a Contact List
Next, you need to decide which of these contacts have connections within your target audience – these people are your connectors. These can be face-to-face connections, online followers of a website, Twitter account, Facebook page, and so on.
These are the people you’ll contact when you have marketing questions or can’t make a decision on which strategy to use – these people will be your mavens (what is a maven?). Their help can be invaluable. You’ll need them when you want advice on promotional approaches or creative ways to reach your target audience.
Having created your resource lists, you can now start exploring bootstrapping techniques. Below are six that can help you market your business goals:
Track your competitors. See what they’re doing, what they’re saying about themselves, and what people are saying about them. Then find a way to differentiate yourself from them. Differentiation is a critical component of any marketing strategy. It’s also a critical first step in bootstrapping your business.
Be your own PR manager
Public relation is a great way to get exposure with no or a small investment. Start with easy wins at first. Reach out to your local newspapers or radio and TV stations. Also, look for blogs covering your local area. Try to get one of these to feature you.
Signing up with HARO (Help a Reporter Out) can help you with regional and national coverage. Then reach out to these reporters with story ideas. You should also look for local events that you can join to take part in to promote your business.
Take advantage of social media
Social media is a powerful, yet low-cost marketing tool. Ask loyal customers on Facebook to give you some love. Also, add graphics to your website pages and email newsletters asking people to “Find us on Facebook, or “Follow us on Twitter.” You
can also use the front of your store to ask for Facebook fans. Look for other opportunities to promote yourself on social media, like joining a local LinkedIn group.
Tap into mobile
Explore ways to tap into customers cell phones or smartphones. It’s an inexpensive way to get your brand in front of potential customers. Plus, people trust their phones. That helps build credibility when you send a message. Advertising on mobile phone banners, for example, is cost-effective marketing technique. Another is sending and receiving text messages to your target audience.
Make use of chatbots
Chatbots are small computer programs that mimic intelligent conversations with humans. They’re also great low-cost marketing tools that can help you sell your products and services. They can even make recommendations tailored to customers’ tastes.
And they can do it 24/7, helping you make money while you sleep. You can also use chatbots to take and process payments, gain customer insights, increase engagement with customers, qualify leads, and personalize your marketing. See this article for more on chatbots.
Grow your own email list
If there’s one tool from this list you should use, it’s email. When you create an email list, it’s yours until you discard it. And while it takes some work to develop, the list can help you establish strong relationships with your subscribers. Once you have the list, learn the art of email marketing. It will pay off—and it won’t cost a lot.
These bootstrapping techniques can help you market your business inexpensively. They can make an impact when used correctly, help reach out and engage customers, and enhance the customer experience at your business. More importantly, they can help you boost profits and increase growth.