As the founder & CEO of SkuVault, a maker of inventory management software, I’ve grown the business to 400-plus customers in less than five years—all with zero advertising. Instead, we rely on our blog to drive traffic and are always looking for ways to do interesting guerrilla marketing. Here are some of my tips to help build your business on a budget:
1. Be original to stand out from the crowd.
This may sound trite, but, honestly, it's a mindset that's helped us again and again. In software especially, there's a sort of homogeneous look and feel to websites, customer service and marketing materials that can be difficult to get away from, and choosing a niche and a branding identity that stand out, and sticking with them, has helped us tremendously to narrow our focus and gain the kinds of clients that are right for us.
2. Automate as much as possible.
When people used to fill out forms on our website, we would have to manually enter them into our newsletter list and into our CRM, and the more our company grew, the more overwhelming this task became. Automating this process via integration tools made for a much more streamlined task, going from 15 hours per week to 15 minutes. Anytime you find yourself repeating a menial task, take an extra 10 minutes to see if it can be automated somehow. Even if it costs a bit of money to set up, weigh that against the labor time to do it manually—for us, it's worth it!
3. Focus on conversions over traffic.
Before you delve into paid advertising to drive traffic, make sure your website is actually converting at a rate that makes paying for traffic a worthwhile avenue for your company. Using a tool like Google Analytics, you can set up conversions (for SkuVault, those are when people fill out our "demo request" form) so you can see how often people are converting, what paths they take through your website before they convert and even the time of day that people are most likely to convert.
Once you have this information at your disposal, you can analyze it to see what optimizations you can make to your website to help increase your conversions to a level that would make it worth your while to pay to send people there.
4. Produce content that your target audience finds valuable.
This means a) identifying precisely who your target audience is, b) finding out what that audience's pain points are and how and when they search for solutions, and c) getting in front of them at the exact time with the exact content that will help motivate them to convert. That could be a blog post, a white paper, a newsletter, an ad, a booth at a conference—it all depends on where and when your audience converts.
5. Zero in on low cost/high impact ideas.
These are ideas that don't cost much but are extremely targeted and generate a lot of interest, like guerrilla marketing. One example is a campaign we did last year. We were sponsoring a conference put on by a key partner, and we printed mini-flyers that looked like dollar bills with the CEO’s likeness on them. These dollars doubled as coupons for SkuVault, and we handed them out to everyone there. At the after-party, “it rained” with our coupons. That yielded a lot of buzz for us as a company. The dollars took about three hours for our in-house designer to create, and cost about $250 to print. Worth every penny for the amount of leads it garnered!
Read more about how Andy Eastes built a successful e-commerce company far from Silicon Valley.