I know that this is the bane for the existence of pretty much any business (“how do I sell?”), but I’d like to go a little deeper over that issue.
Let’s say you finished building a service that you know, without a doubt, that:
- Completely fulfills a particular market need, and I mean, it honestly gets the job done, it doesn’t lack any fundamental features and usability/UX is top notch.
- Is something that is being sought after, your market wants something like this, they just don’t know where to get it.
- Is priced reasonably in relation to the problem that is solving. 9/10 people wouldn’t hesitate to acquire it at the asked price, or better yet, it actually helps the client save on a significantly larger amount of money than what they would pay for your product.
One would expect such a service to pretty much sell by itself, but the reality is far from it. Relevant people lack the knowledge that this product exists (just because you made it, doesn’t mean it magically appears in people’s radar), and this is still an obstacle that one needs to overcome in order for a product to succeed in the market.
How do you approach that?
There are two straightforward answers that can be proved to work for some kind of business but I think that for the majority of scenarios that are encountered by bootstrapping entrepreneurs they don’t work and I’ll explain why.
Straightforward Strategy A - Publicity and Marketing
We’ll just buy some ads to let people know about our product
I think this one strategy is not particularly suitable for bootstrapping entrepreneurs because:
- They require a significant investment which you obviously don’t have at hand because, by definition, you are a bootstrapping entrepreneur and hence you don’t particularly have money to throw around things.
- Even if you had the money, it is not a strategy that’s effective to niche markets because they are more difficult to target. On top of that, noticed how I highlighted the term relevant people, you need to target your efforts towards the one guy at your potential client’s side that is in charge of making the decision wether to acquire or not your service. This is extremely difficult to achieve in real life and practically impossible through publicity/marketing, if you know of a way to achieve this please share your experience in the comments, otherwise this leads us to …
Straightforward Strategy B - Networking
I know the relevant people in the business and they trust me so it’s natural for me to sell my product
A well-networked person could naturally sell your/his product to its network because he’s in touch directly with the relevant people on the client’s side, not only that, but they already trust him because they have an established business relationship that spans through many years. This is also essentially what incubators/VCs offer to you (or at least make you think they’ll do) and that’s why they are regarded as critical allies when trying to lift a startup off the ground. The problem with this strategy is that you have to be/know a well-networked person, and let’s face it, most entrepreneurs don’t start that way. That’s why they are venturing into a new business, to get more money or a standard of life that they would already had if they were a well-networked person in the first place.
So what are the other options? How do you start to effectively build up your brand and introduce your services to the relevant people, following a bootstrapped philosophy. Feel free to share your experience.