Well, articles like this one are quite dangerous to the new business owner. Let’s breakdown each component one by one. This article starts by saying, “Before we go into free customer acquisition strategies, you fundamentally NEED to have a product that actually delivers value to your customer.” Okay. Um. Seriously? There are very few businesses that I know of that start with a product that they feel doesn’t deliver value. But value is a funny thing. You have to prove value. Even with widgets – many people just don’t get the value right off the bat…you need to market to your potential customer to educate them…but that’s a story for another day.
1. “Leverage communities and existing traffic.” Existing traffic? What existing traffic? To be honest, there are no longer URLs that will simply deliver traffic to your door. Now with paid search, you’d be hard-pressed to just HAVE traffic. That takes marketing. The example the article provides is that AirBnB used ads on Craigslist to generate targeted, local prospects. Well, the bad news is that sites like Craigslist are cracking down on ads that are used simply to build traffic. If you are, however, simply just selling your widgets, this could be the place to do it, but I wouldn’t use this as my ONLY marketing source.
2. “Incentivize your users to share (word of mouth).” Well, in order to get customers, you would need to market. But let’s just say you have a few friends, etc. who have used your service or purchased your products. Sure, they may share your Facebook post occasionally free of charge to help you spread the word. But these “shares” are only as good as the concurrent marketing you have going on WITH them. Stand-alone, this is not going to drive you much traffic. An example they give is that Talentoday (which I have never heard of) only took 3 months to reach 1 million users. However, they don’t say how – or what incentive they used. Again, a false sense of “free.”
3. “Affiliate programs.” If you have a product that you think you can attach to other sites, etc. and pay a fee, this can work. However, there are costs involved. One – you’d have to use a tracking program ($). Two – you need to spend time researching, approaching and building relationships with people who would share your links (time=$). Three – you need to deduct the amount you’re willing to pay each time someone purchases through an affiliate link ($). Four – you should have graphics to help the websites promote your products or services (very few people simply click on text links these days.) ($$).
4. “Blogger and Youtuber Outreach.” This one was popular a few years ago. Getting a few bloggers to simply write about your product or service and link to you. There have been many changes over the years with links from sites and how they’re weighted by the search engines (many in a negative light). However, let’s just say there’s no negative effects to having links back. You still need to spend time to find these “influencers.” They still need some compensation (no blogger or Youtuber of influence is going to do this for free). ($)
5. “Guest blogging.” Again, see #4. Finding places that will allow you to guest blog at no cost means they probably aren’t worth the time. And since you can’t duplicate content on multiple sites (frowned on by the search engines)…writing lots of blog posts means time = ($).
6. “Reach out to your existing network.” If you haven’t done this a million times already shut your doors.
7. “Get your friends and family to share.” Again, see #6.
8. “Sell in person.” They suggest to go to local meetup groups – beware – those such as BNI, TeamNetwork and others have hefty fees associated. Of course, you can go as a guest (usually a small fee) and sell, but most members want you to be a member first. Another suggestion is to attend “industry events” – again – the free ones could lead to some sales, but you’re still spending time. And finally, a laughable suggestion, go “door to door.” Dear God! I hope your item isn’t for the general consumer…you’ll get killed! If you’re in the B2B space this is an option – but there are expenses to this: time, gas, maintenance on your vehicle.
9. “If you provide a service, work for free.” Well this is a brilliant suggestion (sarcasm). Sure, you can trade your time/service in exchange for exposure – but there is still a COST attached to this. And you’ll be better off if you ALWAYS calculate your time and the value you bring.
Okay, so the point is that as a business you are always going to want to set aside SOME budget for marketing. And yes, we pointed out how ridiculous some of the points were in that article…but, of course, you’re going to want to do some of those things (except the door-to-door, please DO NOT DO THAT!) Here are a few affordable ideas:
- Get yourself a booth space at a well-attended event. Visit this link to get suggestions on how to capitalize on that investment.
- Facebook ads – you can target your audience, set your budget (even just $5 per day) – but please make sure you are using great graphics and clear, concise text. (We can help you – give us a call!)
- Banner ads on highly trafficked sites – we have found some as affordable as $25 per month.
Our point is that combined with a strategic marketing plan – the effects of the above can be tripled! Don’t be afraid of assigning a budget for marketing – because no matter how small, working with the right people, it can be very effective.
Give us a call at The Bitter & Sweet and we’ll help you get started! 240.575.6866