Bootstrapping is the process of building your company using the funds it generates, with minimal reliance on outside capital. It’s kind of like building a plane in the air, and then landing it. It’s tough, but startup after successful startup has proven that bootstrapping can be done.
In this lean startup marketing plan, updated for 2018, we’ll tackle all of the tough questions about spending limited profits on crazy effective marketing tactics – including social media ads, guerrilla marketing campaigns and crowdfunding revenue generators.
Get Ready to Write and Record a TON of Content!
The best way to generate buzz is to generate it yourself. Content creation is one of the hottest aspects of marketing – and it probably isn’t the type of content you’re thinking of.
Killer landing pages, exciting social media posts and strategic use of paid advertisements can go a long way. And video is the linchpin that brings it all together.
Instead of investing heavily in prototype development, find out if there’s a genuine desire for the product. In other words, is it solving a problem that customers would be willing to pay money to solve?
Use a Landing Page to Showcase a Concept – Much Cheaper than a Prototype
Answering this question starts with a landing page that explains your concept. This is a great first step in marketing, because it allows you to showcase your idea and generate feedback. Paid advertising can send customers to your landing page. It’s very simple to include a pop-up form or static area where visitors can communicate with you, or at least provide their email address so that they can receive updates.
Your landing page must absolutely include a video. This video could be an animation, but I highly recommend including an interview-style section that allows a person involved in the company to answer questions and establish a human connection with the viewer. Visitors like to be able to associate a human face with the very technical and one-dimensional content of a traditional landing page.
Engage Passionate Fans Via Social Media
The other critical aspect that is so often forgotten involves engaging potential product evangelists on Facebook, reddit and twitter. I use the term “product evangelist” because the people that will invest time and energy discussing your concept will become your most vocal cheerleaders or critics – depending on how they feel their input is received by your team.
Use social media, with the help of paid advertising, to start conversations with your target market. Ask them about features and concepts that can help you more effectively solve their problem.
Lights, Camera, Crowdfund!
If you’ve been paying careful attention up until this point, you’ll have noticed that I’ve recommended the following:
- Create a landing page that showcases your concept.
- Use video to create a more engaging pitch that features people instead of faceless animations and white papers.
- Engage super fans on social media. You can find them through cheap, paid social advertising.
These three things just so happen to be the critical ingredients for a CROWDFUNDING CAMPAIGN!
At this stage, it’s okay to start thinking about developing an actual prototype.
Crowdfunding is more than just a way to raise money. It’s also a powerful tool for empowering super fans to pre-purchase your product and tell their friends about it.
The beauty of this approach is that you can fund your first round of inventory using the funds generated – and you’ll know exactly how much volume to order – eliminating the risk of product being warehoused.
Crowdfunding campaigns are successful for two reasons:
- You have an insanely cool product that solves a real problem.
- There’s a really awesome story about how you came up with the product, and how your team came together to develop the solution.
Telling your team’s story, alongside a kick-ass product that’s already benefited from social feedback, will engage people that are willing to risk some money to bring your idea into reality.
Having a prototype to showcase in your pitch is a great idea. The reason that I recommend creating the prototype last is because revising a prototype is far more expensive than adjusting a concept. You’ll save a great deal of time and money by first starting a discussion around your concept, then creating the prototype, and finally launching your crowdfunding campaign.
For an example of how all of this can come together, checkout Star Citizen’s Crowdfunding Pitch. You’ll notice that the video starts with an engaging teaser, then the prototype is showcased. Finally, the man behind the dream comes out and into the pitch. What I love about this pitch is that green screening is used to inject the developer into the game as he demonstrates different aspects of the game.
The pitch purposefully moves from entertaining to informational. This allows for viewers with short attention spans (pretty much everyone on the internet) to get hooked. By the time the comparatively boring interview section comes around, you’re already salivating on epic graphics and a really cool storyline.
The website associated with this pitch is also well developed. Although you can’t see the original landing pages today, you can see how the team has dedicated a vast amount of effort to educating and engaging their potential user base. And I love the fact that they’re leveraging an alpha release to allow future customers to engage with the product at every stage of development.
It’s little wonder that Star Citizen has earned the distinction of being the most successful crowdfunding campaign in history – raising more than $55 million in funding.
In conclusion, a lean startup marketing plan involves a huge investment of time and energy. It’s all about creating compelling content that the target audience can engage with. By getting feedback from motivated consumers early in the process, you can better shape your first prototype. And the buzz generated by your social media push can roll right into a crowdfunding campaign – my favorite marketing tool because it can pay for both itself, and your initial product run.
I’m very excited to see where your time, energy and skills take you when following this plan!