There's no longer any excuse for letting your marketing slide.
As an entrepreneur running a bootstrapped company, marketing is not likely at the top of your to-do list. Bootstrapped companies are by definition lean, so founders don’t usually spend much on formal marketing. After all, great products sell themselves, so why bother?
Unfortunately, if you’re not doing much marketing, you’re missing a huge opportunity to scale your business. When done right, marketing will help attract new customers, strengthen your brand relative to competitors, and position your company for long-term revenue growth. The best part: You don’t need to spend a fortune to do it.
New marketing channels are growing exponentially as digital communication evolves. So the first step is to identify opportunities that deliver the most bang for your buck. The following strategies and tools can be a great starting point for cash-strapped CEOs looking to kickstart their marketing programs on the cheap.
Make Organic Search Your Best Friend
Your company’s website is often the first opportunity to make an impression on a prospect. But first, you have to get potential customers there. The most cost-effective way to do that is search engine optimization. SEO is the practice of improving the content and structure of your website to make it appear prominently in free organic or non-paid search results. Understanding how Google, Yahoo and Bing algorithms work to rank certain web pages takes one part mad technical skill, one part alchemy. However, there are a few simple tools that make SEO easier.
Google’s free Adwords Tool can help you identify the search terms with the most volume and relevance for your business. Next, try a tool like SEOmoz or Raven Tools, which can cost less than $100 a month, to get recommendations for specific site content and structure changes. Additionally, these services let you monitor your competitors’ performance in SEO as well as your own.
Become a Google Analytics Guru
Once potential customers arrive at your website, you’ve got to do everything you can to keep them there and get them to convert - whether that’s making a purchase, filling out a lead form or watching a demo.You work too hard to get potential customers to your website not to take full advantage of these visitors once they get there. Our advice: Become a pro at Google Analytics.
Google Analytics is much more than a tool for simply measuring monthly website visitors. Google offers over 200 dimensions and metrics to help you segment site visitors based on browser type, mobile device, click behavior, geography or other variables. Segmenting your visitors will allow you to connect the right prospect with the right content to increase conversion and close sales.
Listen To Your Customers
Now that you’ve brought visitors to your site and converted them to customers, you need to keep them happy and loyal. That begins with listening. When you launched your company, you probably knew your first customers well. But once you have hundreds or even thousands of customers, how can you stay close to them all? The answer is to use digital feedback tools.
Online feedback can be bucketed into two categories: solicited and unsolicited. Each serves a distinct purpose.
Unsolicited feedback often comes in the form of unstructured data in blogs, social media and online reviews platforms. There are plenty of costly services that allow companies to track this feedback, but for companies with limited resources, Google Alerts should be your first listening tool. Google Alerts allows you to track mentions of your brand or products (and your competitors’) primarily in news stories and across the web.
Then, try services such as SocialMention, Trackur or Sprout Social, which are free or cost less than $100 a month, to track mentions of your brand on social networks and forums. These tools don’t offer in-depth analytics, but they’ll at least help you find negative mentions about your company.
Solicited feedback is a different beast. Online surveys allow companies to capture more specific feedback from their customers at scale. Survey Monkey and Survey Gizmo are the two most well-known survey products in the market, and each has a pricing option for less than $100 per month. With surveys, you can ask customers questions that will help improve marketing, merchandising and customer service, without worrying that the world is listening to potentially critical (and valuable) feedback.
For bootstrapped companies, marketing should never be an afterthought, especially with so many new, ultra-cheap digital marketing tools at your disposal.
GAVIN TURNER AND C. JASON PAYNE: Gavin M. Turner and C. Jason Payne are the co-founders of Mainsail Partners, a San Francisco growth equity firm that invests in successful bootstrapped businesses. They have invested nearly $400 million in entrepreneurs striving to take their business beyond start-up to the next level.