If you were starting from scratch in 2019 with no budget, what would you do to gain traffic for your project?
As we enter into the new year, most of us are likely setting up new resolutions for 2019. Some of us are looking to achieve personal goals and others are looking to reach new heights by meeting their professional ones, and while I don’t have any advice for you on how to eat healthier when 2019 comes, I can give you some insights as to how to give your business a jumpstart into the coming year. In my own personal experience, the best way to come up with new solutions is to find experts who have already achieved success in the same field as you and simply improve or repeat what they did.
So I went ahead and asked experts from different fields about what they would do if they could start from scratch in 2019. And they answered!
Below you’ll find the field of each project before their response to the question; this should help you find the information that is relevant to you and your business. For each expert I attached their Twitter and other links related to their respective project.
About the author:
Kirill Shilov — Founder of Geekforge.io and Howtotoken.com. Interviewing the top 10,000 worldwide experts who reveal the biggest issues on the way to technological singularity. Join my #10kqachallenge: GeekForge Formula.
This topic is the first from a series of 100 Round Ups with experts, which, as it turns out, is one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2019.
How were the projects/experts selected?
Only projects related to the digital world were selected, and afterwards I selected both B2B and B2C directions. The projects were chosen based on statistics from Similarweb or if the founder is a renowned expert based on different ratings. I follow most of these experts myself, and I (like many others I’m sure) find what they have to say about any given topic rather interesting.
In regards to the question posted at the top of this newsletter, here’s what they had to say (expert quotes have only been edited for grammar and spelling):
Larry Kim — CEO at mobilemonkey.com
“Over the past year I’ve been living this exact situation — starting a business from scratch, with limited marketing budget. We’ve found our best performing marketing channel by far is chat blasting in Facebook Messenger. That’s sending out your content via push notifications to your Facebook Messenger contact list. The best thing is very few other marketers are doing this so we tend to get 70–80% open rates, and 20% click-rates, which is about 200x higher engagement than email or organic social media.”
Larry is the CEO of MobileMonkey, Inc. — the world’s leading Facebook Messenger marketing platform for marketers at companies of all sizes. Used by millions of users, their platform is easy to use and, best of all, free!
He is also the founder of WordStream Inc. — the leading provider of AdWords, Facebook Ads, and keyword tools used by millions of marketers worldwide. The company was eventually acquired by Gannett for $150 million in June 2018.
Medium ranked Larry #8 as the most popular author on the platform. Contributor to CNBC and Inc. Magazine, his key interests include AdWords, Facebook Ads, entrepreneurship, and startups.
He was awarded “Marketer of the Year” from Search Engine Land, US Search Awards, and PPC Hero.
Justin Jackson — Founder at justinjackson.ca and transistor.fm
Niche: Education, SAAS
“I’d focus most of my effort on optimizing my site for search engines. For conversion, nothing beats an intent-based query in Google.”
Ryan Hoover — Founder at producthunt.com
The fastest growing products have distribution hooks designed into the product itself, where each user directly or indirectly attracts more users or engagement. For example, every day makers launch their latest creation on Product Hunt and subsequently share it with their audience. Some of those users are also makers that go on to launch their product on the site, bringing along their audience and more makers. And the cycle continues.
He is a contributing writer to Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal.
Additionally, Ryan has written over 150 essays, many of which are featured in TechCrunch, Forbes, Pando, Fast Company, and The Next Web.
Maja Voje — Chief Marketing Officer at origin-trail.com
Niche: Blockchain-Powered Data Exchange Protocol
“Engagement is a holy grail. Projects that will manage to distribute some of the value created back to the community will definitely prosper in terms of awareness, as well. Concretely: run an engagement program closely associated with your product and distribute the value back to the ecosystem. Ideally, promotional activities should enable users to engage with your product and experience its core functionalities. For examples, see Verity’s referral campaign, OriginTrail’s tech community on Discord, OriginTrail Holiday Giveaway, and OriginTrail Open Call. Bottom line: you need to deserve people’s attention and get them excited about your solution.”
