The Ultimate Guide to Bootstrap Marketing for Small Business Owners

The Ultimate Guide to Bootstrap Marketing for Small Business Owners

Every business has to start somewhere – and it isn’t always pretty. Most small businesses operate on a shoestring budget to start with, and every business hits slow periods at least once in a while. 

During these times, it’s important to keep a closer eye on cash flow and reduce outflow as much as possible. To stay afloat, many business owners bootstrap their marketing. Below, we’ll take a look at what this means and how you can do it. 

What is bootstrapping?

The Oxford Dictionary defines bootstrapping as the act of “getting (oneself or something) into or out of a situation using existing resources.” When we talk about bootstrap marketing in business, the same concept applies. Essentially, it means you’re DIYing your marketing.

Bootstrapping is particularly important for new businesses and merchants on a budget. When you’re just starting out, there’s a lot more cash flowing out than in. So many new businesses look to save costs in the early stages, and one of the most common areas where they do so is in marketing. 

Likewise, small businesses with limited financial or employee resources may also bootstrap their marketing post-launch to help save costs. Small teams often DIY many aspects of the business they may not necessarily have expertise or experience with such as online marketing or content marketing. However, bootstrap marketing can work well if you approach it strategically. 

The best bootstrap marketing ideas for small business owners

There are many low-cost ways of promoting your products and/or services to potential customers. Social networks and the internet offer many different avenues to reach and engage with your target customers without having to spend a lot. 

All you need is a well-thought-out marketing plan that focuses on your key demographic and target market. To help you get started, we’ve put together some simple yet effective bootstrap marketing ideas below. 

1. Know your target audience

Before you start with any form of marketing, it’s important to understand who you want to reach out and connect with. Knowing your target audience will help you refine your messaging so that it’s relevant to them. This, in turn, will inspire them to take the desired action – purchase a product or book a service from you. 

There are many ways to get to know your target audience, and your approach should include both quantitative and qualitative data inputs. Here are some ideas to get started: 

  • Survey your customers via email, on your website, or in your store
  • Ask customers for feedback directly in your 1:1 interactions and train employees to do the same
  • Engage in social listening to see what people are saying about your brand/industry on social media
  • Check industry SEO trends and analyze the search behavior of your target customers
  • Review industry and market reports to get third-party insights
  • Analyze your competitors to see what their customers are saying
  • Look at customer reviews of your own business and other businesses related to yours

Use the above tactics to identify trends in the behavior and preferences of your target customers. Also, document your findings so you can refer back to them as you develop your marketing and PR campaigns. 

2. Take PR in-house

Many startups hire outside public relations (PR) help to spread the word about their brand. While this can be effective, bootstrapped companies would be better off doing it themselves. 

This would not only save costs, but it has the potential to be more effective. Put yourself in the shoes of a journalist. Would you be more excited to receive a pitch from a PR firm representing a CEO or directly from the CEO themself? 

You can build a boilerplate pitch and target publications that your audience might be interested in. These templates can help you save quite a bit of time, but don’t forget to personalize your pitches appropriately. 

While direct outreach is typically most effective, you can also use sites like Help A Reporter (HARO) and Help a B2B Writer (for B2B businesses) to create a buzz about your brand.

3. Build and grow an email list

Email marketing is another very effective bootstrap marketing tactic. More than 4 billion people use email, so it’s an excellent channel to get in front of your audience. Plus, unlike social media, you own your audience – in this case, your email subscribers list – and you’re not at the mercy of an algorithm. 

Email newsletters were the third most-used content type by B2B marketers in 2020. It’s also the third most-used content distribution channel, with 87% of marketers using it to promote and share their content. 

Infographic Bootstrap Marketing

To successfully build your own email list, you’ll need to create content your audience will engage with – tap back into that audience research you did to get some ideas. A dog walker could show people how to make DIY dog treats, for example. You can also use email to inform your audience about promotions and discounts on their purchases.

4. Leverage the power of digital and social media

Digital or internet marketing encompasses so many channels and tactics – and it’s affordable. In fact, you can use some channels for free. So it’s a great way to put your business in front of new and existing customers to create brand awareness

Here are some bootstrap digital marketing ideas: 

1. Create your Google My Business page

Create a Google My Business profile to help local customers find you. This will also boost local SEO – especially helpful for brick-and-mortar retailers and other businesses with a permanent (or even temporary) location. Make sure the information is complete and updated. 

2. Set up a blog for your business

Start a WordPress blog. It’s free and fairly easy to set up. Then create and publish content that’s relevant and helpful to your audience. 

Your intent should be to establish your brand as an authority in your industry or a go-to solution that your readers can bank upon. Arlington Dental, for example, has a blog where they publish articles about oral care and information about their services. 

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Remember, however, that the objective of blogging is to educate and inform your target audiences instead of being pushy or overly promotional. Consider seeking help from professional bloggers in your niche if writing isn’t your strong suit.

3. Get active on social media

Set up a Facebook page for your business, and create and post your own content. You should also consider expanding your presence to other channels that your customers may be using such as LinkedIn, Instagram, or TikTok. 

When it comes to social media, engagement is key. So, besides responding to comments on your pages, engage with relevant influencers and leave thoughtful comments on other popular pages in your niche. You could also consider paid advertising depending on your goals and budget.

5. Engage with your community

Consumers have been moving towards community-driven purchase habits pre-pandemic, but COVID-19 exacerbated people’s desire to connect. One analysis from Shopify found that more people are seeking out independent local businesses. “Of those who reported shopping locally, 79% said they did so to support their communities or protect local jobs,” the analysis cites. 

Brands can play an integral role in community-building, not only supporting their local neighborhoods but also creating a community of their own. So, start attending local networking events where you can meet your tribe in person, hand out your business card, and build rapport with customers face-to-face. 

Engaging with the community is an excellent bootstrap marketing technique because it fuels the power of word-of-mouth marketing within and among communities.

Moving forward with your bootstrap marketing strategy

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Bootstrap marketing is a great way to cut costs and play with different ideas in the early or budget-tight stages of your business. The strategies mentioned above are fairly inexpensive yet effective enough to get the word out about your business.  

With Payment Depot, you can save money on payment processing and reallocate those funds to your marketing campaigns – especially as you grow beyond the bootstrapped phase. To learn how Payment Depot can save you hundreds of dollars in credit card processing fees every month, contact us today!

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