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If you’ve ever tried starting a business from scratch, you know it’s no joke. In fact, 20% of new businesses fail within the first year, whether they’re funded or not. According to Business Insider the top reasons new companies fail are cash flow issues and lack of product/market fit.
Cash flow problems really indicate one key issue: new founders aren’t selling their product quickly enough.
If you’re bootstrapping your company (which is to say that you’re starting a business without capital), you’re fighting an uphill battle: You don’t have access to a million-dollar marketing budget. And, you definitely cannot (and should not) afford to hire a highly touted Director of Marketing. Yet, you need leads since you can’t float your company on investor funds.
This is exactly when you need to get scrappy. From pre-sale Kickstarters to to your mother-in-law placing her first order, creating consistent deal-flow early can make or break your business.
So, how do you get those first few sales? And how do you sustain them? Rest assured, it is doable.
At Sapper, we scaled our company to 400+ customers without making a single new marketing hire through strategic outsourcing and careful planning. Outlined below are some of the most critical components needed to build an outsourced marketing team while bootstrapping a growing business.
Do All The Planning Yourself
In order to survive the first 12 months of ramping up your cashflow, you must take the time up front to flesh out a marketing plan. Then you can keep your internal team lean while maximizing your output.
With resources like the Hubspot Blog and Hubspot Academy, founders can easily access all the information they need in order to build an effective marketing plan. Check out this article from Single Grain for an in-depth look at how to plan your marketing funnel.
If you’re planning on building a lean, outsourced team, you must be able to communicate your marketing vision to them, as they will be solely focused on executing your plan. This ensures that your limited funds don’t go toward non lead-generating activities like consulting.
Find Free Versions of Tools You Need
Don’t invest in expensive tools like a high-end CRM or email platform. Neither of these tools are going to help you make more sales, and there are plenty of free alternatives (like Hubspot CRM and Mailchimp. To get started, Buffer outlines 41 of the top free tools to build a $0 marketing stack) that will effectively support your business.
It’s easy to feel like all your marketing tools should function cohesively right out of the gate — They won’t.
The solutions you have at $500K in sales won’t support you at $1M in sales. As you grow, you’ll continue to upgrade your marketing stack and spending your money on what is necessary to scale. But you don’t need to have all the bells and whistles out of the gate.
Engage with Small Marketing Vendors that are Flexible
Everything is negotiable.
When building your outsourced marketing team, look for smaller vendors as they can get creative with their deal structure. If you’re managing for cash flow, try to negotiate a deal with net 60 payment terms (you have two full months to pay your invoice), or sign a longer contract and ask for a discount.
The best scenario is finding vendors who are interested in bartering services. Although you should only trade services with companies you trust, if the vendor is interested in using your product/service, you may be able to cut a deal that’s mutually beneficial and creates revenue for both parties.
For example, my company has negotiated deals in which we provide lead generation services in exchange for design work or agency hours. The agency gets the leads they need to grow their business… and we get high quality design work. Win-win.
Make a Website that Converts
Your website is your best resource for organic leads. After working to generate leads for hundreds of clients, we’ve seen the negative impact a poorly designed website can have on all other marketing efforts.
Consider your website to be your digital billboard: It should be aesthetically pleasing and have a clear call-to-action.
With easy-to-use website builders like Squarespace ($26/mo), it’s very inexpensive to build a clean, converting website. If you’re still wary of building it yourself, you can easily engage a freelancer on Upwork to do it for $100 or less.
Invest Your Budget in “Bottom of the Funnel” Activities
Paying to have millions of twitter followers isn’t going to directly generate leads.
Instead, focus your budget on activities that are directly engaging with potential customers who are ready to buy, like outbound lead generation or paid advertising.
Yes, brand awareness is important. And, yes, you should devote time to it. But, when you’re limited on resources, put your marketing budget as close to the sale as possible.