Bootstrapping your startup brings along a trade-off in communications and marketing. You have two messages to communicate: one about your service offering, the other about the product that you are building. How do you prioritize what to communicate? Are you a service or product company?
This was and still is a question that we deal with at Lingo Social every day. Recently, I had coffee with friend and founder of Mobilskole.no discussing what seemed to be a bootstrapper's marketing "dilemma". We arrived at the following.
As you make money from providing services and use profits to fund product development, you need to balance your communications efforts between the two. The more aligned your services and product messaging are, the better are chances for healthy synergies. That means ensuring that your consulting gigs leads to product sales and vice versa. Pretty obvious, but easier said than done.
At Lingo Social we went from communicating the whole digital agency package; Internet and search marketing, mobile apps, web design, analysis and strategic planning, to focus on social media marketing and management. Even better, all those former service offerings can be communicated in context of social media. For an example, inter-linking all your social media channels would have an effect on search engine optimization, and web design and apps development would integrate social networks. Following we would certainly propose to clients social SaaS rather then just building apps on an hourly basis.
Nevertheless, as founders' skill-set in a startup varies, so does their value propositions. When you are only a few founders in communicating your services, potential customers often tune in on your personal qualifications rather than the company's. Each member of the founding team is best at what they do, and consequently this is usually what they are best at communicating. That in fact is your startups's DNA.
Aligning service and product offerings along with leveraging founders' strengths have not only allowed the company to put marketing efforts in one bucket, but also increased learning about customers' needs which in turn enables us to build a better product. As a result consulting gradually starts to work as (paid) marketing and sales.