Maja is an ex-Googler who is now the CMO of OriginTrail (a protocol that brings trusted data sharing to global supply chains by utilizing blockchain technology). She is also an Udemy instructor at eazl.co.
Ann Smarty — Founder MyBlogU.com and ViralContentBee.com
Niche: Education, Web App
“The first thing I’d do is to create content that’s worth spreading. It’s not a tactic, it’s the foundation of any digital marketing campaign, old or new. So once that’s taken care of, the next thing is to submit your content to ViralContentBee.com
VCB is free, so you don’t need any budget to start. It does require high-quality non-promotional content, because it’s based on authentic sharing (Users are not paid to share content: They are using VCB because it offers them carefully curated hand-picked content in a variety of categories to match your social media streams and build up your interactions). Now, simply monitor your social media shares and make sure to interact with each of them by liking, commenting and following your promoters to build up your micro-community. I published my own case study long ago and it continues working very well for me: http://www.seosmarty.com/my-viral-content-buzz-case-study-how-to-get-found-on-the-internet/”
Ann Smarty is the branding ninja at Internet Marketing Ninjas as well as the founder of numerous startups, including MyBlogGuest, MyBlogU, ViralContentBee, and TwChat.
She has been an online marketing consultant for over 10 years, providing high-quality digital marketing consulting through her many services and online courses. You can learn more about Ann and her courses at seosmarty.com.
John Koetsier — VP insights at singular.net
Niche: Journalism, Writer
“I would make friends with influencers and journalists. I would focus on giving, giving, giving in the hope of eventually being able to leverage those relationships for mutual benefit.”
John is a journalist, analyst, author, and executive who has chronicled the rise of the mobile economy. He writes for Forbes and Inc and consults with large companies such as Singular, TUNE, Staples, ReadWrite, and SnatchBot. He built the VB Insight research team at VentureBeat and managed others to create software for partners like Intel and Disney.
Brian D. Evans — Founder at influencive.com
Niche: Media Outlet
“If I was starting from scratch in 2019 with a project that I had and wanted to gain traffic, there are 3 things I would focus on. The first is networking with as many major influencers or super connector types as possible. I would go to every event even if I thought there was only a small chance of a worthwhile encounter. Note that when I say ‘networking’ I don’t mean harassing people that are more successful in your field to do things for you. In fact, I mean the opposite. Do things for them. Create real value. Show them what you are capable of. Don’t ask for anything. The second big thing I would do is scour for opportunities to invest my time to generate PR for myself. I would start with whatever platform is popular for the time; today it is Quora without a doubt. Last but not least, I’d find 10–15 ways to invest my time in creating content. I’d learn to write. Find a site like Influencive and ask them to contribute valuable content on a topic you know well. Every post I made on social media would be long form and aiming at providing value to others.”
Brian is an Inc. 500 Entrepreneur and founder of one of the “Fastest-Growing Private Companies in America”. Forbes listed him as #7 among marketing influencers #4 as the “Most Influential Business Journalist”. You can learn more about him at briandevans.com.
Ryan Robinson — Author of “How to Start a Blog”
“Even today with my blog, I spend no money to get the nearly 250,000 monthly readers that come to my site. And if I were starting over completely from scratch, I’d spend 25% of my time creating the kind of in-depth, detailed content my readers know me for. Then, 75% of my time would go toward writing guess posts for high authority blogs and publications in my niche, which I’d work hard to land by cultivating relationships with editors, pitching them hyper relevant topics, and actually delivering great content for their blogs. From here, I’d continue rinsing, repeating, and engaging the readers that begin trickling in.”
Ryan is a content marketing consultant for the world’s top experts and growing startups. He writes for Forbes, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Business Insider, and several other publications. Every day, he works with companies such as LinkedIn, Zendesk, Google for Entrepreneurs, Adobe, SoFi, Quickbooks, Close.io, CreativeLive, Crew, and other fast-growing companies in order to drive content marketing strategies and implement rapid executions. He also advises startups on how to grow their brands with effective content marketing.
