Although Internet is huge and there are millions of users - this fact doesn't mean all of them would suddenly find your site and begin to purchase your product or service. It's an overcrowded megalopolis and your business' starting position is somewhere in the suburbs.
To find some leads you must be as close to the center of the city as possible.
But how can a bootstrapped small SaaS business solve this problem? It took me some time to understand that for SaaS business there are no free marketing channels (marketing through Twitter, Social Networks, Blog etc. takes a significant amount of time to pursue, so it's not free anyway).
And regrettably, I don't know a 'sure fire' way to attract a reasonable number of leads to a site even by the means of aforementioned time-consuming techniques.
At this moment I have found the following techniques (I list them here, because they seem to be working due to the experience/authority of people who mentioned those). I don't list the approaches that were provided without any measured results ("You must write new post twice a week! It can help ").
Check the following:
Another thing that I consider worth mentioning is the notion of a 'missed boat'. As I can see now the most successful blogs (size and quality of audience) were started a long ago. The 37signals example that has already set everybody's teeth on edge was started in 2000 (http://web.archive.org/web/*/http://37signals.com/svn). If we follow Jason Cohen's experience with his own blog we can infer that the more time passes the more quality audience you get.
The same thing about Twitter: those who've started to tweet in 2006 have more tweets, more followers than an average 'belated adopter'.
And above all of this 37signals advise to exploit free marketing channels (blog) instead of paid advertisements.
So, my question is the following: How can one gain a certain audience for his site where one sells some bootstrapped software?
Here are the constraints:
Is that possible?
We run a listing website where members pay for a place on the site. We 'deliver value' automatically without any effort - we just push publish and they are live in our system. Although this value is delivered automatically, our sales channel in completely un-automated. 90% of our time goes into acquiring customers. This may well be true of many SaaS type services. A good product that will only help build word-of-mouth sales once it actually has a critical mass of users. Getting those users is the hard part.
In our case, the single best way to acquire a customer is to talk to them on the phone. We have taken a leaf out of the information marketing expert's book and provide some useful download or video in return for an email and phone number. We do our best to make sure that piece of information is useful and relevant. We then follow up with a phone call to see if there is anything else we can do for them.
This has two advantages.
In honesty, the phone will actually only help you convert the customers better. We were still starved of enough leads to convert in the middle of this year. We turned to traditional PR in an effort to start building our list. I read a book giving advice on how to develop a PR strategy, and in our case it turned into nothing more than scheduling out press releases every month until we had built relationships with journalists and television producers. We applied for business reality TV television shows and did anything we could to help the producers behind the scenes in getting their product out. After a while they started to come back to us looking for help with various things. As a result we have probably the highest publicity to profit ratio of anyone in our country ;)
I hope that makes sense. I guess I should just boil down my advice to 'get a book on PR and implement its suggestions'.
So, my question is the following: How can one gain a certain audience for his site where one sells some bootstrapped software?Gaining an audience is not that difficult, if you know what your audience is looking for... Just start speaking with them -- best and most efficient way is to blog about stuff they are interested in. Also, join the conversation via twitter too.
In the end of the day, your product still needs to be helpful and useful for these people.
Regarding your constraints:
It is possible. I wrote a blog post which may answer some of your questions in more detail about Startup Marketing, which you may find useful.
Good luck, it will not be easy, but I believe you can do it! Feel free to email me if you have specific questions.
your proposals (blog, SEO, 'spam') are some of the basic techniques, but they're also the techniques that everybody use. As a consequence, it's still difficult to get noticed.
A few things that really worked for me: