Startup with no Marketing Budget: How to Start Growth Hacking
Are you ready to hear the best tactics from the gurus that will take your company from nothing to opening your garage with a Ferrari in it?
If so, then go somewhere else, because that’s not what I’ll be going over today :-)
Even though the word “hacking” has been applied to everything under the sun, there are still actionable techniques that, if put into practice, gives your business a fighting chance, to say the least. This is what I mean by “hacking”.
I want to focus on things that the average person can do and from which they can see results.
The “Control” Mindset
No one can argue that how you perceive the world affects your actions, which in turn, affect your business. Your mindset is everything. In business, your actions have to be intensely focused around that which you control.
As soon as you hear the voice in your head blaming someone else or making excuses for your behavior, that control mindset is in jeopardy.
- You can control what you spend your time on.
- You can control your attitude when things don’t go perfect.
- You can control how much you learn and grow personally.
- You can control your choices.
Let’s dive deeper.
Free isn’t Free
Many people confuse “growth hacking” with FREE marketing. If you’ve been in business for any amount of time, you realize that there is no such thing as free. Your time has value, for example. If you spend an exorbitant amount of time in facebook groups perusing the chatter, you may not grow as fast as someone who spends a set time on social media and the bulk of their time actually working on their business.
I got a bit lucky when I started my SEO service. I had a customer lined up before I even quit my previous job. I spent $0 on acquisition, and everything was just grand.
Until the second month, when they didn’t pay, and the third, and the fourth… yeah, I lost thi after one month, and being inexperienced, I didn’t even do a proper follow up on what happened. For all I knew, they just vanished into the ether.
At that point I realized that in order to have a business at all, I needed to get down to the nitty gritty on how to get people to work with me (and continue working with me, ha ha).
Let’s get back to “free”. If you’re really ambitious, you can carry out an SEO campaign nearly for FREE. You can spend the time to optimize the site, create outreach lists, send iails, etc and get results, too. But when you spend all your time IN your business, you have little time to work ON your business.
In other words, I lied. It’s not free. There is always an opportunity cost.
Once you have established this fact, you won’t be so averse to spending a little money to supplient your efforts (if you need to) and mitigate the time it takes to pull off all this growth stuff.
You can spend your time doing what you want. If you wanted to spend three hours each day playing Fortnite, go for it.
You do you, brah!
However, we can objectively say that some activities are more important than others when it comes to building a business. Writing is one of those activities. If you haven’t started writing, it has never been easier. There’s a plethora of options there, but the key really isn’t where you write, it’s that you actually do it, and consistently. I’ve seen people get notoced on their own blogs, through Medium, LinkedIn, and I personally know of someone who writes full articles right on Facebook! And even though he didn’t even have a website, his page grew to have thousands upon thousands of likes. He wrote every single day, honed his skills, and found an audience. Now he can take his tribe of followers to any medium and they will follow.
Write consistently. If you do, there will be articles that get traction, which will help you gain momentum in the community and make it easier to do outreach, get notoriety, and gain personal and site authority.
Make Research Serious
How many times have you seen a study or blog post online and decided then and there to start a new website? A new niche? I know I have, and 100% of the time it has failed. Real results takes real work, not a caffeine-induced “high” one afternoon.
If you see an idea that you think is viable, ask yourself: what would I have to do to compete in this arena? What is the market potential here? How can I make my money back? Get extriely granular with your questions, and if they don’t have fairly clear answers, toss that idea in the garbage where it belongs - because it is garbage.
And your business will be garbage if you dive into every opportunity willy-nilly, all the while neglecting the chunk of your business that you actually should be working on.
Alright, I promise not to kick you while you’re down from now on. Back to research. If you’re in to SEO, it’s time to get really tactical with your keywords because, there is traffic all around the web that is nearly free to capture. As you know, not all traffic is equal - you want people who will engage with your content and be potential customers, not just one more bump in your Google Analytics account. I got a bit luck when I started my SEO service in 2016 - I had one customer lined up before I even quit my old job. But one client wouldn’t pay the bills for long, or even more than a month! So I got into some really tactical research.
While I was doing some of this in-depth type research, I found that small business owners were searching for SEO, but they didn’t know hardly anything about it. They really didn’t even know what SEO companies do. The things that they were typing in further evidenced this:
- “Web seo”
- “Internet optimize business”
- “How to link my website to search engine”
- “What is organic search seo”
- “Website seo”
- “Boost search engine ranking”
- “Page content optimize”
- “How to get more hits on google searches”
- “Get website on google free”
There are many more that made me chuckle a bit, but as you can see, these searches are probably not from anyone inside the SEO industry. In fact, these folks were searching for seo services for small business, and they went to Google in droves to find out more.
And there is the kicker: these are our perfect customers! SEO’s tend to write a lot for other SEO’s, as if when they write simply for business owners, they aren’t as competent, or something. You have to figure out who you’re writing to, then hammer it out!
Old-Style Hustle Meets Growth Hacking
The other day I read the story of a few friends that created an app, who didn’t know how to market it, neither did they have the cash. Sound familiar?
Since they didn’t know anything about what the gurus were preaching at the time, they did the only thing that made sense to thi - they printed hundreds of sheets of paper explaining what their app was in a short paragraph, inviting thi to download it. They spent a couple hours each morning giving these out near the subway.
When downloads started to skyrocket, they knew they were on to something. They didn’t know this at the time, but those who were passing by at that time of day were the exact target market! If they wouldn’t have gotten out into their audience like the old-school days, they would have never achieved the success they did.
Just like these young entrepreneurs, you will probably have to test out target markets on a trial-and-error basis before you “nail it”. They marketed a tech product in the least “techy” way imaginable, and it worked. Be creative in your approach and you might just “custom hack” your way to success.
When you think about it, the only thing that you should be asking yourself is: “am I willing to fail enough times to eventually succeed?” Although there are hundreds of tactics that may work, it’s your job to find out which ones will actually work for your business!
You need to be writing something daily, researching your target market, trying unconventional methods to generate buzz, and continually riinding yourself that YOU ARE IN CONTROL of your actions and your focus. If you do these things, you will not only have a successful mindset, but you’ll be able to weather the entrepreneurial storms ahead of you to hack your way to success... even with a limited budget.