This is the second post in my "Bootstrap Mondays" series. Read last week's post, Revenues & Momentum is Everything, first.
Bootstrapping obviously works best when you don't have loads of expenses & overheads burdening you down. One of these expenses that seems unavoidable in a startup, is marketing-related expenditure.
Regardless of what you classify under marketing, most of your options (PPC, Banner Advertising, PR etc.) will cost you something. The free alternatives are obviously viable, but they rely on significant word of mouth / viral traction, which in turn is only achieved if a couple of stars align for you: you have an amazing product, the way you first pitch that is perfect and your timing is spot-on. Whilst I wouldn't necessarily say that you only have one shot at this, it does sometimes feel like that; fuck it up and you might as just well move onto the next idea / project.
I did this a little bit differently when I launched the first product that eventually became WooThemes.
Unlike these days, I used to have a thriving blog back in the day (probably due to being a relatively early adopter and the fact that everyone & their aunt has a blog nowadays), I blogged a lot and had a prominent voice within the WordPress community. I spent a lot of time making sure that I was being heard (sometimes controversially so) and I shaped my personal reputation & profile around that voice.
For better or worse, this culminated in the "Adii - WordPress Rockstar" moniker that I labeled on top of myself and people knew me as a result. (As I said: for better or worse… In hindsight I know that even though I probably seemed arrogant to many people, at least I had their attention…)
This meant that I had an audience; one that I had cultivated because of my reputation and the work that I put into building an online profile. I used my blog to do all of the marketing for my first ever product. I didn't have to pay $1 to get my message to my target audience; they were already there.
Sounds a bit like pipe dreams? Maybe… I'm the first to admit that it is hard to have a thriving blog these days and have seen a decrease in my own blog's traction since those earlier days. But I think there are other ways to build your reputation these days:
Building your reputation & online profile is free. This is also the perfect foundation to launch a new business.
By doing all of this, you don't necessarily get closer to your target audience, but you do come onto the radar of influential people that will help you spread the word when you eventually launch your product / service.