Marketing Lean: How to Plan Efficient Initiatives in a Bootstrapped Setting

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From day one at Drifty, I realized that working bootstrapped is a whole new (and very exciting) ballgame. At a lean startup, time and dollars cannot be wasted. Mistakes have to be minimal, and every single mistake must have very valuable takeaways for the future.  In my experiences with online marketing, sales, and social media, I like to think that I have built a lengthy knowledge bank of mistakes to avoid when designing a marketing plan/strategy.  Many of these mistakes are those that I have made, many are those I have watched others make.  I have learned from each and every one, and come out of it just a little bit smarter.  What is the common denominator in all of these mistakes?  It is VERY hard to tell that it was a mistake unless you look in the right places.

I will give you examples of two common problems/misconceptions that I have seen at every job I’ve had:

 1) A company wants to grow its user database and generate some leads, so they throw some money into an online advertising strategy.  They pick some solid keywords to target and a core demographic, and launch the campaign.  With a pretty solid CPC and high click rate, they deem this a successful push because they drove users to their site.  What is the problem?  Most of these users are not even signing up for an account on the site, of the 2% that do sign up, 99.5% sign up for free accounts.  So out of probably 100,000 visitors to the site, about 2,000 signed up for free accounts, and 10 paid for the product.  Not a glaring financial loss in terms of dollars spent on the campaign, but what about the dollars paid to 5 marketing employees setting up the campaign?

2) A marketing department wants to take advantage of the HUGE outreach opportunity that social media provides, so they put some team members on the task and empower them to turn this ‘free’ channel into some company dollars.  They post some intriguing Facebook statuses daily, tweet about the product and get people excited.  They get a bunch of new likes and followers, and social analytics tell them that the “conversation” about their product is higher than ever.  So what is the problem?  They do not have a specifically designed funnel to turn these social conversers into paying customers.  They do not know how to turn likes or retweets into dollars, and over time the social conversation dies down.  Eventually, they may have gained a few kind comments and a few paying customers, but that is a lot of dollars spent on valuable marketing time without reasonable results.

So what is the answer here?  There are so many ways to go in terms of a marketing plan: sales calls, emails, social media, advertising, etc.

Plan carefully, and with many specific goals/measures in mind:  If I am planning a social media contest I should have a goal in mind (drive users into our database to make an account), and specific measures that will tell a story about how well this goal was achieved (traffic to site, time spent on site, accounts created from traffic).

No matter what the result, learn something (or many things) specifically from each campaign, and carry them over into the next.  If my social campaign got a ton of clicks to the site, and users were spending time on the site, then I have learned that my sign up process is either not appealing or simply too tedious to manage.  I built a project around a designated goal, measured its success, and learned a valuable takeaway of how to change this for the future.  This process is quicker, and far more efficient (in money and time).  Build-Measure-Learn.  It is the framework of the Lean Startup method, and can be applied to more concepts than one would realize.  I personally am looking forward to using it in measuring different growth strategies through my time at Drifty as our team continues to improve already amazing products and building tools that people love.

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