7 Bootstrap Marketing Strategies for Online Startups
Go back half a century and you would be quick to find marketing budgets on an entirely different level compared to today, especially when they are focused on only a few mediums during that time. Today however, businesses can be launched entirely out of a bedroom on a miniscule budget because of the flexibility and innovation of the Internet.
It is only after the business is launched that the hard part begins: marketing. Marketing for online startups is just as important today as it had been half a century ago. The difference in the way marketing works today is the ability to bootstrap and reach new levels of impact that can lead to incredible success. This article will explore several of those bootstrap techniques for online startups.
Method 1: Influence through Blogging
The first stop in bootstrapping the marketing efforts of an online startup should be on the startup's blog.
The startup's blog is an excellent medium for educating others about products, services and the company. Turn each of the employees into a blogger by having them work on a weekly article for the blog, letting them write about whatever fits.
A blog is also a great location to build a community. People that visit the blog have the opportunity to interact with the startup through blog comments, e-mail or connecting through a social media profile that is shared on the blog. Pull in those community members and they could become customers.
Method 2: Reaching Customers with Social Media
Social media is an encompassing term that can represent social networking websites such as Facebook or represent relevant blogs within the industry of the startup. Each social media platform and medium can become a potential source of marketing. It’s pure bootstrapping ingenuity because the vast majority of social media is free.
Social media is the perfect opportunity to reach potential customers as it's very likely that they are already talking about products related to your business on these online channels. Reaching out and contacting them through services like Twitter or Facebook could initiate a discussion. This could lead to the individual inquiring on additional information about your business and that starts the process of converting them into paying customers.
Method 3: Creating Online Video Sensation
Video dominates the web because it follows the same format as television but without as many disruptions from advertising. Now is the perfect opportunity to get started with promoting a business online on a bootstrap budget.
Video can be a great way to share information about a business's products and services through tutorials, reviews, testimonials and other informational videos your customers could be searching for. A small HD camera can get you started with this marketing channel. It's only a matter of having employees create individualized videos for the common questions customers have about the business to start bringing in new customers. Additionally, online video can be a great way to add support to a business that could turn a one-time customer into a life-long relationship.
Method 4: The Viral Effect of a Giveaway
Giveaways are a time tested tradition for promoting a business that doesn't cost an arm and a leg. Giveaways can often be as simple as the products or services your business already offers or could go as far as money, which allows anyone to enter since everyone has a reason for using money.
Online giveaways can be taken to the next level because of software, websites and tools that add a viral effect to the campaign such as requiring a Tweet or Facebook "like" in order to enter. When people participate in this fashion, they are also advertising the giveaway to their friends and family. As a business, you could use giveaways to build up the initial awareness of a business or even use it to spur up additional sales when people come to visit your business website.
Method 5: Getting on the Radar of Authorities
The people with the greatest online influence are also those with the largest voice. One way to bootstrap the marketing efforts of an online startup is to get on the radar of influential, authoritative individuals within the industry.
Befriend individuals with websites, blogs, newspaper columns and large social media presences. In due time, you could begin to ask if they would be willing to help promote your online startup, which will reach a larger social circle than you could on your own. The added benefit of working with authoritative individuals is that people trust their voice and will be far more receptive of your marketing.
Method 6: Recruiting Brand Ambassadors
In many ways, brand ambassadors play the same role as previously mentioned with authoritative and influential individuals with the exception that brand ambassadors are created from within the startup.
Each online startup will have an initial round of interested parties that will be part of the early wave of the online startup. These individuals can be recruited to help promote and market products, services and overall brand because they have a vested interest in seeing your company succeed because you provide them with a great experience.
Always reward individuals which talk highly of your online startup, but don't ignore those that disagree either. These individuals can be turned into brand ambassadors with the right connection.
Method 7: Leveraging the Analog World
An online startup has all of the major benefits of operating in an endless sea of the web, but those behind these businesses often forget the size of the offline world. Traditional marketing methods such as billboards, newspaper ads, fliers, business cards and conventions have thousands of individual opportunities each and every day as employees are out and about in their daily lives.
Instill the idea of real-time marketing in all employees of the online startup so they realize an opportunity when it arises. Arm the startup employees with the materials they need to give out and ways to promote it in their daily lives. Get active in attending local meet ups and meeting potential clients face-to-face to score another sale.