caterpilar
Category: Bootstrapping Tips
There’s no Shame in Being a Guerrilla

So what if people look at you funny, there’s nothing wrong with being a guerrilla. Look at it this way, you get to scratch yourself wherever and whenever you want, how great is that? Alright, alright, so maybe you don’t want to be an actual guerrilla, but if you’re a bootstrapped business owner, employing guerrilla marketing is sure to help you stretch your budget and tap into some awesome potential.

Where do you start? First, don’t concern yourself with thinking outside the box, forget the box altogether. Because by trying to come up with ways to think outside the box, you naturally start to align yourself with thought patters similar to other businesses trying to think differently. So, the key then is to think differently without thinking differently. Ha! How do you like that notion?

The point is, you’re all creative beings and hold an infinite amount of potential—you simply need to take a few minutes to relax and tap into your inner thoughts. You’ll be surprised at what you allow your brain to come up with when you give it a chance to plug into the subconscious and recall your past experiences and pair it with your expansive knowledge base. After you’ve given yourself some time to meditate and think deeply on how to make your business stand out, grab a pen and paper (or keyboard) and just start writing down all the different ideas that pop out of that beautiful brain of yours.

The key here is to allow for a stream of consciousness. As soon as you begin to question the legitimacy or plausibility of the ideas you come up with, you’re going to start suffocating the creative process—similar to waving your finger at your brain and punishing it for expressing itself. This is one of the leading reasons businesses have so much trouble being different, they don’t allow themselves creative license. Open yourself up and you’re going to love what you come up with. And you’ll be able to multiply your mental results by getting your team together and brainstorming together. If you’re truly a small business and don’t have any employees or teammates, then buy your friends a couple of beers and ask if they’ll come over and help you brainstorm. (Don’t have too many or they’ll have you convinced that standing on the corner naked screaming your site’s URL is a good idea.)

Here are a couple of quick ideas:

Fundraisers: There’s no shame in setting up a charitable event or fundraiser to garner lucrative exposure for your business. You will create the chance to help out a good cause and to get your name out in the public.

Chamber of Commerce: Many businesses seem to have forgotten about the good ol’ Chamber of Commerce. Joining this organization provides you with the opportunity to help your community while creating great business contacts.

Contests: Think of some contests that you can offer up to your business prospects and local community. Whenever you get people actively involved in something, you significantly increase the likelihood of lucrative conversions. Besides, they’re fun!

 
Who Do You Know?

Shiny wrappers promising delicious treats inside, perfectly tied bows sealing seductive sweets within, colors of the rainbow catching the eye at every angle…I’d like to address the kid-in-the-candy-store phenomenon and how it applies to your marketing (more specifically, how it shouldn’t apply). Through my years of experience of working with my clients and trying to educate them on their marketing and working with a bootstrapped budget, I’ve noticed that they really appreciate it when I slap their hands and help them slow down before they burn through their budgets like a chocolate-smeared kid blowing through his allowance in a candy store. Granted, there are some very effective marketing methods out there today, but without the occasional hand-slap, you might get as excited as a child and buy up every shiny new marketing solution that you see.

First, the following is not supposed to be considered a popularity contest, and by no means am I claiming to be the coolest guy out there-well, my five-month-old son may think I’m pretty cool! But what I’d like to ask you is: Who do you know? I don’t want to know if you’ve ever seen James Woods in a Starbucks or if you’re the type of person who gets the thumbs up from everyone you pass. I just want to see if you can develop a list of people you know. Why develop a list? Because, whether you’re a first-year small-business greenhorn or a veteran badass, creating a contact list is one of the best ways to get your marketing wheels rolling. And…uh huh, you know what’s coming here…it’s free!

Instead of buying the first shiny marketing package that catches your eye, set aside a significant period of time and develop a list of all the people you know. By first creating a list of contacts that you can solicit and present your business to, you’ll be taking advantage of verified, warm leads; leads you didn’t have to spend a single marketing dollar on. The first phase of creating your list should be done through a stream of consciousness, writing down every single name that comes to mind. Subsequently, you’ll use a filter and qualify each of the name’s you’ve written down. Try categorizing them into Direct Purchase, Referral Prospects, Barter Candidates and Sleepers.

  • Direct Purchase: Who on your list is ready to buy? Which names did you write down that fall under your classifications for your ideal client?
  • Referral Prospects: Want to double or triple your new contact list? Then ask yourself “Who do they know?” For example, let’s say you’re a used-car salesman. Okay, so you’ve got your brother on the list, but he’s always been a new-or-nothing kind of guy and though he loves you, refuses to buy from you. Instead of testing this familial tie’s strength, simply think of who he knows or ask him if he thinks any of his friends might be interested. No matter what industry they’re in, business owners would do well to view their company as a network marketing company or an MLM. Look beyond the surface; there are many levels to a solid business.
  • Barter Candidates: Who on your list could you trade services/products with? Perhaps your neighbor doesn’t need a car at this time, but you can still ask him if he’d be willing to trade you a few hours of his skills for some car repair discounts you get through your vendors.
  • Sleepers: These are the people you just can’t seem to categorize. Perhaps you only briefly met them on the street once and don’t have an actual relationship with them. Either way, you should never assume a contact is worthless until you’ve made the effort to market to them.

Just as we encourage equality in society, so shall it be with your business. Never assume anything about your prospects or contacts until you’ve dealt with them directly-after that, you can judge them as much as you’d like.

Look for our future feature article on follow-up to help you capitalize on your contact list.

 
Bootstrapping Business Arsenal: Play the Friend Card

Sometimes, when business problems have you completely stumped, in the words of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, you need to use a lifeline and phone a friend. While we often think that the road to success is traveled alone, our friends can give us the strength we need to take the chances that will lead to larger goals.

