If there were a bootstrapping award, it’d surely go to software designer and developer Max Shelley, who spent just £8 securing his first two paying customers.
And his method is easy to replicate. Max built a simple landing page offering email marketing design. He spend his £8 budget on Adwords to drive traffic to it and, during the evenings, he manned the page’s live chat window, waiting for visitors to fire questions at him.
He recalls: “I knew my skills were a scarcity in business, and that I was offering a niche service, but it was even easier than I thought.”
Max, 33, believes lead pages are a good way to test the strength of a product or service. He says: “It’s about audience validation. Your lead page can tell you if there is a ravenous audience out there. If you can’t convert the traffic into paying customers, there’s something wrong with your offering.”
If you don’t speak ‘code’, fear not. Max recommends LeadPages.net, which has done for landing pages what Wix and Squarespace have done for websites - and paved the way for us mere mortals to get in on the action. It offers templates and an easy-to-master drag and drop interface.
Max advises disassociating your landing page from your existing website, and using it to gather contact details or to take payments on the spot. He says: “Lead pages are transactional. If you can convince a visitor to part with their credit card details there and then, you know you’ve got a strong offering.
“You can fire up whole bunch of lead pages and you get undiluted traffic. If you were simply driving traffic to your website there’s a danger visitors could simply wander off to look around the site and get distracted. Lead pages either convert into a sale or you kick them out.”
He adds: “I totally understand when you have a new and shiny idea, you want to ‘go’. We’re basically telling people to stop, go and gather the data to validate your idea first.”
Siblings in business: Brother and sister duo Max & Sam liven up a brick wall
Max was still on payroll as a developer for a small Suffolk-based agency when he tested this theory, but the success gave him the confidence he needed to make the leap into self employment, setting up SME website and SEO business Measured Brilliance, with older sister Sam.
He says: “Sam has a sales background, and I have the tech knowledge. There’s 10 years between us, so there was no squabbling over toys when we were kids - and fortunately there’s none of that now, either.”
The siblings soon saw the potential in the third sector, which was lagging far behind the digital curve, and set up a second business, called Echoleft, providing ticketing, event registration and integrated fundraising tools for charities, as well as virtual memorial pages. Max describes Echoleft’s offering as being “like Eventbrite coupled with JustGiving”.
Now the pair are on a mission to help small and medium-sized charities think big and raise more for good causes.
Max explains: “A lack of awareness around what websites and technology can do limits a charity's imagination when it comes to events and fundraising online.
“By contrast, I come from a beta testing world where we know we can change anything simply by tweaking the code."
He explains: “It’s a bit like property developers who look at houses that are falling down and see the potential. In my world, everything is malleable. But charity fundraisers haven’t yet learned to look at software like that. They see their websites as a fait accompli - much like their smartphones. We need to challenge that thinking.”
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