Jimmy Daly — Marketing Director at animalz.co
Niche: Content Marketing
“Building traffic from scratch is extremely challenging. Rather than focusing on SEO, I’d prioritize ‘movement-first content’ — that is, content that shares great ideas, creates fodder for social media and establishes you/your blog as a go-to destination for interesting ideas. As you build traffic, turn your focus to SEO so that you can scale the site.”
Jimmy leads marketing at Animalz, a content marketing agency that provides high-end content marketing solutions to SaaS, tech, and crypto companies.
Lee Odden — CEO & Co-founder at TopRankMarketing.com
Niche: Digital Marketing
“Trust is more important than ever to Google and customers alike and harder than ever when starting from scratch. What better way for an unknown brand to earn trust and traffic than working with brands that already have it? With no budget, I would research relevant industry influencers that actively publish and engage the community of buyers I’m trying to reach and invite them to collaborate on content. Starting with a few big names showing you’ve taken the time to understand them will encourage others to follow. The investment the influencers make in the content will inspire them to promote and help make it successful — but only if well designed, planned and implemented in a relevant way.”
Lee is a digital marketing strategist, author, international speaker, and CEO of TopRank Marketing (who provide strategy, implementation, and marketing program optimization services for Fortune 1000 B2B and B2C companies). Besides working with an amazingly talented group of digital marketing pros, Lee is the author of “Optimize: How to Attract and Engage More Customers by Integrating SEO, Social Media and Content Marketing” (Wiley) and has been blogging for over 13 years at toprankblog.com.
Julian Shapiro — Founder at julian.com, bellcurve.com
Niche: Writer, Digital Marketing
“I gain traffic through Facebook/Instagram to start — to understand which demographics resonate most strongly. Then I can refine the product based on those initial learnings.”
Julian is the Co-founder of Bell Curve, a growth agency for tech companies. He was an engineer at Velocity, a popular open-source library used by Samsung, Uber, WhatsApp, and thousands of other companies, and then went on to become the founder of NameLayer, a domain name company that sold domains to startups and Fortune 500 companies. NameLayer was eventually acquired by Techstars.
Asher King Abramson — Partner at bellcurve.com
Niche: Digital Marketing
“If you’re B2B, cold email the people who urgently face your problem using Clearbit Prospector . Exploit the free trial. If you’re B2C, message the people who most urgently face your problem in the Slack/Telegram channels and subreddits they live in.”
Asher is a Partner, Head Instructor, and Syllabus Curator at Bell Curve, a growth marketing agency, who is directly responsible for achieving millions of dollars in revenue for several companies. Asher leads sessions on growth at Y Combinator and is the author of a book that teaches personal finance through structured projects, all in the style of a coding bootcamp.
Pascal van Steen — Co-founder & Head of Growth at Spike
Niche: Digital Marketing
“I would first of all make sure that I’m solving a glaring problem for a specific niche and validate that my messaging resonates with the decision makers in that niche. Once I’m fairly confident that I have a solid problem/solution-fit, I’d make a list of all relevant meetups and conferences where I might find these decision makers of my particular industry.
Then, I’d try and find contact details (either by scraping conference websites, scouting Facebook groups of conferences, or using the networking app provided by the conference) of whom I assume to be the most relevant people and get in touch with them before the event (preferably through LinkedIn, with the goal to set up a call) to discover their needs and gauge interest.
Preferably, I’d be able to show them one piece of highly relevant content on my website that clearly explains how I would solve their problem and why I would be their best partner to do so, I’ll use the input from the initial calls to update this content to make it more relevant for my prospects. Finally I’d go to the conferences so that I can efficiently plan multiple business meetings with the highest-potential prospects and hopefully close those initial deals”
Pascal leads growth at Spike (a growth-marketing agency) . He is fascinated by new technologies and the startups that create them.
Rahul Varshneya — Co-founder at arkenea.com and Benchpoint
Niche: Software development
“I would focus on building a long-term strategy for traffic and conversion by focusing on SEO and content marketing. By guest posting on high-authority sites that the audience reads, one can drive traffic from the get go and also build towards ranking in the search engines.”
