Bootstrapping entrepreneurs face numerous challenges and many of them are, for long periods of time, uncertain if their company will have a future. Giving themselves a year or two to make it is common with people who left behind a decent 9 to 5 job to chase their dreams. Getting new clients and losing them, getting a lucky break and then entering a slump, all take a toll on an entrepreneur’s mental well-being. They might start wondering if it’s all worth it, if they should continue or just close shop and move on.
In uncertain times, making decisions about how to promote your business can be more difficult than ever. If you’re not promoting your business, how are you going to land new clients, attract new customers? You know you should promote your business but you’re also scared you’ll waste even more money and get no results.
As a frugal marketing agency, we take these concerns very seriously. Many of our clients reach out to us when they’ve already spent 70-90% of their marketing budgets and got nothing or almost nothing in return. So their (legitimate) question is:
Should I keep promoting my company like I did before or change the way to do it?
To answer this, you actually have to dive deeper into the question, because it involves a bit of decision engineering. You see, the issue here is that the decision problem is framed as a binary one: keep doing vs. change. This amplifies the tension. It looks like you don’t have any other option, which is usually untrue.
An amazing woman named Michelle Florendo, a career consultant for Type-A professionals, usually deals with clients framing their questions this way (this vs. that). Very often it’s about staying in or quitting a job. What she does is to ask:
What other options might they be leaving out?
There are always ways to widen your options. So that’s also what we do. We explore other options and the decision to be made gets reframed, and just like Michelle’s clients, ours also discover that many options aren’t mutually exclusive.
Promoting your business while dealing with uncertainty
Let’s say your business is struggling to make money and you think the problem is that your communication isn’t effective – people don’t know your product exists or your product is presented in a way that puts people off. There are a couple of questions you should answer in order to figure out your next steps:
- How do you know you achieved product/market fit?
- What were your marketing goals and what did you actually achieve?
- How could you implement the same strategy but cheaper?
- What would it take to change your strategy?
- What would a new strategy entail?
- How could you implement a different strategy cheaper?
- Could you keep on implementing your old strategy and add some new elements?
Of course, we’ll get as many different answers as many entrepreneurs we talk to, but there are a few things that apply no matter the market or the product. So, when you’re trying to promote your product while your business is struggling:
1. Leverage your assets.
If you have an email list, figure out how to get the people on your list to promote your product. If you have a social media following, find a way to get your followers to send in buyers.
2. Track the hell out of your Customer Acquisition Cost.
If you don’t know how much you’re spending to get new customers, you don’t know if your strategy is effective. Include all your marketing and advertising related activities in the cost, not just your media budget.
3. Stop looking at vanity metrics.
Ignore them completely. Sales will improve your business, not likes. You can worry about consumer engagement and the number of people following your brand on Facebook after you’re out of the woods.
4. Stop paying to remove the software creator’s branding.
There are hundreds and thousands of tools to help you build an email list, get traffic, improve your lead generation. Few people care if you’re using their free or the paid versions, they’re interested in how they help them get what they need – your product or services.
5. Creativity matters.
Think just of Facebook ads – good design and creativity capture people’s attention = people interact with your ads = your costs drop. Creativity is a great competitive advantage.
The are no easy fixes and there are no recipes, but if you’re working with a team that has your best interest at heart, and you’re transparent and open to experimenting, you can surpass any obstacle.