Lessons in branding from bootstrap companies

Lessons in branding from bootstrap companies

There is one thing that we all could learn from little bootstrap companies that not just survive, but strive – building partnerships that matter.

Little bootstrap companies are all different, but they all suffer from the same problem – they are little. When you are little, or even tiny, it is hard to resist pretending to be bigger than you are: saying that you have more customers, more employees, more revenue, more everything than you actually do. But the truth always surfaces eventually – and you may lose even the little (or tiny) things that you do have.

How do you overcome this inevitable struggle?

Smart bootstraps and smart people have found a way. What is it? They partner with someone big, well known, and powerful. Why would the big guys pay attention to you? Because even the big guys have something they struggle with. Find a company that is losing sales because of a very specific problem – a problem that your little company could solve!

Now, not every company will want to partner with you. In fact, it might be very easy for them to copy your solution and drive you out of business. How can you deal with this threat? Look for big companies who are open to cooperation, have partnership programs, and are willing to work with you. More often than not, you will find information about these things on their website.

Partnerships are powerful tools for branding. The simple fact of affiliation with a powerful brand makes you look immensely bigger in people’s eyes, even if you aren’t actually big.

Here is one example of a small business linking itself to a giant corporation. Cliktree partnered with Google. Why would Google bother to do this? Because a giant company like them benefits from advertising dollars from small companies, but don’t want to devote hours to managing advertising campaigns for them.

learn from bootstrap companies

You can use this technique even if you are not a bootstrap. How?

By linking yourself to powerful brands, including companies and individuals, in your industry. These companies love to share customer success stories. If you’ve benefited from a software tool, an online course, or any other product that your brand of choice has produced, reach out to them and tell them about your experience. You might be lucky, and they share your story with their audience.

Take Karan Bajaj for example. He shared with Pat Flynn how his product, Smart Passive Income podcast, helped him to launch his online business. Pat Flynn is well known in the online business niche, and testimonies like this one give him even more credibility. This story probably drove a lot of traffic to Karan’s website.

learn from bootstrap companies

If you don’t have a success story, you can still benefit from partnering with well-known brands. For example, many software companies have "expert programs” for their users. These programs are highly competitive, and a few select users each year become known as ambassadors, leaders, wizards, etc.

In the software world, companies like Evernote handpick and feature a list of select users on their website. Inevitably, these people become recognized as experts.

learn from bootstrap companies

For example, I was one of the first Evernote Community Leaders, which lead to a number of speaking engagements and a number of articles in online media.

Do you have a partnership story? Share it in comments!

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