Rahul is the Co-founder of Arkenea (a custom software development firm) and he was ranked #20 among the top growth hackers in the world. HuffPost recently featured Arkenea for its unique value proposition here.
David Arnoux — Co-founder at growthtribe.io
“Of course it depends, but overall to generate qualified B2C and B2B traffic in 2019, from the 100’s of channels and mediums that exist I see YouTube as an ongoing low-hanging fruit. Low competition as competitors still find video production scary, it has a massive growing audience, it’s intent AND discovery based, YouTube SEO can turn into Google search SEO and click through rates are still high.”
David Arnoux is the Head of Growth and Co-founder of Growth Tribe, Europe’s first growth-hacking academy, with over 14 years of experience building successful companies.
Michael Kawula — Founder at DinnerTableMBA.com
“If I were starting from scratch with no marketing budget, here’s the following 5 steps I’d take in the first week to maximize my opportunity for success:
1. Have a crystal clear explanation of what it is I do in less than 3 sentences that is both magnetic (pulling my exact avatar in) and polarizing (pushing my non-avatar away).
2. Create an irresistible free offer that speaks to my avatar. To identify this find 10 “competitors” and reverse engineer everything they do by subscribing to their funnels. Make sure these are individuals who are truly “crushing” it and not faking it. Recreate the best of their offers into your own with an offer on the thank you page.
3. I’d identify 10–50+ micro-influencers and 10–50+ influencers who have my audience and find a way to collaborate with them so they can share my message with their audience. This has to be mutually beneficial to both the influencer and yourself. This may mean giving 75%-100% of the initial profit to that influencer, but you need to do what it takes. You want both whales and micro-influencers, as micro-influencers are more likely to support you and 1 whale can set you free.
4. Delight every initial new customer and get feedback to iterate and improve.
5. Create a viral component that incentivizes both non-converted traffic and new customers to refer you to their network!”
Mike sold over $100 million in products and services, both online and offline, during his entrepreneurial career and he is featured in over 100 publications and podcasts.
Sam Hurley — Founder at Optim-Eyez
“#1: CREATE a shed load of outstanding, in-depth content that helps my target audience fulfill their goals. (Then distribute it organically — See #2).
#2: NETWORK. Relationships are the real key to building a business that not only survives the first phases, but flourishes thereafter.”
Sam is the guy who went from being a “nobody” to the #1 Marketing Influencer in only 15 months (all while not having a website at the time). You can learn more about him and his career path on his website.
Nir Eyal — Author of Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products
“If your business model requires repeat engagement, make sure you figure out how to keep people coming back before you spend a penny on growth! If a product has a valid business model and has nailed engagement, there should never be a shortage of money to buy traffic. Remember, you can always buy traffic, but you can’t buy engagement. Engagement must be designed into the product.”
Nir is a bestselling author for the Wall Street Journal and is an expert in “Behavioral Design” — the intersection of psychology, technology, and business. His articles and thought leadership for growth focus on understanding your prospective customers and designing products and marketing strategies based on that understanding. You can read his work on nirandfar.com.
Anthony Zhang — Director of Growth and Marketing at blockfolio.com
Niche: Mobile App
“Without a budget, I would look to gain feedback and support from existing, organic communities that may be interested in your product/service. Whether this is a Facebook group, Telegram group, or even a physical meetup, there is no substitute to putting in the hours to getting in front of an initial audience to help you better understand what makes them tick.”
Anthony is the head of marketing at Blockfolio (The world’s most popular Bitcoin and cryptocurrency portfolio management app). He also founded KnowYourVC and EnvoyNow.
Casey Armstrong — Chief Marketing Officer at shipbob.com
Niche: B2B SAAS
“Revenue is the goal, not traffic, but the right traffic can lead to revenue in both the near- and long-term. With no budget, I’d focus on getting featured by the right influential people in my space that have strong distribution.
To do so, I’d hunt for said people talking about pains in their business that my solution can alleviate. Twitter is a gold mine for this and I’ve done it many times, whether it be at a lesser known brand like Mavenlink in the early days or today at ShipBob. Next, it’s up to you to pitch and sell your product on a 1:1 basis — with the goal of this unlocking the 1:many marketing and sales we all strive for — and have your product actually deliver.
