7 Ways to Bootstrap Your Community
Five years ago I was working as product manager and head of partnerships at Eventbrite. Quickly, I became aware of a big gap in the market. Customers were continually asking for integrations with membership management. Outdated and expensive all-in-one monolithic solutions were falling short in delivering key things like email marketing and event management integrations. So despite my lack of formal training in coding, I saw an opportunity to create a better, more cost effective and modern solution that integrates with existing service platforms.
For a year, I spent my free time at night teaching myself how to code — building the idea that would become Join It and dreaming of being my own boss. In September 2016, I left Eventbrite to move to Spain and bootstrap Join It. In the four years since our launch, we’ve successfully grown an international community of clients without ever accepting outside funding. But jst like building a company, building a community requires patience, dedication —and most importantly, a sustainable approach. Here are seven lessons from my bootstrapping journey that can be applied to building your community.
1. “Ship it!”
I use this phrase constantly with my team. When bootstrapping, it is more important to get things done than to focus on perfection. We want to constantly be shipping new features, projects, and integrations to entice our clients and propel growth.
2. “The best way to learn is by doing.”
On a similar note, there isn’t time to learn everything before doing it. The best way to learn a new skill is to start practicing the skill. Dive right in — you’ll quickly learn what works and what doesn’t.
3. “Go sign your first customer or member.”
If you don’t already have your first customer or member, then you should make it your priority to talk to potential customers every day. Don’t sell. Listen. Understanding your potential customers and their needs will help build a relationship of trust that ultimately leads to signing the deal.
4. “Find your competitive advantage.”
This one sounds intuitive, but too many people fail to take the time to really develop messaging around their unique selling propositions. Find your competitive advantage and clearly articulate it to your community. It’s important to stay abreast of what your competitors are doing in the space to constantly find new ways to differentiate your business.
5. “Take the time to determine which tasks will have high impact.”
When you have a long to do list, it’s common to just work towards getting things done. But when there’s literally an infinite number of tasks to complete, take the time to prioritize which ones will have the greatest impact for your business and community.
6. “If you have 10 customers, then you have something.”
Don’t focus on the number of customers or members that you have in the beginning. Since B2B SaaS is a recurring building, it compounds — existing customers stick around and rebill, while new customers build on top. This means it’s incredibly difficult to start, but once it gets going, it’s very durable and stable.
7. “Focus on being useful over being pretty.”
Spend time on building the features that will be most useful for your customers — as opposed to investing time and money upfront to make everything look nice. Particularly in B2B SaaS, creating a useful product that customers can rely on is of absolute importance. Folks commonly spend too much time on web design, branding, etc. and distract from the product itself. Focus instead on building a business or product that your community needs.
Today, it’s more viable than ever to bootstrap your business. Join It proudly remains bootstrapped to this day. Ultimately, our customers are our community and it’s our mission to offer a product that helps them grow and maintain their communities.