Initial traction for a B2B-startup basically defines its existence and has to be delivered straight away. The problem is that there's a huge chuck of founders who rely on nothing but B2C-marketing and eventually fail to tank up their startups with money.
So here we are. Bootstrapped, profitable and proud: a B2C-startup doing content for others. Let's take a look back and see how we got initial clients without pouring cash into self-promotion.
Blog about your expertise (even as a newbie)
Both of our co-founders stepped into marketing around 2010. RoR-development and SMM for local startups is a good way to learn and build up your portfolio but what really gave us a jumpstart to where we are today is blogging the heck out of what we were working on.
Looking back at it, it's hard not to make fun of how childish and miserable our personal blogs were but this is exactly what brought us our first client – one of the major local UX-shops. Freelancing for around a couple of month (job boards is a good option for getting initial leads) brought us to thinking about doing it as a business and we were lucky to have our offers accepted and implemented as a content-marketing project.
The project was focused on delivering usability insights to potential customers and employees via client's blogs and social media profiles. It resulted in 1.5m views leading to actual sales and hires by our client thus giving us a case to approach more tech companies.
Approach niche sites and journals
Blogging is good but it's not enough. One of the most important sources of potential clients is located outside of your comfort zone and it's niche sites and journals on tech, startups, media (or whatever) journals.
Reaching out to editors helps you formulate your offer and think about your business from the standpoint of an average reader. Publications or comments on the right topic may drive tens of instant leads that are hooked by your expertise and thus are easier to closing a deal.
We're happy to have good relationships with tons of folks who blog about tech and startups locally and worldwide but it's really cool to discover new spots and publish there.
Approach your ex-colleagues (and even classmates)
Sometimes we fail to follow one single career path as we move from one university to another or switch subjects and it's actually not as bag as it looks. Actual working experience and even internships let you connect with industry experts and prove yourself as a responsible employee. It's extremely important to keep it up and stay in touch with your network even on switching jobs.
One of our founders managed to approach his ex-colleagues and this is how we got our second client – one of the major local brokers. They've trusted us with their content and it's been a great journey for about 2 years.
The point is that we didn't approach them with just an idea – we had already gained outstanding results with the UX-shop client and prepared thought through solutions on how to invigorate their content. This one have got over 3m views and thousands of potential clients pouring into their system.
The ex-colleagues model is hard to scale but you can look at it as a continuous networking and building on top of that. Let's talk about that in detail.
Network wisely (even when you travel)
Pitching to your customers in person seems to be one of the most effective ways to sell... but how about being average tech guys who haven't yet mastered the game of thrones (apart from actually watching it)? Yep, you have to start somewhere and prior to going places our co-founders looked around a bit.
One started curating StartupDigest Moscow and StartupGenome Russia, the other went on to write for a local tech journal. Thus, we discovered coolest events, places and folks to network with – knowing what's where keeps you from wasting hundreds of hours on pointless lectures and seminars (and commutes). We do our best to meet as many folks as we can when travelling and having established connections prior to hitting the road saves you time and opens doors at your destination.
TechCrunch Moscow 2013 was one of the many gigs we attended and got two clients straight out of the crowd – a local eCommerce-startup and an innovation consultancy group from France. Both companies were great to work with and we had lots of fun creating content for them.
Get recommendations from your clients (even ex-clients)
It seems like an obvious move but applied to the initial traction stage it only depends on how lucky you are. There are really low chances that you will have your first client go out and recommend you but you might want to take it into the account when hustling on your initial projects.
Scaling this requires you to be able to provide discounts and additional services to those who recommend and often those who become your next clients. It's really hard to balance out your "recommendation" offer and you should really tailor it individually.
One of the main points here is to be aware of your client's needs and be there to provide necessary help. One of our founders hosts weekly shows (podcasts) and interviews local startups, tech and media companies – this helps us in expanding our network and promoting our services in person.
Host local seminars and discussions
Public speaking is great for understanding real-world problems and syncing with your potential clients. We enjoy hosting seminars on content-marking as we share our tips on marketing your project with no or minimal budget.
Preparation matters but what's really important is understanding your audience profile in order to be talking to "your" people instead of trying to get to folks with no need to buy what you're selling.
Our team commits to full-day personal consulting and we try to do our best to find a way to solve problems right at the spot. Attitude matters and we hustle till the last question solved.
We listed some of the most effective ways we got out of working on initial traction. You should really try tailoring them to your project and applying in the real-world. Feel free to let us know if it works (or not) for you and share some of your own tips: email@example.com.