If you work alone, you can only rely on the skills you possess. You have no one to buoy your spirits when you are discouraged or to share your successes. Our friends often know our abilities better than we do. Where we see ourselves through a lens of self-criticism and doubt, our friends see a strong, smart, able-bodied compatriot. Don’t keep your business life a secret when you are having trouble; talk out your troubles with a friend and brainstorm solutions. You never know when creativity will strike. Every situation has its power teams, and with some experimentation, you and your group will find your way to the top.

 
Say Yes: A simple tip that will help you close more deals

How many of us have went through 5 or more emails or phone calls each day that looked like promising leads, but in the end only turned up 20% in the form of sales? I know I go through 2-3 emails a day for my blog design company that add up to 14-21 over the entire week and of those 20 (average) emails, I close about 2-3 of those deals. How much more profit would I gain from doubling or tripling these conversions? How much more money could YOU make if you converted twice as many people each week into paying customers?

In the below video it is discussed that by simply changing the way we ask a question, the conversion rates could triple. Please take a second to watch the video (its 2:10 long) and then follow with me as I break down what the gentlemen talks about in the video.

So by simply applying the “would you be willing to” phrase instead of the normal “if you can’t” phrase, the resturaunt owner took is no-shows from 30+ % to 10% overnight. As I watched this video I thought to myself “this guy has a point”. Especially since 9 times out of 10, the person would not mind saying “yes” when they are asked “would you be willing to call/email” and then once they realize that they might need to cancel or pull out of a deal, they now either have to call to honor their word, or go through with the deal. Sometimes, playing on someones emotions and pride can work to your advantage and this is definitely one case it does.

Now, I am not saying to play with someones mind, but lets face it, sales, marketing and advertisements are all about emotions and drawing specific emotions out of people in order to generate sales. So why should your end statement over the phone or through an email be any different.

Lets experiment together

Lets try this together for a week and see what type of results we can generate. I am going to track my leads/sales this week and see where I am at this point next week and will post a follow up article on my results. I can only assume that I will be pleased with the results. So, what do you say? would you be willing to try this experiment with me? :)

Update: Out of 24 emails with “would you” written in it, I’ve got 19 replies and 13 sales!

 
Bartering for a better bootstrapped business

Have you ever heard the phrase “Two heads are better then one”? I have and I assume 95% of you have as well. This is a definite statement that any business owner should believe, and is the key to bartering with great benefit. There is no doubt in my mind that bartering works. I’ve done it and have seen others do it with great success. Oftentimes though, bartering is overlooked because most small business owners do not see the value in it. They’re looking at it from a “Well, the big companies don’t do it, so why should I?”. When bartering is not fully understood, this is how it’s conceived, but for those of us who really understand the value of networking and business growth, bartering is a logical stepping stone to growing your small business.

Bartering your time and resources can be very beneficial to you, not only as a way to connect with businesses but as a way of free advertisements and word of mouth marketing. For instance, if you’re company deals directly with copywriting and you lack the design skills to really put forth the same professional look on your marketing materials (website, business cards, flyers, ect) as your writing does, you might want to barter some copywriting to a design company in exchange for some of their design skills. You could write up some great articles concerning the need for a great website/business card design, and in it, casually mention the design companies name and link and in exchange, they can design your website and business cards.

But what do I get out of it

Going into any bartering situation, you’ve got to weigh your options. Does what I am getting from the other company really benefit me? Is the time I spend working on something for them taking too much time away from my own business? Is it a good connection? These are some of the things you’ve got to ask yourself. In most cases, as long as you’re saving time by having them help you out, you’re able to give some of that time back. But why would you do that instead of just working out the problems for yourself if in the long run it doesn’t save time anyways?

Networking with other businesses

If you’re a small business owner, odds are that any helping hand you can get is much appreciated. The same goes for the other side. When you’re able to help another company out with an issue they’re having, they’re more then happy to help you. This can prove to be very rewarding because you never know who you’re going to make friends with that might end up bragging about your kindness (and in turn, your business) to another friend of theirs that ends up becoming a customer. This brings me to the next positive point in bartering your bootstrapped company.

Bartering is great marketing

If you’re bartering with a company, offer to exchange some promotional materials as well in the exchange. If you pass out monthly newsletters, offer them an advertising spot in the newsletter in exchange for some business cards on their cashier counter. After you’ve networked with the business owner across from you, and you’ve built a solid report with each other, now is the time to start milking it. No, I don’t mean to take advantage of the other person, but give each other equal benefits.

As you might have noticed, I have a newsletter sign up on the top left of the site here, and in the upcoming month, the first issue will be coming out. As of right now, I have 1 person I am exchanging some free advertising with in exchange for an article written by them in the newsletter. To explain it a bit better, I am publishing an article they wrote in my newsletter with their byline at the end of it with links to their website, ect. in exchange for some free advertising on their site for my blog design company. We’re both benefiting because I get the free advertising, and he gets the free exposure to people that his company and website targets.

Make your win/win situation today

Lets try a little exercise; take out a piece of paper (or open notepad, google docs, ect) and write down a list of any businesses that you purchase goods from, advertise with (or would advertise with) or are a direct side business to what yours is (for instance, website design and website hosting companies).

Once you’ve done this, think of 2-3 ways you could benefit each company, and 2-3 ways they could benefit you. If the time/money values are close in each, send them an email or call them and discuss how you can benefit their company in exchange for a little help from their end. You’ll be surprised at the response you get, and with a little bit of time and effort, bartering can help your bootstrapped business grow quicker then you could imagine.