If you’re bootstrapping your tech company and you’ve only got about 10 people or less, your main focus is likely on business execution. And I mean this in the most tactical sense.
Your goal is to do a bang-up job for your existing customers.
So what does that mean for your marketing? It means that at this point, you likely think of it as more of a necessary evil than anything else.
Caution: thinking of marketing as a “necessary evil” may cause you problems in the long run. Why? Because assuming things go the way you want them to and you bootstrap yourself into a stable organization, you’ll need marketing. There’s essentially no way around it.
At its core, marketing is how you connect the dots between a problem and a solution. Even companies that espouse not doing marketing are very much doing marketing. They just don’t like to call it that.
Marketing is better thought of as a verb than a noun. Marketing is all about finding the sweet spot in the market and selling by actively connecting problems to solutions.
In the short term though, you need to do the bare minimum when it comes to marketing so you can focus on execution. I’m going to offer up some thoughts and oversimplify some rather complex topics for the sake of adding clarity and reducing information overload. Just bear in mind that good marketing is context-specific, and not black and white.
Tools and advice to help you find clients for your web development, IT, or computer systems design business.
Stay far away from traditional, overly-complex marketing plans
Why? Because they can overwhelm you and give you a false sense of security.
Instead, focus on simply answering these questions:
- What problem am I solving?
- For whom?
- How should I try to engage my potential customer?
- Where should I try to engage my potential customer?
If you can’t help but plan a little bit ahead, check out this article on the problem with marketing plans for small B2B companies for some perspective.
Start capturing the questions your customers ask you.
Write them down.
After you capture about 10 of them, find your favorite and create an article that provides a succinct, yet complete, answer to this question.
The next time someone asks you this question, point them to the content you created. After a week, ask them if they read the article and whether it helped them make a decision about how to proceed with the topic the article addressed.
Start getting customer reviews.
Do you have at least one satisfied customer? If yes, then get them to write a review for you.
Don’t try to get reviews across five different review sites. Pick the most relevant platform for companies in your business. Create or claim a company account for that platform. Start asking for reviews.
This is a super long road. The time to get started was yesterday.
Don’t try to actively market or sell everything you can do.
Pick one or two things. What does that mean? Well, if you’re product-focused, then it’s pretty obvious, and you’re more than likely just focusing on one product.
If you’re services-based, this becomes trickier because your skills bleed into multiple industries and services, and since you’re selling something intangible (your service), it’s easy to think that you can be everything to everyone.
That’s a mistake. You want to focus on serving a particular set of customers. Narrow down the types of services you provide and/or the industries you help.
Pick something that has a higher barrier to entry, either because it’s harder, less desirable, requires a particular background, has lower margins that aren’t so attractive to the big players, or has a smaller total addressable market. This is an important piece of setting yourself apart from the competition. Learn more about why you need to choose a niche.
Severely limit the number of ways that you try to engage with your market
There are way too many methods to sift through… inbound, outbound, search, email, trade shows, webinars, conferences, networking, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube.
Select one, maybe two. That’s it. Not seven. Not six. Not four.
How do you decide which one or two methods to start with?
The answer to that is complex and scenario-dependent. There’s not a universal best answer (for example, see the Pros and Cons of Inbound Marketing). It’s based on factors such as:
- How your audience would prefer to engage with a company like yours.
- Market dynamics – i.e. what others are doing in your space. You don’t want to get lost in the noise, but you also don’t want to use a method where no one wants to engage with you.
- Your company culture – depending on the personality of the people within your company, certain methods will be more natural to you. This depends on how much you like to put yourself out there, and how aggressive in nature you are.
Encourage 1-3 referrals from each of your best customers.
The prerequisite to encouraging referrals is that your customer is very happy with you or your product.
Take the time upfront to think about and capture what your ideal customer looks like in a very succinct one or two sentences. Articulate this to your current customer so that they know who to consider.
When you approach your customer on this topic, let them know that you’d love a referral or two if they can think of anyone that might benefit from working with you, and let them know they don’t need to act on anything immediately, just as something pops into their mind. If they really care, they’ll keep you in mind. Let them know you’ll follow up in a few months to see if anyone has come to mind.
Don’t get overwhelmed with marketing.
There’s a gigantic world of marketing out there. I don’t care how smart you are. If you only have a few hours a week to devote to marketing, you’ll never catch up, let alone rise above the noise.
It’s that complex.
I spent years in the engineering world as a developer. It was awesome. Super challenging problems to sink your teeth into. Marketing is harder, and evolves WAY faster. Just take SEO as one “small” piece of marketing. Google updates its search algorithms hundreds of times per year.
But marketing doesn’t have to be overwhelming if you have the right focus. Instead of diving into the depths of marketing,” focus on being helpful to your customers. With most things you do within marketing, ask yourself: “How is this useful for my customer?”