III. Bootstrapping Your Way to Success
Bootstrapping Strategy 4. Use Viral Marketing
Viral marketing is a form of advertising where you let your target market carry your marketing message for you. One good example of viral marketing is all those YouTube videos that you send to your friends. Another good example is a Facebook contest where people need to “like” or “share” content in order to eligible to win a prize.
Of course in that last example, there’s a strong incentive to spread the marketing message, which always helps. However, you don’t need to promise people a chance to win something in order to get them to share content.
That’s because when something is really useful, entertaining, weird, controversial or just plain different, people tend to naturally share the report, video, blog post, infographic, cartoon, or other content with their friends.
You can no doubt think of countless examples from your own life. Just think of how many times you’ve found something awesome and shared it with friends, or how often they’ve shared something awesome with you.
For example: Companies that advertise during the Super Bowl in the United States now put their ads online. Some companies, like GoDaddy, get publicity by creating ads that are too racy for television... so they upload these commercials online. The free publicity draws people to the site, but the novel, controversial or racy commercials get people sharing the links with the friends. That’s viral marketing.
As you can see, you don’t need to be a struggling, cash-strapped start-up in order to use viral marketing. Some of the biggest and wealthiest companies both online and offline embrace it. And that’s because of the following two reasons…
Reason #1. It’s a cost-effective form of advertising. You may need to invest money in creating the content, and you may even need to invest some money in kick-starting the campaign. However, once you get it in front of enough people, it takes on a life of its own as the viral effect kicks in.
Reason #2. It’s extremely effective since friends are sharing the content. That’s because of social proof. People are simply much more open to something they get from a friend, as opposed to something they see advertised from a third-party stranger.
For example, you might see an ad on Facebook that tells you to go watch a video or check out a cute photo. You may or may not do it. But if a friend posts about this same video on their Facebook page, or if they personally email the link to you, then you’re much more likely to check it out. That’s why viral marketing is so powerful.
To get a feel for what works, study the videos that your competitors are putting on YouTube. Visit their Facebook pages to see which posts are getting the most “shares” and “likes.” Go to their blogs and see what kinds of posts generate discussion and get people clicking on the social sharing button. And search for their names and links in Google, as that will give you an idea of what’s being shared in your niche.
Then take note of what your market responds to. Do they seem to respond best to:
Blog posts, like a “top ten” list?
Tools? (Like a free WordPress plugin or a free phone app.)
Also, take note of the flavor of the viral content. What appeals to your market? Do they respond to controversy, usefulness, humor, novelty or something else?
Once you have a feel for what works in your market, then start experimenting. Keep in mind that something truly unique tends to work the best, so don’t model your viral content or tool after something that has already been done. You can use the same format (such as a video) and “flavor” (such as humor), but don’t mimic the content itself. Create something new, something that your users are likely to feel is share-worthy.
Also, once you’ve created your viral content or tool, keep in mind that you need to kick start the viral effect. This means that you need to get in front of as many people as possible in the beginning. This includes emailing your list about it, blogging about it, telling your social media contacts about it and getting your business partners to tell their prospects and visitors too.
Now, while viral marketing tends to be very low cost or even free, you can use paid advertising… even if your ad budget seems small. That’s our next strategy.
Bootstrapping Strategy 5. Use ‘Pay Later’ Marketing
What we’re talking about here are advertising systems that typically don’t require an upfront fee. In most cases, you don’t have to pay unless you get results.
One of the best examples of this is affiliate marketing. This is where you offer your affiliates a commission for every paying customer they send your way. The beauty of this method is that you don’t have to spend a single dime unless the traffic results in a sale – then you send the referring affiliate an agreed-upon cut of the profits. As such, you’re only paying for results.
Another way to approach this is to look for advertising methods that do not require an upfront fee. The idea here is to use your profits in order to pay for the advertising.
One example of this sort of “pay later” advertising is when you sell something on eBay. This site bills you for all your placement and success fees once a month, rather than having you pay at the time that you create your ad. Thus if you’re low on cash, you can run eBay ads, collect the money from your buyers, and pay your eBay fees with the cash you received.
Another example of “pay later” marketing is Google AdWords, which has a postpay option. If you use this option, then you pay once every 30 days. However, if you exceed your billing limit (such as $500), then you’ll be billed sooner.
This is a great option if you’re low on the funds required to pay upfront fees. However, this is also very risky – especially if you’re new to Google AdWords. That’s because it’s pretty easy to blow through your budget without making very many sales, especially if the keywords you choose to bid on aren’t targeted enough or if your sales letter doesn’t convert well. Thus you should only use this “pay later” strategy if you’re confident in your ability to turn your traffic into buyers, otherwise, you may end up with an advertising bill at the end of the month that you can’t afford.
Still another “pay later” strategy is to arrange JVs or joint ventures. This is when two or more business people work together for mutual benefit. While you may not have to pay money to your business partner, you will have to pay in some manner, such as by returning the favor.
For example, your partner may agree to advertise your product on his blog today. In return, you’ll have to advertise your partner’s product on your blog too. This is called a co-promotion, and it’s one of the more common joint ventures.
Another example of a joint venture is when you create content with a partner. For example, you might do a webinar together, where you each promote your own products at the end. Or you may join forces to create viral content together.
There are plenty of ways to do joint ventures with others. And while they rarely cost money, you do have to pay in some form or another by sharing your resources, such as your time, talent or traffic. But it is an effective marketing method for those low on cash.
Now let’s look at the next bootstrapping strategy. . .