This could drive direct awareness, traffic, and revenue from those readers or community members with intent, plus open up doors for similar placements as I can point to this success.”
Casey leads marketing at ShipBob (an in-house fulfillment and technology-first software that offers their users a hassle-free way to managing inventory and shipping products).
Aaron Orendorff — Editor in Chief at Shopify Plus and Founder at iconicontent.com
Niche: Content Marketing
“From a content perspective, I’d focus on two strategies. First, guest posting non-promotional articles on major publishers to build social proof for my personal brand. The best way to do this is by reverse engineering popular content from valuable publishers one at time. Pitch tailor-made, complete articles instead of lists of ideas.
Second, I’d do everything I could to solicit original contributions from influencers in my niche thereby baking promotion and social proof into the content creation process itself.”
Aaron is Forbes’ Top 10 B2B Content Marketer and Contributor to major media platforms (Mashable, Entrepreneur, Huffington Post, Lifehacker, Inc. etc.).
Metehan Yeşilyurt — Sr. SEO Manager at onedio.com
Niche: Media Outlet
“I will absolutely use Pinterest and Quora. In 2018, Pinterest was great for SEO and social media traffic. The platform is still growing, Pinterest has millions of quality users. I used Pinterest for traffic acquisition on [some of my] projects and got amazing results with no budget, no backlinks, no [ad] campaigns.
First, I created user-intent content with SEO research and published [it] on my website. After that I used Canva, Adobe Spark for creating high-quality and free images for Pinterest. I created Pinterest boards with website categories and published [them] with unique and high-quality images on Pinterest. I gave links to pins of course. You can find your website audience’s interests on Analytics under [the] Audience -> Interests section.”
Metehan leads SEO at Onedio (the fastest-growing digital media company in Turkey) with his many years of experience in digital marketing. He has managed large monthly budgets for PPC and programmatic advertising and builds Wordpress websites, optimizes ASO performance, and creates viral content. He is highly skilled in digital marketing planning and has worked in the US, the UK, France, Russia, Turkey, and several countries in the Middle East.
Rebecca Corliss — VP Marketing at Owl Labs owllabs.com
Niche: Consumer Product
“When you have no budget (and thus likely no platform to promote your product or company), all you have is your brain, grit, and time. In that case, you need to create something that is worth others’ promotion. For this reason, I love co-marketing.
Find an organization who has a complimentary mission and audience to yours, and connect with their marketing head. Ask them what their goals are and give a suggestion for what you can do to help them meet that. Act as an extension as their marketing group.
For example, we worked with TinyPulse on our original State of Remote Work report. Their goal was to generate leads, and we could help by doing some amazing research and content development with a lead gen form at the end. So how did it work? We hosted the data on our site, they promoted the content in their newsletter and on social, and thus we beat our previous traffic record by a long shot!
The lesson? Provide value to others, and it will be worth it to them to promote you.”
Rebecca leads marketing at Owl Labs, the creators of the 360° smart conference camera. She was previously one of HubSpot’s original marketing team members, joining the company in 2008 when there were fewer than 50 employees. By the time she left, HubSpot had reached over 1,500 employees, 23K customers, and had made $270 million in revenue. In her free time, Rebecca is a serial “aca-prenuer”, having founded two Boston-based a cappella groups, including her current music group, The Eight Tracks.
Nat Eliason — Founder at yourgrowthmachine.com
Niche: Writer, Digital Marketing
“If I were someone starting from scratch in 2019 with no budget, I would ignore all social promotion, read The Wiki Strategy, find a great list of keywords, and publish 3 in-depth articles per week every week without fail. By the end of the year, it wouldn’t be crazy to be getting 50,000+ visitors per month from Google.”
Nat is Founder of Growth Machine, writer on all things interesting at www.nateliason.com, and co-host of the“Made You Think” podcast.
Thanks for reading!
If you have any questions or want to discuss the topic further, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.